The Draenei are one of the more bizarre-looking races in WoW. According to lore, they’re descendants of a species of benevolent demons, the Eredar, and they contian some of the standard physical markers of Western demons: horns, beards, goat-like hooves. But Draenei are good demons, so they’re beautified, especially the females.
The Draenei avatars speak with a vague Russian accent.
The Draenei city, the Exodar, is actually a crashed spaceship, so it’s kind of wrecked on the outside. Inside, its style evokes mysticism (crystals, runes, radiant light) with a strong use of the sublime. The overall form and interior walls may also have influence from the “blob”- forms that can be found in modern Deconstructivism.
They’re a little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy. The fact that the Draenei appeared in Azeroth in a ship, traveling from another planet, caused some controversy amongst fans who took umbrage at the intrusion of science fiction tropes into a fantasy world. It was apparently heated enough to prompt a response from Chris Metzen, who wrote a long post in the official forums defending his narrative decisions. (Apparently, a “trans-dimensional” ship running on magic is different enough from a “spaceship” running on “technology” to be considered okay by fantasy standards.) Ultimately, the fans’ outcry and Metzen’s response reveal that there are hotly contested, if fuzzy, lines between science fiction and fantasy, lines that WoW blurs.
They’re Jewish immigrants. Like many of WoW‘s races, the Draenei contain a lot of different rhetorical influences, but a lot of them line up with Jewish history. The playable Draenei, whose ancestors resisted the demonic corruption that the other Eredar fell prey to, are consistently described as holy people with ties to the Holy Light; they’re directly aided by some of that religion’s angelic representatives, the Naaru. The word Draenei means “The Exiled Ones” in their own language, and the Draenei have suffered two genocides and undergone two exoduses to escape them. Then there’s their ship/city, the rather overtly named Exodar. There’s also some evidence that we’re meant to see the Draenei as Russian Jews. As I’ve mentioned, the avatars’ accents are Russian. And one of the male avatars’ jokes alludes to the Russian Jewish comedian Yakov Smirnoff:
“I love this planet! I come here; I see cow and chicken and ride little horsies. THIS PLANET HAS EVERYTHING!”
A lot of Smirnoff’s humor revolved around being a newcomer to the U.S., and the Draenei play on the immigrant connotation heavily. That they’re depicted as Jewish immigrants means that, along with the Night Elves, they draw on the notion of the model minority.