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This article is about the region. For the dungeon of the same name, see Azjol-Nerub (instance). For the nerubian nation, see Azjol-Nerub (kingdom).
WWI Azjol-Nerub.jpg
Races NerubianNerubianNerubianNerubian Nerubian
ScourgeScourgeScourgeScourge Scourge
N'raqiN'raqiN'raqiN'raqi N'raqi
Tol'virTol'vir Tol'vir (possibly)[1]
Ruler(s) IconSmall NerubianVizier.gif Seer Ixit (living)[2]
Former ruler(s) IconSmall Anub'arak.gif Anub'arak †
Major settlements Ahn'kahet
Minor settlements Naz'anak
Affiliation Empire of Azjol-Nerub, Scourge, Yogg-Saron
Location Beneath Northrend
Azjol-Nerub (5)

Krik'thir the Gatewatcher

Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom (5)

Elder Nadox
Prince Taldaram
Jedoga Shadowseeker
Amanitar (heroic)
Herald Volazj

“The Nerubians built an empire beneath the frozen wastes of Northrend. An empire that you so foolishly built your structures upon. MY EMPIRE.”

— The Lich King[3]

Azjol-Nerub (sometimes Azjol'Nerub;[4] pronounced "ah-ZHOL nuh-ROOB")[5] is a vast underground region that stretches beneath nearly half the breadth of Northrend.[6][7][8] It is inhabited by the spider-like nerubians and was home to their namesake Empire of Azjol-Nerub until it was destroyed by the Scourge during the War of the Spider. During the war against the Lich King, the domain became a battlefront between the Scourge, the still-living nerubians, and the minions of the Old God Yogg-Saron.

In Wrath of the Lich King, Azjol-Nerub can be visited through two 5-player dungeons: Azjol-Nerub (which corresponds to the Upper Kingdom) and Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom, both accessed through the Pit of Narjun in the Dragonblight.



Azjol-Nerub in relation to the Drakkari Empire immediately after the Aqir and Troll War.
Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom (loading screen art).

Azjol-Nerub is an ancient place, built when Azeroth was young.[9] It was founded as an aqiri city-state during the Aqir and Troll War, circa 16,000 BDP, when a colony of aqir traveled to northern Kalimdor (modern-day Northrend) and enslaved a society of tol'vir, adopting their architecture and turning the tol'vir into obsidian destroyers that the aqir then unleashed against their Drakkari troll enemies.[1][10] The Empire of Zul ultimately contained the aqir in separate colonies in the far north and far south of Kalimdor.[10][11][12] The ones in the north gathered near the underground prison of the Old God Yogg-Saron, which caused them to evolve into a new race, the nerubians, whose kingdom became the Empire of Azjol-Nerub.[10] According to legend, the nerubians laid the groundwork for their civilization by using enslaved jormungar worms to carve tunnels and grottoes through Northrend's subterranean ice.[13][14]

A nerubian hoarding cell in Azjol-Nerub, as depicted in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.

The vrykul Magnar Icebreaker rose to fame by hunting nests of nerubians and using cracks in glacier walls as tunnels to launch assaults on their strongholds from within. Years later, remnants of the nerubian armies once again began emerging from their caves, seeking to seize Ulduar and the titan machinery within it. Magnar led the vrykul to push the nerubians back to the entrance of Azjol-Nerub itself and defeated them so thoroughly that they cased all aggression for millennia.[15] For ages after the Sundering, the nerubians kept to themselves in Azjol-Nerub,[16] keeping their empire hidden using ward devices.[17]

War of the Spider

Main article: War of the Spider

During the War of the Spider, the nerubians used their vast underground network to launch hit-and-run attacks on the Scourge's strongholds, stymying the Lich King's efforts to root them out time after time.[6][7] The Lich King tried to spread the plague of undeath in Azjol-Nerub, but these attempts were ruthlessly snuffed out by the nerubian king, Anub'arak. After a years-long war of attrition,[18] the Lich King invaded Azjol-Nerub itself with the aid of the dreadlords and innumerable undead warriors,[6][7] breaching the Gilded Gate which had stood unchallenged for centuries[19] and bringing the empire's subterranean temples crashing down on the spiderlords' heads.[6][7] However, Krik'thir, guardian of the gates of Azjol-Nerub, was able to close off most of the empire before he was killed, ensuring that only the exposed Upper Kingdom fell to the invaders; most of the empire remained closed off and has stayed that way ever since.[20] The Scourge raised Anub'arak into undeath and forced him to help conquer nerubian strongholds and ziggurats such as Naxxramas.[16][21][22] As they lost ground amid the invasion, many of the nerubians in Ahn'kahet, the Old Kingdom, attempted to escape the undead by tunneling underground. In desperation, some of them dug too deep and inadvertently exposed tendrils of Yogg-Saron. The Old God sent its n'raqi minions against the insectoids, who were unable to fight a war on two fronts and consequently lost both the war and their home.[23][24][25] Of the nerubians that survived, small groups escaped deep underground,[16] where they continued to fight to liberate Azjol-Nerub from the Scourge.[26]

During his journey to answer the Lich King's summons, Kel'Thuzad passed through Azjol-Nerub's war-torn ruins, including Naxxramas, giving him a firsthand view of the scope of the Lich King's power.[21][27][28][29]

The Frozen Throne

WC3RoC-logo.png This section concerns content related to Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos or its expansion The Frozen Throne.

“There is another route we might take, death knight. The ancient, shattered kingdom of Azjol-Nerub lies deep below us. Though it has fallen on dark times, it could provide us a direct shortcut to the glacier.”

The forgotten one in the Old Kingdom, as depicted in Warcraft III: Reforged.

After being abandoned in Northrend by Arthas Menethil, the remnants of the Dwarven Expedition, led by Baelgun Flamebeard, took shelter in the ruins of Azjol-Nerub. They fortified themselves in the Shadow Web Caverns, where they fought against still-living nerubians and tried to claim their treasures. Some time later, the earthquakes caused by Illidan Stormrage's use of the Eye of Sargeras awakened more n'raqi in the Old Kingdom, prompting the dwarves to seal the Old Kingdom's gates in order to keep the creatures locked inside.[26]

While hurrying to defend the Frozen Throne from Illidan's forces, Arthas Menethil and Anub'arak realized they'd not reach Icecrown Glacier in time by traveling overland. At Anub'arak's suggestion, they instead broke through a pass into Azjol-Nerub to take a shortcut through its tunnels.[30] The Scourge forces fought through living nerubians and Baelgun's dwarves to break through the gate into the Old Kingdom,[26] where they contended with more nerubian rebels, the kingdom's various traps and defense mechanisms, and finally the n'raqi and a forgotten one.[31] The latter tried to stop Arthas from reaching Icecrown[9] since the Old Gods had an interest in allowing Illidan to destroy the Frozen Throne and throw Azeroth into chaos.[32] Arthas and Anub'arak killed the forgotten one, causing the Old Kingdom to begin collapsing, and then successfully escaped through the Upper Kingdom to the base of Icecrown Glacier.[33]

Wrath of the Lich King

Wrath-Logo-Small.png This section concerns content related to Wrath of the Lich King.

“This kingdom belongs to the Scourge. Only the dead may enter!”

Krik'thir the Gatewatcher

After years of abandonment, Azjol-Nerub became a front in the war against the Lich King.[16] The Lich King sought to rule the kingdom at any cost[34] and sent his servant Anub'arak to protect his old empire.[35] The kingdom's last living nerubians, the Azjol-anak, fought to defend themselves from annihilation. Those who did not acquiesce to the Lich King's rule were branded enemies of the Scourge and marked for death.[34] In the Upper Kingdom, Anub'arak's Anub'ar guarded clutches of tainted eggs that would provide them with young that they could kill and raise.[16][36] In the Old Kingdom, Prince Taldaram led a Scourge army[17] in search of lost nerubian relics.[37] At the same time, Yogg-Saron sent its n'raqi, led by Herald Volazj, to cull the beleaguered nerubians,[25] while a band of Twilight's Hammer cultists led by Jedoga Shadowseeker occupied part of the Old Kingdom to worship the Old God.[38]

The Scourged nerubians used Azjol-Nerub's system of tunnels to travel throughout Northrend, allowing them to burrow up to the surface and attack ground forces without warning.[39][40] For example, the Warsong Offensive inadvertently built Warsong Hold atop a well-traversed portion of Azjol-Nerub[41] and accidentally broke through into the Nerub'ar's tunnels during construction,[42] while the Anub'ar emerged from the Pit of Narjun in the Dragonblight to raze Icemist Village.[4]

Dranosh Saurfang led his Warsong Offensive forces into Azjol-Nerub to block off the nerubians' tunnels into the Dragonblight prior to the Battle of the Wrathgate.[43] Adventurers also entered the kingdom to deal a blow to the Scourge and help the nerubians restore their empire. In the Upper Kingdom, they helped Reclaimer A'zak destroy the Scourge's tainted eggs[36] and killed Anub'arak himself[44] in his ruined palace.[8] In the Old Kingdom, they helped Seer Ixit's forces reclaim the area from both the invading Scourge[17] and Yogg-Saron's n'raqi, allowing the Azjol-anak to retake their home[45] and begin the rebirth of the Empire of Azjol-Nerub.[46][47]

The Argent Crusade later unknowingly built the Crusaders' Coliseum atop a section of Azjol-Nerub, the Icy Depths. During the Trial of the Crusader, the Lich King destroyed the coliseum floor to send adventurers falling into the pit and force them to fight the reanimated Anub'arak.[3]

As of the end of the war against the Jailer, Muradin Bronzebeard wrote that he had heard that most of Azjol-Nerub is still in full-on ruins and a state of disintegration, but he and his brothers did not enter the place themselves.[8]


Distant structures in Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom.

Azjol-Nerub consists of a massive network of caves and tunnels[8][16] carved through Northrend's subterranean ice.[13][26][31] The region stretches like a great web[48] beneath nearly half the continent,[6][7][8] at least as far southwest as Warsong Hold in the Borean Tundra[41] and as far northeast as the Icy Depths in Icecrown.[3] The seat of the nerubian kingdom was located beneath the Dragonblight.[49][50] There are multiple entrances into the network, the most prominent being the Pit of Narjun in the Dragonblight,[8] which was used as an exit point for the kingdom's undead armies during the war against the Lich King.[4]

Before the War of the Spider, Azjol-Nerub was a center of knowledge, art, and learning[8] which housed great cities[14] sporting towers[51] and ziggurats,[52] all characterized by the nerubians' distinctive angular and colorful architectural style. Different rooms and corridors are denoted with intricate geometric shapes.[8][53] Its labyrinths are filled with hidden passages,[26] mechanisms, aqueducts, and deadly and sometimes magical traps.[31][33] The denizens stored most of their treasures in hidden hoarding cells.[26] They kept their empire hidden using ward devices.[17]

Years of war and abandonment have left the region broken and scarred. Its ruins cast dark shadows that conceal deep cracks and fissures, making it perilous for explorers to traverse the landscape.[16] During his passage through the region, Arthas Menethil remarked that the place must have once been beautiful but was now like a preserved rose: something that retained its beauty but was nonetheless dead.[53]

Most of Azjol-Nerub has remained closed off and inaccessible since Krik'thir the Gatewatcher's final stand during the War of the Spider. It's possible that surviving nerubians have since secured the depths and merely await release. Alternatively, the closed parts may be infested by n'raqi.[20] It's possible that surviving tol'vir—who were enslaved by the nerubians' aqiri ancestors and eventually repurposed by the Scourge—still exist deep within the remnants of Azjol-Nerub.[1] Other than the nerubians, the region is also home to other life. The damp, sun-starved caverns of the Old Kingdom host an isolated ecosystem of fungi, cave beasts, and other benign forms of life.[54]

Maps and subregions

Azjol-Nerub instance

Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom

Other locations throughout Northrend

Lore locations

WC3tFT-logo.png Warcraft III

Icon-RPG.png Warcraft RPG


Name Level range Group size Approximate run time
Wrath-Logo-Small.png Azjol-Nerub 60 - 80 5-man Unknown
Wrath-Logo-Small.png Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom 61 - 80 5-man Unknown

Azjol-Nerub as a zone

Wrath of the Lich King concept art of the entrance to Azjol-Nerub.

During Wrath of the Lich King's development, Azjol-Nerub was initially planned to be a full questing zone with a level range of 74-78[55]—the first subterranean zone in World of Warcraft. Then-lead level designer Cory Stockton stated:

"It's going to be exterior terrain, but underground. It'll feel like you're in a cave, but it'll be gigantic. Buildings, temples -- a look and feel very similar to Naxxramas, since [the nerubians] are where the Scourge stole that architecture from."[56]

Regarding the zone's story, then-vice president of creative development Chris Metzen stated:

"There are still pockets of Nerubians down there literally fighting for their lives, and we have any number of plans about how they play into things. What are they about? Are they principled, or even worse in some ways than the Scourge itself?"[56]

Wrath of the Lich King concept art.

The living nerubians were initially planned to be allies of the Old Gods, and it's implied that Yogg-Saron was originally meant to be located in Azjol-Nerub[57] (similar to C'Thun in Ahn'Qiraj) rather than in Ulduar. The pre-release Wrath of the Lich King Bestiary stated that the nerubian viziers had taken control of Azjol-Nerub following the War of the Spider, and that they were rumored to serve an "unseen emperor" that would lead them to victory against the Scourge.[58]

The zone would have included wall-climbing mounts. According to Alexander Brazie, the zone was ultimately cut because the plans for it were dramatically outside the scope of what Blizzard could create at the time and because "there was no way to finish a zone that big in time for launch".[59] Azjol-Nerub as a setting was instead limited to the two instances of Azjol-Nerub and Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom.

In 2012, then-lead systems designer Greg Street mentioned that Azjol-Nerub was the zone he was personally saddest about canceling.[60]

The concept of a subterranean zone was realized some 14 years later with Zaralek Cavern in patch 10.1, and developed further with the continent of Khaz Algar in The War Within. The zone of Azj-Kahet, in particular, strongly resembles the original concept for Azjol-Nerub.

In the RPG

Icon-RPG.png This section contains information from the Warcraft RPG which is considered non-canon.

Azjol-Nerub is the vast subterranean kingdom of the nerubians located beneath the frozen continent of Northrend, and was once the center of nerubian civilization. It is not known if they began here, but certainly most, if not their entire race, dwelled here. They left the rest of the world in peace and pursued their interests beneath the ground.[61] The furbolgs were apparently aware of Azjol-Nerub, as their songs mention "the many-legged dark", but the two races did not interact.[62]

Then the Lich King attacked and defeated the nerubians, killing most of them in the process and converting many of the survivors into crypt fiends and other undead, including the former nerubian king, the crypt lord Anub'arak. But there were also those who fled his touch.[61] After that, most of Azjol-Nerub was and still lies in ruins. It is still a fascinating place though, and many of its murals, frescoes, and columns stand intact. The Scourge does not care about riches, material or scholarly, and rich tapestries still hang on the walls while impressive tomes line bookcases.[63][64]

Azjol-Nerub is not a safe place, for several reasons. First, of course, the Scourge controls it. Second, creatures live below, including the strange faceless ones: ancient monsters long imprisoned beneath the ice and recently loosed again. Yet even uninhabited, this kingdom would be dangerous. The nerubians set all manner of traps here, including circular doors that must be moved just so to avoid them crashing down on you, statues that release streams of frost at intruders and pits hidden beneath seemingly normal floor tiles. Many adventurers have ventured into this place, hoping for gold and other treasures, and found death instead.

Azjol-Nerub can be divided into two sections: the Old Kingdom and the Upper Kingdom.[65]


20 years ago the nerubian civilization was still alive and strong. Azjol-Nerub was their kingdom, and the spider-men controlled all of its tunnels. Their culture is almost as old as the dwarven, and every bit is attuned to life underground. The biggest difference is that nerubians focus more on the cerebral and less on the physical — their society had more scholars and artists and fewer smiths and miners. That was all before the Lich King, of course.

He saw immediately that the nerubians posed a major threat. None of the other races on Northrend had their numbers, their organization, or their discipline. True, the nerubians rarely ventured aboveground, but he could not take that chance. He decided to swarm the underground kingdom and wipe it clean in an event known as the War of the Spider. It was long and hard, and the nerubians almost won — they may prefer thought and art but they are fearsome foes when roused. Unfortunately, the Scourge had an endless supply of warriors and every dead nerubian potentially added to its ranks. In the end, the Scourge's numbers prevailed, and the implacable undead swept through Azjol-Nerub and emptied its tunnels of defenders. The Lich King conquered, and the nerubian civilization all but died, leaving the kingdom in utter ruin.[63]

A group of Ironforge dwarves staked out an area right by the main entrance to the kingdom and built a camp known as Doorward. They are the remnants of Muradin Bronzebeard's party, the Bronzebeard Expedition, and Baelgun Flamebeard leads them. He keeps his men hidden from the Scourge, and in the meantime they keep watch on the doors behind the camp constantly as they know what lies deep beneath the earth here, having vowed to stop such evils, the faceless ones, from escaping to the surface.[65]

Two years ago, Arthas Menethil and the mighty Anub'arak traveled through this area on their way to the Frozen Throne.

Baelgun thought the blood-red door behind his camp was the only way out of the Old Kingdom. Not long ago, a second passage was discovered and the Scourge is preparing to enter the tunnel and explore the region below. Baelgun knows the faceless ones there will overpower even the undead and then be free to escape into Northrend proper, and so he and the other dwarves decided to stop them. Yet he cannot leave the first door unattended, so he asked the heroes to follow the new passage in his stead, making sure no one releases the horrors below.[61]

People and culture

There are not many people left in Azjol-Nerub. Not many living ones, anyway. The place is overrun with Scourge creatures and the undead stalk up and down the corridors and through the tunnels, carrying and hammering and digging. It is best to stay out of their way if possible. Some Scourge creatures walk right by you, oblivious, completely focused on their current task, but others drop everything in order to kill you and reanimate you as one of them. You can't tell beforehand which approach a creature will take, so you are better off ducking when you see them coming.[63]

The living nerubians have not completely abandoned their kingdom and there are several here and there. You might even be able to talk to a few of them, especially if you are near Baelgun's camp. Most of the nerubians died in the War of the Spider, though, and few remain. The survivors are scattered throughout the tunnels, hiding alone or in small groups, destroying Scourge creatures whenever possible but keeping hidden at all costs. Others form larger bands plotting rebellion, but there is only so much you can do when you are outnumbered hundreds to one.[63][66]

Baelgun Flamebeard leads a group of dwarves here. They have good hardy souls, but they are no match for the Scourge, and they might not be able to even stop the nerubians, particularly the larger rebel bands. Fortunately, the nerubians are cordial and as it is, they leave Baelgun's crew alone, and sometimes stop by to exchange information or trade found items for food.[66][65]

The only other residents of Azjol-Nerub are monsters — most mysterious creatures called faceless ones. Tales say they lived here long before the Scourge came, dwelling too deep for the nerubians to hunt them. Its these horrors Baelgun has vowed to stop.[65]


Azjol-Nerub is entirely underground. It is a fascinating place that stretches for miles and it would not be a surprise if it lies beneath most or all of Northrend. The rock here is predominately granite, mixed with some igneous stone where volcanoes once rose and where magma from deep beneath bubbled up long ago. The nerubians were thorough artisans and left nary a corner untouched — every edge is smooth and faceted, every corridor planed and polished. They preserved the odd angles created by nature but straightened and widened tunnels into corridors and vaulted ceilings.

Little lives down here, especially now. Various lichen and fungi grow in corners and along the walls — the nerubians evidently nurtured certain phosphorescent and luminescent varieties to provide light, and these have since grown unchecked. Bats perch on doorframes and columns, as do spiders of varying size. Underground lakes teem with blind, silvery-white fish, and insects and worms crawl through the soft dirt alongside. Monsters prowl the deeper caves, and the less said about these the better.

The underground region has no separate settlements as it once was a single unified kingdom. Now it is a shadow of its former self, controlled by the Scourge except where pockets of nerubian resistance lurk or where the dwarves hunker down or where even darker creatures roam unopposed.[65]



  1. ^ a b c Ask CDev Answers - Round 1
  2. ^ N [15-30D] Pupil No More
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  32. ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3, pg. 86
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  34. ^ a b H [15-30] An Enemy in Arthas
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  36. ^ a b N [15-30D] Don't Forget the Eggs!
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  38. ^ Jedoga Shadowseeker: Adventure Guide
  39. ^ N [80H] Proof of Demise: Anub'arak
  40. ^ A [10-30] Plug the Sinkholes
  41. ^ a b Heart of War
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  43. ^ Glory
  44. ^ N [15-30D] Death to the Traitor King
  45. ^ N [15-30D] The Faceless Ones
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  51. ^  [Six-Clawed Cornice]
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