Many events in this game strike strong nostalgic responses from my brain, times with certain guilds, people I used to play with that since left the game. These memories make me look back on elements of the game with rose-tinted glasses, often forgetting terrible implementations and bugs that would ordinarily render the content incredibly awkward and time consuming to complete. One such event is the culmination of my own boredom and exploration, the discovery of the Nightmare Dragons scattered around the world of Azeroth.
Ysera, the great Dragon Aspect of nature had four powerful lieutenants; each one slowly became corrupted by the dark powers that have since plagued the Emerald Dream into a nightmare. The cause of the corruption is theorised to be closely related to a yet to be unveiled Old God presence, predicted to be that of N’Zoth, allowing for the idea that the original vision of a perfect world (one without mortal life) was not pure and as perfect as the Titans envisioned, and as such the corrupted reach of this old god forced the corruption to spread within the Dream as it could manifest itself into a wide array of mortals and in this case Dragons who meditate within this plane.
The four lieutenants each came into contact with this disturbing corruption through their meditation, Lethon; the mighty behemoth of an elder drake was changed forever in his exposure to an aberration of the Dream. His scales pitted colour and he was granted the ability to extract shades from his enemies, sapping the strength of those he extracts and returning that strength to his body in the form of healing. His appearance in one of the four world boss encounters in World of Warcraft mirrored this ability, and made for an extremely difficult move set to manage during his encounter, thus he was considered a rather high dps check.
Secondly was Emeriss; a once graceful member of the flight encountered a rather grotesque form of corruption upon his contact with the Nightmare. His scales became frail and his very flesh began to rot with disease. The encounter in game reflects his dying nature and those who die in battle to Emeriss spawn mushrooms, erupting from their corpses causing horrible disease effects and painful damage over time spells.
Third on the list is Ysondre; one of Ysera’s more entitled and highly thought of lieutenants. Ysondre’s encounters with the corrupted Dream caused her to look into the darkness and see only fear. Once her powerful healing magic’s were a blessing to her flight, but now through these changes she bestows only her darkest fears onto the world. Her horror spreads throughout her encounter in game as she casts ‘Smouldering Lightning’, an ability that summons other trapped druidic spirits from the dream to aid her in battle, swarming the player with countless adds and spewing actual fear effects throughout your raid group. Ysondre’s fearful encounter with the Dream twisted her mind and she mentions her blame of this corruption on Azeroth itself, believing that the very world itself cursed her in this torment.
Lastly, the fourth lieutenant was Taerar. This dragon was arguably more affected by the corrupting effects of the dream than any other. His scales were not changed like Lethon, but his entire body was forfeit in his contact with the corruption. He very literally became a spectre of his former self, a twisted, insane remnant of a dragon, cursing the world and wanting to bring his insane thoughts into existence in the real world. The encounter shows him capable of splitting himself into multiple copies, each one wielding powerful destructive magic. This works to his strategy, ganging up on players with multiple targets and extremely high damage from his multiple spell output.
The most unique thing about the Nightmare Dragons is their placement, alongside each of 4 world trees around the world of Azeroth, out in the open game world. Open world bosses had extremely awkward implementations into the game at the time, with many of the tactical approach simply negated by the sheer volume of participants in each fight. The entire zone would be instantly populated upon the spawn of one of the dragons, and guilds on each server would fight to tag the boss for their group. Failure to tag the boss would result in forced dirty tactics to try and wipe the guild or team that DID have the tag on the boss and in some cases taunting the boss and leashing it to reset the boss was a familiarised tactic.
Fortunately I never played the game at the time of the 4 dragon’s relevance; personally I entered the game half way through the release of The Burning Crusade. I still experienced the dragons before their inevitable removal in Cataclysm and have fond memories of grouping with some of my friends at the time and fighting them, still experiencing some of the pain and suffering that the abilities of each drake provided, but in a more controlled, less laggy environment. It’s sad their removal from the game came to pass, however it did allow Blizzard to learn from their mistakes, leaving world bosses almost completely out of the loop until they could properly develop technology to allow for a fix to the tagging and complicated, rage inducing problems that plagued that time of the game.
In Mists of Pandaria we were given such technology in game, and now tagging a boss for loot does not require you to be in a group, let alone one with the person who originally hit the boss at the time of its pull. So many quality of life changes now exist in the game, and many of them are possibly more underappreciated as they maybe should be, and adds a more polished experience than could ever be achieved in 2005.
Memories are one thing, but my understanding of what made content good is not based on what it is I’m playing, but rather who it is I play with. The dragons were implemented as well as they could have been for the time, but their removal was expected and understandable, but I would rather that time be forgotten and one day perhaps revisited with the improved technology at developer disposal. I will always have a token of this time in the extremely rare ‘Nightmare Blade’. A reminder like many in my guild bank, of a time I played with people I no longer can.
Please enjoy this attached video of another element of the Nightmare Dragon storyline, where the events talked about manifest in a world event, which was part of the Sceptre of The Shifting Sands storyline, and crucial to the opening of the gates of AQ 40. :
If you have enjoyed this article, please share it around and let me know what special Treasured memories you have had in the World of Warcraft universe!