The arcane (a.k.a. arcane magic) is a general term for the various domains of magic in Warcraft lore — used in contrast with divine magic. According to lore, many of the types of magic found as "schools" in World of Warcraft are actually all forms of arcane magic. Unlike in the MMORPG, fire and frost are actually part of the arcane rather than being separate forms of magic. Lore also includes some so-called "shadow" spells as part the arcane as well, as magic practiced by warlocks and necromancers.
There isn't a true "arcane" domain per se in lore, but the magic is folded into arcane as a whole along with fire and frost, although it does seem to have similarities with the domain of air. According to a quest line in TBC, some forms of the so called arcane school may be combinations of the four elements of fire, earth, air, and water (see arcane elemental).
Arcane magic is the gift of titans to the world, a gift that comes with the highest price. Thousands of years ago, the titans placed the Well of Eternity in the center of Kalimdor to serve as a source of restoring, life-giving energy. They intended that the Well's energies would empower life of all forms to emerge on Kalimdor — plants, animals, monsters, races.
After a time, the titans left Azeroth, leaving Kalimdor in the hands of the five dragon Aspects. Yet the Well of Eternity proved too great a lure to remain hidden for very long, particularly from Sargeras and the Burning Legion.
The Well was discovered by the Kaldorei, who were later known as night elves. Ever eager to uncover secrets hidden in dark places, the Kaldorei listened to the Well as it promised to give them great power. At the Well's behest, the Kaldorei learned spellspeech and used it to weave the first arcane spells. Within decades, Kaldorei mages had attained sufficient mastery over arcane magic that they built a great civilization. They founded the imperious city of Zin-Azshari, from which they extended their domination over most of Kalimdor.
Ultimately, the magic corrupted them. The Kaldorei had been a simple folk who gazed blissfully at the stars, enjoying the immortality given to them by the Well, but their haughtiness robbed them of that gift forever. Each succeeding generation became prouder and more decadent, and the lust for power only made the Kaldorei more of a beacon to the lords of the Twisting Nether.
Finally, their greatest mage, Queen Azshara, cast a spell in the heart of the Well of Eternity itself — and a way was opened for evil to invade the world. Through Azshara's breach came the Burning Legion, the most terrifying warriors in existence. This fiendish horde ravaged Azeroth, pillaging entire kingdoms, destroying all that stood in its path, mocking anyone who begged it for mercy.
When the Burning Legion ravaged the land, great heroes recognized that arcane magic posed a continuing threat to all living creatures, so they elected to destroy the Well of Eternity and put an end to arcane magic forever. Unfortunately, among their number was one Illidan Stormrage, an arcane spell caster who dreaded the thought of losing his powers. Secretly he stole some of the well's water and used it to create a new Well of Eternity at Mount Hyjal, thus preserving the power of the arcane. This theft allowed future elven generations to follow in the footsteps of Illidan and Queen Azshara. These elves called themselves the Quel'dorei, "the high elves" (for they believed that their mastery of the arcane elevated them to higher status). They also taught the arcane arts to the newly discovered race of humans, who showed a natural aptitude.
These human mages, however, were even more reckless than the night elves had been. The high elf mages warned their human pupils that magic was addictive, but the acolytes dismissed any suggestion that the tragedies that had befallen the elves would also afflict them. The humans were no better at resisting corruption than the elves had been, and eventually the arrogance of wizards brought the Burning Legion to Azeroth once more. Once again, great acts of heroism were needed to spare Azeroth from destruction.
Elsewhere, on the orcish home world of Draenor, arcane sorceries corrupted the once noble race of orcs, transforming them into the Horde, a nigh invincible army. After ravaging their home world, the orcs came to Azeroth; and with their warlocks, they waged two great wars against the races of human, elf and dwarf. The orcs failed to seize control of Azeroth; during these wars, Draenor itself was utterly destroyed, and the orcs were forced to relocate to Azeroth.
In the wake of the Third War against the Scourge and Burning Legion, the orc Warchief Thrall has rejected arcane magic and embraced his race's traditional shamanistic ways. Yet orc warlocks still walk the world, and demons whisper in their ears each time they cast a spell. Neither human nor high elves have abandoned the pursuit of the arcane; if anything, the defeat of the Burning Legion at the Battle of Mount Hyjal has fed the arrogance of many spell casters, who believe the world is now protected from demonic influences and that arcane spell casters may practice their art in relative safety. Nothing sows the seeds of the fields of tragedy quite like arrogance.
The Four Laws
- Magic is Powerful.
Magic in Azeroth is the difference between a slave and a master, a foot soldier and king. Few races and nations can operate without powerful mages and warlocks. The use of arcane magic is growing; historically, each time this has happened before, a great disaster shortly follows. However, even though the history of the arcane is well known, mages and their patrons invariably come to the same self-serving conclusion: It won't happen to them.
- Magic is Corrupting.
Magic corrupts the soul; if the humblest person in Azeroth became a practitioner of the arcane, by the time the practitioner reached the higher levels in their art, all traces of her humble roots would be lost. Magic breeds pride and arrogance. Magic corrupts the body; it ages the caster before their time and hastens the blight that the world inflicts on things fair and beautiful. Those who claim that only Necromancy and Fel Magic have a corrupting influence are fooling themselves.
- Magic is an Addiction.
When one feels the power of an arcane spell coursing through one's body as it's being cast, resisting the urge to cast it again is difficult. Frequent use leads to a desire for more and, eventually, to a desire for the evil fel energy.
- Magic attracts the Twisting Nether Like Flies to Honey.
The Burning Legion has invaded Azeroth three times, drawn by the power of the Well of Eternity and those who employ it. Magic is a literal gateway drug that allows dark titans such as Sargeras to bring evil influences to the world. Those who employ arcane magic must deal with demons and other servants of the Twisting Nether.
Arcane magic types
- Frost (aka ice)
- Arcane (may be related to "air" or a combination of the four elements)
- Shadow (aka necromancy school, dark arts, demonology), shared with divine magic.
- Nature magic - Studied by certain wizards who were trained outside cities. Used for ripening, culling, harvesting. One can take a seed and pull the youth from it until its a flower.
Arcane in World of Warcraft