From WoWWiki:

The Nexus (formerly Ice Caverns) is a level 71-73 wing of the Nexus Dungeon Hub in the Borean Tundra. The dungeon layout is very open. You can go into different “wings”, but the final boss Keristrasza, a captured red dragon, can only be freed from her ice prison when you kill the previous three.

I ventured into The Nexus the day after my first foray into WotLK, having run Utgarde Keep twice the night before.

With a Warrior tank, a Priest handling the heals, and a pair of Mages rounding out the DPS, we headed inside and tackled the first couple of pulls — solo Blue Dragonkin who patrol the long corridors between wings in the rune-covered instance.

From the main hallway leading into the instance, you can see Keristrasza, the imprisoned Red Dragon (and the instance’s final boss) encased in ice.

Keristrasza (background)

Keristrasza (background)

Lore-wise, there’s a bit of a disconnect here: If Alexstrasza is the benevolent leader of the Red Dragonflight, and Keristrasza is her faithful lieutenant, why are we tasked with killing her?

Turns out Malygos, the Blue Dragon Aspect, imprisoned Keristrasza as retribution for trying to stall him with an army of Red Dragonflight, and players have to defeat her in order to free her.

Keristrasza

Keristrasza

Leading up to the Keristrazsa encounter are a trio of bosses — Grand Magus Telestra, a High Elf mage who summons clones of herself, Ormorok the Tree-Shaper, who really doesn’t do anything special besides tearing lines of jagged ice in the ground, and Anomalus, a voidwraith who summons groups of adds that have a nasty mana burn.

Anomalus on his rune-etched platform.

Anomalus on his rune-etched platform.

I’ve seen the Nexus described as a “McInstance” in a forum post critical of its design, but I enjoyed the run, and like Utgarde Keep there were clear signs that Blizzard has learned a few things about dungeon design.

On the practical side, graveyard walks (few, thankfully) weren’t painful — the graveyard is about 100 yards south of the instance portal, and the open layout made it easy to get back into the action after a wipe. The non-linear boss order also made it easy to progress at a quick pace, despite the impression of labyrinthian complexity.

In visual terms, the design was at times stunning. Grand Magus Telestra’s perch is layered in a blue-tinged “digital rain” reminiscent of Matrix code. A gauntlet-like series of trash pulls leading to Ormorok runs a winding path through an indoor “forest” of frosted trees. And every entranceway and surface is covered in glowing blue runes and latticed cartouches, contributing to the atmosphere of an ancient, frigid, subterranean lair.

Unlike Utgarde Keep (and the similarly quick Azjol Nerub), the Nexus takes some time to clear. But thankfully the trash waves aren’t as numerous as, say, a Shadow Labyrinth or Botanica. This is a place that can be cut through without following a linear route and painstakingly marking each pull with kill orders and crowd control. Part of that can be attributed to the new AoE tanking abilities enjoyed by every tank class, but part of it is just good dungeon design.

While it won’t go down as one of the greatest instances in the game, the Nexus is a fun trip that stands up to repeated visits.

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