The dragons of Azeroth are powerful winged reptilian beings that have played pivotal roles in both the destruction and defense of Azeroth and its inhabitants. They are gifted with a wide variety of powers, most notably breath-weapons and the ability to shapeshift into the forms of other races. Each variety of dragon is a member of a group known as a dragonflight, consisting of dragons with the same powers, color, and goal. Within a given dragonflight are many shapes and sizes of dragons, including drakes and the more humanoid-looking drakonids.
There are five major dragonflights, along with several lesser varieties that came into existence through the influence of dark powers. The list of world-altering events and feats that various dragons have participated in is far too long and detailed for any one article, so this article will simply cover the basics of where each dragonflight came from and what makes them unique.
The story of the dragonflights begins in the earliest days of Azeroth after the defeat of the Black Empire by the titan keepers. In the eras that followed, some elementals known as elemental drakes walked the surface of the world, somehow gradually evolving from their pure elemental form into beings of flesh and blood.
Storm and Stone Elemental Drakes
These beings were known as the proto-dragons, and they possessed a multitude of different strengths and powers. Although sentient, they lacked the higher intelligence that later dragons would possess. Some were even used as mounts by certain titan-forged and their descendants.
For example, Veranus was the faithful steed of the titan watcher Thorin, and the vrykul have continued to use proto-dragons as flying mounts as a part of their culture for millennia.
Of all the proto-dragons, one grew in size and power to such an extent that he became a threat to all other living things in the area. His name was Galakrond. He was so large that the shockwaves from his wings could flatten forests and his size could block out the sun when he flew by. He was a cunning hunter, and devoured everything in sight. When his hunger could not be satisfied, he turned to eating his fellow proto-dragons, an act that warped his mind and body with a necrotic affliction. Many eyes and extra limbs grew across his body, and his body soon emanated a necromantic force so powerful that his victims were raised as mindless undead minions that terrorized the proto-dragon population.
Observing all of this was the titan keeper Tyr. Unlike his fellow keepers, he recognized that Galakrond would eventually destroy all life on Azeroth if left unchecked. He rallied five of the bravest and most intelligent proto-dragons, each with different powers. Their names were Alexstrasza, Malygos, Ysera, Nozdormu, and Neltharion. Together, they defeated Galakrond by targeting his vulnerable soft areas, and sending his corpse crashing down onto the land that would become known as Dragonblight.
The five future dragon aspects attacking Galakrond
Impressed by the bravery of these five proto-dragons, the titan keepers blessed them with powers from the Titan Pantheon themselves, transforming them into the mighty dragon aspects and charging them with protecting the world. They also created a grand structure known as Wyrmrest Temple to serve as the heart of the dragons’ culture and as a symbol of unity in their mission. To assist each new aspect, the keepers magically altered hundreds of proto-dragon eggs that would hatch into the first members of the new dragonflights.
The Red Dragonflight was led by Alexstrasza, the Life-Binder. She had been empowered by the titan keeper Freya with the power of life. She and her red dragons were given stewardship of the world and tasked with protecting all life, and are gentle to others by nature. However, they were at one point temperarily enslaved by the Dragonmaw clan of orcs and unwillingly committed acts of violence under their command. Red dragons have been granted understanding of the secrets of life and death, as well as power over both. They are capable of rejuvenating and draining life, as well as performing a form of necromancy as a regrettable last resort. The fiery breath of red dragons burns but also rejuvenates. Whenever a red dragon walks or breathes upon the soil, the earth is renewed.
The Blue Dragonflight was first led by Malygos, the Spell-Weaver. He was empowered by the titan keeper Loken with great arcane powers and a powerful understanding of magic. After Malygos went mad and declared war on mortal magic-users in the Nexus War, he was slain and Kalecgos eventually became the new blue aspect. Blue dragons are typically attracted to calm and order, focusing their efforts on researching, cataloging, and monitoring the use of magic in the world. They wield arcane magic with great ease on a scale few mortals can hope to reach.
As with all dragons, blue dragons can assume a mortal form. Countess Ashmore and Kazakus are two such examples according to tales from the Hearthstone Tavern
Additionally, many, if not all, undead dragons raised by The Lich King in the Scourge were blue dragons.
The Green Dragonflight was led by Ysera, the Dreamer. Empowered with the power of life by Freya, like her sister Alexstrasza, Ysera and her dragonflight would be charged with watching over the balance of nature from within the ethereal realm known as the Emerald Dream. Green dragons have often worked with mortal druids, such as Malfurion, in protecting nature. However, their close ties with the Emerald Dream also make them susceptible to corruption from the Emerald Nightmare, a corrupted version of the Dream injected by the powers of the Old Gods. This was the fate of Ysera herself during the Third Invasion of the Burning Legion when the satyr Xavius used the corrupted artifact known as the Tears of Elune to consume Ysera with the Nightmare. She was slain at the Temple of Elune in the region of the Broken Isles known as Val'sharah.
The Bronze Dragonflight was led by Nozdormu. He was empowered by Highkeeper Ra with the power of time. He and his bronze dragons were charged with protecting the timeways and safeguarding the future from those who would attempt to change history and destiny for their own ends. The Bronze Dragonflight operates out of the Caverns of Time in Tanaris, and are archenemies with the Infinite Dragonflight. They also have a strong association with sand, wielding it as their breath-weapon and using it with time in the form of hourglass-like devices.
The Black Dragonflight was led by Neltharion, the Earth-Warder. He was empowered by Keeper Archaedas with the power of the earth and given charge of the mountains and caverns of Azeroth. However, this connection with the earth left Neltharion extra susceptible to the influence of the Old Gods and he was driven mad. Turning on his fellow aspects, he was corrupted along with his entire dragonflight, taking the new name of Deathwing. The Black Dragonflight were enemies of the mortal races of Azeroth for ages, culminating with the return of Deathwing during the Cataclysm. In order to destroy him, the other dragon aspects sacrificed much of their powers to fuel the only artifact that could unmake Deathwing, the Dragon Soul. While the Black Dragonflight has been in chaos since, a few uncorrupted black dragons, such as Wrathion, have attempted to restore the flight to its original mission of safeguarding Azeroth.
In addition to the five major dragonflights, several varieties of dragons exist due to accidental or purposeful manipulation of their bodies. The nether dragons are the result of black dragon eggs that Deathwing had stored in Draenor—the homeworld of the orcs—during a time when he needed a secret place to re-grow the Black Dragonflight and replenish its numbers. However, when Draenor was inadvertently destroyed by the actions of the orc shaman Ner’zhul, the land shattered and was exposed to the chaotic fel energies of the Twisting Nether. While Deathwing escaped, the eggs he abandoned were warped by exposure to the Twisting Nether and became an entirely new species, the Netherwing Dragonflight. These dragons were semi-transparent, had a shark-like jaw, as well as crystalline growths while in nether drake form.
Black Dragon Experiments
Not all dragons are naturally born or are the results of accidental mutation. Over the years, members of the sinister Black Dragonflight performed magical experiments on dragon eggs in an attempt to create new weapons to help them conquer and destroy. One of the most notable of these experiments was the Twilight Dragonflight created by Deathwing’s consort, Sintharia, using the powers of captured nether dragons, such as Zzeraku the Warped and ancient dragon artifacts. While some twilight dragons are fertile and can reproduce, many must be created from mutating stolen eggs of other dragonflights. They are chaotic and evil by nature, and often work with the Twilight's Hammer cult and Old Gods to bring about the end of the world. Twilight dragons resemble black dragons, but they glow with a green, red, or amethyst light. They have the ability to feed off of magical energy, particularly enemy dragons. Twilight dragons also possess the ability to turn incorporeal at will, allowing attacks to pass through their bodies without harming them for a short time.
Additional experiments include the Chromatic Dragonflight created by Deathwing’s son Nefarian in Blackrock Mountain. These dragons are volatile, twisted, and deformed. Many were considered failed experiments. They are rather varied in their appearance due to their experimental nature, and were essentially tools of the Black Dragonflight in their war on the other dragonflights. In fact, the Twilight's Hammer once attempted to mutate the eggs of the Red Dragonflight into chromatic dragons, but were stopped by the red dragon Korialstrasz when he sacrificed himself to ensure the corrupted eggs would be destroyed.
In the future, the Bronze Aspect Nozdormu will succumb to the temptations of the Old Gods and become corrupted. Taking the name Murozond the Infinite, he and other fallen bronze dragons will form the Infinite Dragonflight and work to corrupt the flow of time and change history in service of the Old Gods to subvert their own mortality, as well as additional unknown reasons regarding what they believe is avoiding an even worse fate than a world ruled by the Old Gods. They possess the same powers as bronze dragons and have warred with them in the present and past. Eventually, Nozdormu took heroes into the future end times to defeat his evil future self. It is unknown whether this eventuality can ever be avoided.
The Cult of the Dammed, led by the lich Kel'Thuzad, once performed necromantic experiments on black dragon eggs to create the Plagued Dragonflight as a weapon to spread undeath across the world. Their efforts were largely subverted by the holy organization of the Argent Dawn.
Also known as the Thorignir, the exact origins of the Storm Dragonflight are unknown. What is known is that at one point they swore feilty to the titan keepers and now serve the titan keeper Odyn alongside his vrykul in the land of Stormheim and the Halls of Valor. The great storm dragon Nithogg, however, refused to serve and, instead, took up roost in the mountain Nastrondir, where he raised his brood and terrorized the nearby lands. Storm dragons have a strong connection to the powers of wind, thunder, and lightning.
These small creatures are not actual dragons, but are instead magical winged lizards. They are immune to magic, and have a strong connection with the Emerald Dream, often being called upon to cleanse foul magics from nature. They are intelligent and capable of speech, but often choose not to. If they do, it is in a form of broken grammar.
Also not considered true dragons, these wax constructs appear in stories told around the Hearthstone Tavern. According to the tales, they are created by kobolds and were used by King Togwaggle when he was a member of the League of E.V.I.L. during the attempt to resurrect Galakrond.
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Several images in this article were sourced from Wowpedia.