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The Highborne, also known as Highborn[1] or High-borne,[2]Quel'dorei meaning "children of noble birth" in Darnassian and "high elves"[3][4] in Thalassian) were the upper classes of the Kaldorei civilization and the favored servitors of Queen Azshara. Despite their near-identical physical appearance, the ancient Kaldorei were already split across racial lines as night elves and "Highborne" elves.[1] The Highborne of Zin-Azshari, the Night Elf capital were largely responsible for the War of the Ancients, and most of those Highborne who had allied with the demons and survived the war later became the Naga and the Satyr. Those that allied with the Kaldorei Resistance before the last battle of the war evolved into the modern high elves. During the Great Sundering the Highborne citizens of Suramar crafted a magical shield that kept them protected. Believing the world outside of Suramar had been destroyed, they remained isolated. Under their shield, they would evolve over millennia through the energies of the Nightwell, becoming the Nightborne or Shal'dorei.

Today, they are obsolete as an organization as most became high elves after they were exiled from Kalimdor. Even the high elves are few in number because most survivors declared themselves blood elves after the Scourge invasion. One notable exception is the Shen'dralar, a holdout group against the Legion during the War of the Ancients. They were able to defend Eldre'Thalas (Dire Maul) but became isolated from the rest of night elf society[5], although they have recently sought to rejoin their kaldorei brethren in Teldrassil.

Background and History

Before the Sundering

Highborne in art

The Highborne were an upper class of the ancient Kaldorei civilization, at first a nameless caste made up of night elves who had high aptitude for magic and thus found favor with the ruling monarch who sought to create an elite caste of adept magical users that would consolidate and ensure her continued success. Their privileged status and favor with the beloved Queen engendered envy from those not chosen and in time, towards the end would often characterize vast arrogance and greed, garish and multicolored clothing, and decadent habits amongst many but not all of their groups. This did not endear them to other night elves all around the empire, in particular the Capital of Zin'Azshari. Plumbing the depths of the great Well of Eternity for knowledge they excelled greatly in the fundamentals of magic art; and as time passed they were instrumental in bringing the night elven race to its heights. Around the time of first contact with the beings of the twisting nether, the Highborne of Zin'Azshari would distance themselves from the lower castes and began using their rank to selfishly guard their magical power, they would invite the malevolent beings into their world and restrict access to the magical Well of Eternity to only themselves.

It is worth noting that initially Queen Azshara would appoint talented night elves to the Highborne caste[6], and as the various groups grew, they would form their own families of which all their members would be Highborne. As such, not all Highborne were magically inclined a famous example being Captain Varo'then although their group had the highest concentration and often some of the brightest lights in the art. It is also worth noting that conversely very talented spell users arose amongst the larger Night Elf populace, some if discovered by the Queen were likely to be appointed, others, would not necessarily, though this was unusual. Malfurion Stormrage was one such individual, choosing instead to focus his incredible talent into the druidic arts. His brother Illidan Stormrage however pursued Sorcerous ambitions.

It is worth noting that many and varying magically orientated bodies existed and were not necessarily exclusively highborne. The most prolific and cutting edge offensive magical fighters were the Moonguard, who had but were not all Highborne.

A Kaldorei without Highborne blood — such as Illidan Stormragecould master arcane power if he so wished (and had access to it). In fact, the mastering of the arcane arts was common among the populace, resulting in organisations as the Moon Guard, the official military sorcerers.

Arcane emphasis

Warcraft RPG - may not be canon This section concerns content exclusive to the Warcraft RPG, and thus unlikely to be canon.

The access of arcane magic to the ruling caste began to split the Kaldorei nation across racial lines;[1] and despite their outwardly similar physical appearance, those "Highborne" were transformed by the magic flowing through their veins.[7] Families that belonged to the highest caste frequently arranged marriages so as to maximize the magical ability of their offspring. This selective breeding, combined with frequent access to the Well of Eternity, resulted in night elves with progressively stronger magical abilities and greater understanding of how to use those skills.

The War of the Ancients

Over time, the ever-more reckless use of magic by the Highborne and their queen led to their slow corruption and addiction to the power it granted, and the ripples sent into the Twisting Nether attracted the dread forces of the Burning Legion to Azeroth. The unlimited magical power offered by the demon lords seduced the queen and many of her servitors, and they agreed to grant the Legion entrance to Azeroth. Finally, giving themselves over to magic’s inevitable corruption, the Highborne fell to darkness and began to worship the Legionlord Sargeras as their god. Some, led by Xavius, gave themselves wholly over to the service of the Legion and were transformed by fel magic into the satyr.

To cement their dark pact, the ecstatic Highborne opened a great, swirling portal within the depths of the Well of Eternity which would allow the armies of the Legion access to the world, followed by Sargeras himself. In the cataclysmic war that followed millions died as the demons swarmed over the lands of Kalimdor and laid siege to the lesser night elves’ sleeping cities, leaving only ash and sorrow in their wake. Though the brave Kaldorei warriors rallied from the heinous betrayal of their rulers and rushed to defend their ancient homeland, they were forced to give ground, inch by inch, before the fury of the Legion’s onslaught. The Legion was finally foiled by the efforts of the night elf Malfurion Stormrage, who in his battle with Queen Azshara collapsed the Well of Eternity, killing many Highborne and condemning those who survived to the sea floor where they were transformed into the serpentine naga by the mysterious Old Gods.

Magic's corruption

Questionmark-medium.png This article or section includes speculation, observations or opinions possibly supported by lore or by Blizzard officials.*

It is not known exactly when the Highborne descended into decadence and reckless use of magic that characterised the end of the Night Elven empire, one prevailing theory is that this occurred after first contact was made with the Burning Legion. In discovering these new powerful god-like beings and their vast magical armies, the Queen greatly accelerated magical learning, pushing well past safe and responsible uses of magic. She abandoned careful consideration of the natural environment and harmony with nature, it would have been at this point the priesthood in warning fell out of her favour and they relocated back to Suramar, away from Zin'Azshari.

It also seems likely, that this is why Queen Azshara ignored the warning of other Highborne groups across the empire like Menaar concerning the alarming increase of activity. It is theorized that she was reaching for a level of mastery that would allow her to walk amongst her secret allies as equals.

The original Legion invasion was a much prolonged one lasting 250 years, it is unknown how long Queen Azshara had been aware of the Legion before she was won over to Sargeras' cause and the first demons came through. It is known that the first arrivals were kept secret for some time too.

The night elves, their Queen, and their nobles were not always callous or cruel but were peace loving, endearing and generally good for their people. They were very fond of nature, diligently and responsibly using the arcane in harmony and conjunction with nature to shape exquisite landscapes and cities.[8][9] They were popular with and fond of Cenarius the demi-god, but in time would change in behaviour and attitude becoming focused increasingly on the arcane to the exclusion of all else. Sensing this wholesale shift , the demi-god would withdraw from the night elves and fade to legend amongst them[10]. It wouldn't be long after that first contact with the Burning Legion was made, and the Legion leader Sargeras would play on the vanity of the Queen. The tone would take dark turn from then on, but it would be decades even centuries before the demons would first be revealed, probably because Azshara sought to rule as an equal and this necessitated are far more intensive, dangerous and reckless direction.

After the Storm

Yet many highborne did not meet their fate at the bottom of the sea. Some of the Highborne of Zin'Azshari had betrayed their queen at the last minute, having realized the horrors she would unleash upon the world. These defectors had fled the capital city of Zin-Azshari, site of the Well, and were thereby spared when the Great Sundering tore Kalimdor apart. Other Highborne groups remained hidden away in far-flung strongholds such as Eldre'Thalas and became known as the Shen'drelar.

Others of a more noble calibre defied the Queen's reckless and traitorous behaviour and stood with their people staunchly against the demons, eventually sealing their city in an impenetrable magical barrier.[11] These were the highborne of Suramar City, the very city that many of the winning night elves of the War of the Ancients originated from. Under the protective barrier they survived the coming deluge of the Great Sundering, but were largely lost to history.

Those Zin'Azshari Highborne who had joined with the rest of their shattered peoples fled the rising waters of the Great Sea, eventually arriving at the base of Mount Hyjal, where they initially partook in a new destiny for their people that would endure fulfilling a sacred charge for 10,000 years. However the Highborne amongst them were not entirely welcome: the night elves, now led by Malfurion, reviled Queen Azshara's former servants from the Palace in Zin'Azshari and were doubtful of their loyalty. Still, without the Well to supply their magic, the Highborne were considered little threat, and were permitted to rejoin night elven society.

However, many felt the pangs of their magical addiction and were tempted to use the power of a new Well of Eternity created by Illidan Stormrage, who from then on would be termed "the Betrayer" for his terrible crime. Though the use of arcane magic was forbidden on pain of death, the Highborne foolishly attempted to convince the Kaldorei race of the power of magic by unleashing a magical storm upon Ashenvale. Their desperate gambit failed, and the Highborne were exiled; the night elves mercifully refusing to execute any more of their brethren.

The high elves of Quel'Thalas

The new forms of the high elves.

These exiled Highborne, now known as the high elves,[12] took their punishment in stride, and led by Dath'Remar Sunstrider ("He who walks the day") set sail across the ocean in hopes of finding a new land to call their own. After a long and perilous journey, the Highborne arrived in the land known today as Lordaeron, and there established their kingdom of Quel'Thalas ("high kingdom" or "high home") and crowned Dath'Remar their king. There, they slowly changed in form, diminishing in size and losing their original purple skin to a pinkish hue. They abandoned the worship of the moon, adopting instead the sun, and became the high elves. They remembered the mistakes of the past and used Runestones to shield their use of the arcane from the Burning Legion, taking care to practice the magic granted to them by their Sunwell with more care than their ancestors. Nevertheless, after their homeland of Quel'Thalas — and the source of their power — was destroyed by the undead Scourge, a radical group of high elves embraced their Highborne ancestry and resumed for the third time their reckless use of magic. Kael'thas Sunstrider renamed these people as the blood elves, and traveled to Outland with Illidan to find a way to fuel their magical addiction. Those who did not travel with him remained behind and began to rebuild their shattered capital city of Silvermoon.


Some Highborne still exist in their original forms. One such group, known as the Shen'dralar, live in secrecy within their city of Eldre'Thalas — known as Dire Maul to outsiders. Those Highborne who live elsewhere in the world — such as Archmage Tarsis Kir-Moldir — are few in number; the majority having long since become high elves, blood elves, naga, or satyrs.

Recently, citing "change on the wind",[13] the remaining Highborne have been drawn out of hiding, sending representatives to the Kirin Tor[14] and to Tyrande Whisperwind, to rejoin Kaldorei society at large claiming that there will soon be a time when "the kaldorei require the knowledge and skill" the highborne have to offer.[13]

Modern night elves can master the arcane, although doing so will change him forever. Once a night elf learned to use arcane spellcasting, he suffered a painful transformation that stripped away his native night elf adaptations and replaced them with those of the Highborne elves.[citation needed] The complete change occurred within the space of a week and could not be reversed once started.[15] However, though stripped of his racial heritage, in this early era his physical attributes would not change.[16]

Emergence of the Nightborne

World of Warcraft: Legion This section concerns content exclusive to Legion.

The Great Sundering blasted most of Suramar to the bottom of the Great Sea, although some of it remained due to the efforts of the resident Highborne, who crafted a magical shield that kept the center of their city together. The Highborne led citizens believed the world outside of Suramar had been destroyed. Under the magical shield erected by the elite group of Highborne led by Elisande, they lived in isolation for 10,000 years. In the millennia to come the fount of arcane magic, the Nightwell would also change the citizens, Elisande and her allies, transforming them into a new race of night elves called the Nightborne  (or shal'dorei in Darnassian).[17]

Physical traits

Warcraft RPG - may not be canon This section concerns content exclusive to the Warcraft RPG, and thus unlikely to be canon.

Though they started out as regular night elves, they had been transformed by the magic flowing through their veins.[7] Night elves foreswore the use of arcane magic centuries before and even built up great resistance against it. They could master arcane power, although doing so would mark them forever. Once a night elf learned to use arcane spellcasting, he or she may suffer some change of skin coloration or possibly change in the color of the glow of their eyes. The complete change often occurred within the space of a week and could not be reversed once it began,[15] but physical attributes do not change.[16]


List of current or former Highborne

Deceased & former Highborne

Surviving Highborne


Undead Highborne mobs

Unliving Highborne in Azsuna

  • Farondis
  • Court of Farondis


Fan art



WoW Pro Lore Episode 4 The War of the Ancients Part 1 2-1

The Highborne attempt to summon Sargeras to Azeroth


  1. ^ a b c Lands of Conflict, pg. 17
  2. ^ Manual of Monsters, pg. 66
  3. ^ Lands of Conflict, pg. 113
  4. ^ Warcraft III manual, pg. 48
  5. ^
  6. ^ War of the Ancients (novel account)
  7. ^ a b Shadows & Light, pg. 76
  8. ^ War of the Ancients (novel account)
  9. ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1
  10. ^ War of the Ancients: The Well of Eternity
  11. ^ Blizzard Entertainment 2015-11-06. World of Warcraft: Legion World and Content Panel. World of Warcraft official game site (US).
       Blizzard Entertainment 2015-11-06. World of Warcraft: Legion World and Content Panel. World of Warcraft official game site (EU).
  12. ^ Lands of Conflict, pg. 31
  13. ^ a b Mordent Evenshade
  14. ^ Daros Moonlance
  15. ^ a b Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game, pg. 45
  16. ^ a b Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game, pg. 57
  17. ^ World of Warcraft Chronicle Vol 1 - Suramar and the Pillars of Creaton
  18. ^ Lands of Conflict, pg. 171
  19. ^ Horde Player's Guide, pg. 133, 139
  20. ^ Alliance Player's Guide, pg. 76

External links