Congratulations! After ten levels, six zones, three artifact weapons, and a lot of ancient mana, you finally meet the requirements to experience the Emerald Nightmare in World of Warcraft: Legion. Only… what is the Emerald Nightmare? Who are these poor, unfortunate souls destined to die at your hands week after week as you farm their corpses for blood and treasure? And why are you even here in the first place? (Besides the blood and treasure part.) For answers, you're going to need a bit of a history lesson starting with the Emerald Dream itself.
Shaped by the titans at the creation of the world, the Emerald Dream is Azeroth's default state - what the physical world would look like if the meddling mortal races never got their grubby hands all over it. It encircles the whole of Azeroth like a big spiritual security blanket and has the power to influence the growth and spread of natural life on the planet.
The Emerald Nightmare is the Emerald Dream's evil twin; where the Dream spreads life, the Nightmare spreads corruption. And the source of this corruption? The perpetual villains at the end of nearly every epic quest chain: The Old Gods. No one is sure which Old God is the source of the Nightmare, but the clearest account reports that Yogg-Saron was responsible for spreading its madness into the Dream when roots from a fledgling World Tree tapped into its ancient prison.
From there, corruption and madness infected parts of the Dream, transforming its denizens and the landscape into eldritch horrors straight out of... well... Azeroth's worst nightmares. But the problem with the Nightmare, and the reason why it’s so dangerous, is that it doesn’t contain itself to the boundaries of the spiritual world. It stretches its slimy tentacles (it’s Old Gods stuff, there will be tentacles) into the physical world, bringing disease with it like a metastasizing tumor. This corruption of the Dream threatens all life in a myriad of ways we’ve seen since vanilla.
But you’re not going to let that happen any longer.
You, with the aid of 9 to 29 of your best friends, are going to journey into the Nightmare, vanquish your enemies, and set these ancient wrongs right. So who are you vanquishing? To cover them all would take about as long as it would for you to defeat them. In summary, they were all good people (or bears, or dragons, or demi-gods) then the Nightmare got its tentacles around them and corrupted them like it does everything else. Notable exception being Il’gynoth, Heart of the Corruption, who budded fully-formed from the Nightmare like an evil, sentient amoeba.
Fortunately for you and your 9 to 29 companions, you don’t have to face these horrors of the Nightmare alone. As you battle deeper into the very heart of the Nightmare, you’ll have the aid of one Malfurion Stormrage, Archdruid of the Moonglade and one of the guys who wouldn't shut up during your trek through Darkheart Thicket. He’s a bit of a backseat raider for most of the trip, helping out only when he wants to save his teacher Cenarius. After that, he chickens out, abandoning you at the critical moment when you have to face the master of the Nightmare, Nightmare Lord Xavius— the other guy who wouldn’t shut up during your trek through Darkheart Thicket.
Malfurion and Xavius have bad blood stemming back to the days of Queen Azshara and the Well of Eternity. Back then, before he got his horns and hooves, Xavius was a powerful highborne councilor to Queen Azshara and the orchestrator of the plot to bring Sargeras and his Burning Legion to Azeroth. Thanks to Malfurion, he failed. As punishment then, Sargeras tortured Xavius and turned him into the vengeful creature responsible for the destruction of the Temple of Elune and the demise of Ysera, Protector of the Emerald Dream.
Defeating Xavius is the key to ending the Nightmare's spread. Your reward for resilience in the face of unending corruption is seeing your old foes Nythendra, Ysondra, Ursoc, Elrethe, and even Cenarius wander the cleansed dream, offering gratitude and reward (remember the treasure?) for restoring the Dream to its original state.
For all of your World of Warcraft: Legion questions, visit Wowpedia.
Ash is a part-time writer/full-time gamer and has managed to successfully combine the two hobbies into one profession. She enjoys RPGs of all stripes and dreams of being a competitive Triple Triad player.