Many dangers await in the realm of the Lich King. The will of Arthas echoes through Northrend, ancient frozen kingdoms gripped in his armored fist. Titans keep close to their own secrets buried deep in hidden vaults, and the Blue Dragonflight threatens to tear the world asunder with wild magic. World of Warcraft: The Wrath of the Lich King is still in beta, but many challenging dungeons and dangers already beckon, so we heeded the call. Come along with us as we explore the instanced adventures of the icy north and see what the latest expansion has in store for you. But be warned: though the surface of this article contains only minor spoilers, the rollover images contain the visages of bosses and artifacts you may prefer to remain unknown. And if your thirst for arcana truly knows no bounds, perhaps this video tour of The Nexus will sate you. We will not blame you if you cannot help gazing upon them, but do not blame us, either.
And so, without further ado, we present the dungeons of the Lich King!
The Howling Fjord is a deep glacial gash hewn into a brutal wilderness where Alliance forces cling to their waterside outpost in the oppressive shadow of Utgarde Keep. Now home to a depraved band of brutal men known as the Vrykul, Utgarde Keep clearly marks the bygone golden age of a lost civilization with its sweeping stone architecture and sophisticated engravings. It has been leased to the Vrykul by Arthas in return for the beast men's continued campaign of chaos. If you are ready to travel to Northrend, then Utgarde Keep is ready for you.
Utgarde Keep is richly atmospheric within and without. From the vantage of Valgarde, the Alliance outpost, Utgarde stands like a giant tombstone on a massive grave. Dragon riders swoop down from stone spires spewing fire on the terrified mortals below, killing the lucky ones. Within, Utgarde contains the regal squalor of a Viking fraternity house; its splendor spoiled by wild and savage tenants. Dragon-head banners bedeck the halls, covering finely engraved eagles, symbols of the bygone builders. A huge war forge greets your entrance, and it is here that the Vrykul invaders look most at home. Clanging hammer against anvil, the beast men forge their war tools before a curtain of fire and an audience of skulls that spew their applause in flames.
Do not underestimate the Vrykul--or their dragons. Savage and disorganized though they may seem, these mad warriors are employed by the Lich King, who pays them in more than real estate. They wield his dark power, as well as their own savage implements. They've also tamed both vicious worgs and mighty drakes to cosign their evil deeds. Take extra care when fighting in the dragon pens because one unlucky knock could send you flying into the face of a nearby sleeping monster, doubling your troubles and halving your hopes in one fell swoop.
The agents of Arthas oversee the Vrykul's evil work, and they will stand against you when lesser foes have fallen. When you vanquish his sinister council, a wicked wizard will attack with a host of skeletal friends. Beware his tomb of ice; though you may be loath to attack the encased member of your party, you will find the alternative even worse--and kind of sticky. You will also happen upon a conversation between an exceptionally powerful Vrykul and his necromagical overseer. And finally, Ingvar the Plunderer, leader of the Vrykul, awaits you at the top of Utgarde Keep.
When the Titans created the world, they also created the dragonflights to keep watch over it. The domain of the blue dragonflight was magic, and Malygos was its guardian. Driven insane with grief over the almost utter annihilation of his race by the betrayal of the black dragon Deathwing, Malygos has only recently risen from his stupor to find the world in turmoil. Having decided that the current state of affairs is due to mortals meddling with magic, he now channels much of the world's magical energy to the Nexus, his stronghold in Northrend. You may want to gain a level or two before you challenge him.
If you like the color blue, you'll be right at home in The Nexus. The frost-and-magic design aesthetic from the outer environs continues inside through the citadel's base floor. Much of the instance is inscribed with glowing runes, as well as bristling with crystal and ice. One path to an elemental boss is lined with trees that glitter so brightly they're almost painful to look at--all crystal foliage and shining treants. One wing of the dungeon is almost entirely ripped apart by the overload of magical forces, with a vortex so strong that it's pulling nearby creatures to their deaths. Just from running around, you clearly get the picture that the Blue Dragonflight has gone thoroughly insane--if matters are this out of control at the lowest level of the tower, what's happening at the top?
Disparate beings populate The Nexus, from mana-hungry elves to blue dragonkin patrolling on behalf of their crazed leader. Magical plant life crowds the halls on one side, waving their limbs and leaves freely under the guard of hulking elementals. Around the unstable vortex, dragonkin fight a losing battle against uncontrolled beings of pure energy that seem to spawn endlessly. One frozen hall contains a whole squadron of Horde entombed in ice, and they'll be quick to turn their ire on you once released. It's best for you to be cautious with the number of enemies you'll fight at one time. Those in your party who can offensively and defensively dispel magical effects will also be kept quite busy.
Upon entering, the first thing you see is a red dragon locked in ice--if you've quested in Coldarra, you'll recognize her as the imprisoned Keristrasza, but you can't help her yet. You'll need to clean the rest of The Nexus first. A master mage awaits you, flinging your party around with arcane magic then splitting her form to embody both fire and frost. Deep in the crystal forest, a great stone giant awaits your arrival with ice that erupts from the ground. In the unstable hall of the rift, a creature of chaotic energy warps both space and magic in an attempt to rip you asunder.
When you at last free Keristrasza, her heart is corrupted beyond repair, and she forces you to sacrifice her by attacking you in a rage. In addition to her dragon's breath and magic, the very air itself acts against you; if you don't keep moving, you'll be overcome with frost.
Do the perils of one dungeon excite you more than the others? Or do you have a question about the mysteries of Northrend? Don't /yell, /tell us.
Azjol-Nerub was the center of the civilization of Nerubians, a race of sentient spiders that resided in the frozen reaches of Northrend at the edge of the Dragonblight. Arthas passed through here on his way to the Frozen Throne. Once raised as the Lich King, he then assaulted the spider kingdom and wiped almost all of it from the face of Azeroth. Some Nerubians still cling to the remains of their once-great city, fighting the Scourge that have come to inhabit it. If you wish to aid them, make sure and get at least three levels under your level 70 belt, first.
The Nerubians have left their arachnid stamp on this place, which is dense with webbing that coats the cavernous walls, supports your weight, and at times, almost obscures your way of passage. While at first glance this area appears to be little more than a ruined cave, the deeper you plumb the depths of Azjol-Nerub, the more sophisticated it becomes. The small glimpse you're given into the remains of the Nerubian empire invokes something proud and old, but also overrun. The architecture curls stone spider limbs around ancient archways and broken bridges. The place is also full of skittering creatures.
This is a fairly short instance, but it’s still packed with hostile Nerubians and some invaders sent by the Lich King. You’ll have to watch your health as the spiders and the undead here will regularly inflict poisons and diseases on your party. Most dangerous is a web-wrapping that seals someone up as a snack for later dining. You can quickly shred the webs with attacks, but you’ll have to stay on your toes to manage foes that just keep on coming.
There's very little in the way of waste here; thus, you're thrown into boss encounters immediately and relentlessly. To even enter the main chambers, you'll have to defeat Kirik'thir the Gatewatcher, a Nerubian lord who looms tall and first sends waves of his minions at you before coming into the fray himself. He not only controls magic and strong melee attacks, but also periodically summons swarms of tiny insects to claw at your heels. The next chamber is the scene of a chaotic battle, with Nerubians pouring out of tunnels in an attempt to keep a giant spider--the spawn of Naxxramas' dread Maexxna--from gaining entry to the upper levels. You'll have to cut through the Nerubians first to reach her. Once you do, she'll quickly try to ensnare you with her webs and life-leeching poison. At the dungeon's base floor lounges a great crypt lord, who regularly tunnels underground and attempts to impale your party from below. You'll have to manage the undead creature himself, as well as scores of other insects that bombard you while he is below the earth.
The massive edifice of Drak'Tharon Keep straddles the border of the troll kingdom of Zul'Drak and the rocky forests that are the Grizzly Hills. Arthas was here on his quest for the blade Frostmourne, and it is at the Keep that he was reunited with his companion Muradin Bronzebeard. Today, this structure is overrun with Scourge, the trolls either driven out or killed and raised as new fodder for the undead armies of the Lich King. If you are not experienced enough to brave the previous dungeons, you are definitely not ready for Drak'Tharon.
The troll artisans were hard at work in Drak'Tharon, carving the walls thick with tusked and leering faces while solidly fortifying what was once the stronghold of the Drakkari tribe. It is no longer, as the Scourge has put down roots here, and the halls are filled with their undead minions, as well as necromancers. This massive complex speaks to the might of the trolls that made this their home, and each great chamber feels like it was built as a temple to war.
Moving to enter the instance, a pair of Drakkari attempts to flee past you only to be killed by necromancers and raised as undead. Many of these trolls are now thralls to the Scourge and must be dealt with, in addition to their shadowy masters. Wading through the mobs of undead, you'll also have to keep their spiders and raptors from gnawing on your bones, as well as swiftly pull bat riders from the air.
The trolls fight valiantly against the Scourge onslaught but shatter themselves against the undead troll berserker that guards the entrance area. Brute strength isn't this creature's only ability because it'll detonate nearby Drakkari corpses and injure your party with bloody shrapnel. In a shadowed hall, a mighty lich floats beyond his protective shield as he calls an army of ghouls to his aid--but his minions hold the key to his downfall. Stalking the raptor pens is an impossibly huge ravasaur that fights with tooth, claw, and its terrifying roar.
At the Keep's very summit resides the Prophet Tharon'ja, an undead serpent with the ability to strip the flesh from your bones and pull you into the spirit realm of death. Despite such a terrible power, your skeleton forms can strike the unholy beast's image from within that realm, and coordinated attacks will eventually lay him low. If you've completed a Drakkari quest chain in the nearby Grizzly Hills, you will be paid a visit from the Lich King himself as he toys with the unsheathed Frostmourne.
Halls of Stone
Along with Uldaman and the yet-unexplored Uldum, Ulduar is a city wrought by the godlike Titans, who crafted the very world of Azeroth itself. The print of their large hands may be found on many races, and the dwarves in particular are rabid to discover their ancient secrets. The Halls of Stone comprise part of the city of Ulduar, which rests in Northrend's Storm Peaks region. Brann Bronzebeard also roams these halls; the youngest Bronzebeard brother behind King Magni of Ironforge and Arthas' one-time companion Muradin. The founder of the Explorer's League is here to reveal the secrets of the Titans at any cost. If you wish to help him pay this price, you'll need to back up your bravado with at least 77 levels.
The Halls of Stone were meant to be roamed by Titans; thus, the scope and breadth of this dungeon could only be filled by such great personages. Everything looms large here--enormous pillars and statuary, vaulted ceilings, echoing chambers. The giants that roam these corridors fit easily, while players scurry about like ants. If the gleaming stone and vast scale weren't enough, Titan artifacts and devices shine brightly with mystery. One can only guess at their origin and purpose, fighting heartily to keep the Vrykul, as well as the rune dwarves, from unlocking their huge power. They continue to dig and unearth more areas of Ulduar, including a tunnel that seems crafted entirely of stone elementals, their craggy faces jutting from the roughly hewn walls of earth.
Rune dwarfs continue their excavations here next to the rune giants that dwell within the halls and the ancient Titans' constructs built for the city's defense. While the giants themselves are extremely formidable opponents, care must be taken even with more manageably sized foes; if you alert too many to your presence, you'll quickly be in the middle of your worst nightmare. The stone constructs can wield dangerous magic and are singularly focused on their imprinting to wipe out intruders.
Never offer to help a dwarf. Brann Bronzebeard happily conscripts you to guard his back while he investigates areas of the Halls of Stone, and such things rarely turn out well. His quest to decipher one of the Titan's large machines triggers both waves of defenders, as well as enormous stone masks coming to life on the walls, raining holy, shadow, and fire magic down upon you. This in turn opens the way to an even greater archive watched over by Sjonnir the Ironshaper, whose lightning shield and melee strength pose a formidable challenge even before the ghastly troggs start marching to his aid. Brann accompanies you here as well, but he is more interested in the machine than in aiding you. Such a heartless little person.
One area of the Halls is freshly split from the surrounding stone, and at the very base of this tunnel is the giant Krystallus. His stomps shake the cavern and his power can temporarily turn you to stone. Finally, the Maiden of Grief patrols her chambers alone, driven mad by forces unknown. She fights with shadow magic that stuns your allies and opens void zones in the floor to trap and harm the unwary.
We hope you enjoyed this early look at the dungeons of Northrend. As the beta for Wrath of the Ling King moves forward, even harsher challenges will be revealed and more treasure lurks around every corner. Stay tuned as we continue to explore the most dangerous lands in the world of Azeroth--should we fight even greater foes, we'll be sure to bring you along for the epic loot.
Do the perils of one dungeon excite you more than the others? Or do you have a question about the mysteries of Northrend? Don't /yell, /tell us.