World of Warcraft Instance Guides

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Instances are World of Warcraft’s dungeon system. Dungeons are not in the open world where people would have to fight over the bosses. They’re instead in self contained “instances” where the instance gives each group or raid their own copy to play in. This prevents outside intrusion and allows the game developer to hone the battles and the rewards for a set number of people. There are two types of instances. 5-man instances and raids which can come in 10 or 25 man versions (archaic instances sometimes allow different numbers inside).

Are you looking for a guide to instances? Sometimes we all need a helping hand in figuring out where to go or what to do in various instance encounters. Click here to see a list of instance guides available here at Ten Ton Hammer.

Types of Instances

There are two types of instances in WoW. Group instances (collectively called 5-man instances) and raids. A 5-man instance is called a 5-man instance for a simple reason: they only allow 5 people inside. Those 5 people are given their own dungeon to fight in and no one else is allowed in. The groups generally consist of a tank (someone to take damage), a healer (someone to heal the damage taken), and three damage dealers (to deal damage to the enemies) in order to defeat the enemies and bosses inside. The enemies inside are considered “elites” who give more XP than normal and the bosses are guaranteed to drop superior quality items or better. So there is good XP and loot inside of instances. Not to mention a plethora of quests that are often associated with each dungeon that often give superior quality loot and large sums of money. You can run 4 regular instances an hour and reset them by having the group leader right click their profile and choose “reset all instances”.

Raids allow far more players into an instance with far greater loot, but also require much more skill and gear to complete.

Raids follow the same logic, but cater to larger groups (usually 10 or 25 players instead of 5). They feature better loot (epic items almost always drop from bosses), tier gear (often the best set of gear for a class), and a higher level of difficulty. They’re usually run by guilds seeking to get some of the best loot in the game and also require a hefty bit of gear before you can even attempt them. They also have “lockout timers” that save you to that instance for a certain period of time. This means that anything you do in there will stay saved until the lockout timer resets, unless the raid leader extends the timer and you agree to resave to that saved instance. Raids cannot be manually reset and you can only save to one type of instance per lockout period.

Heroic Instances

Heroic versions of normal instances and raids also exist which give superior loot over the normal versions. There are different ways to toggle heroic mode depending on the instance itself. Most heroic instances require you to set the group to “5-man heroic” while raids are a bit different. Raids like Ulduar require you to engage a boss a certain way to “unlock” their heroic mode. ToC requires you to change the group to a “10/25 man heroic raid”. Icecrown allows you to toggle each encounter between heroic or not.

Heroic 5-mans have a 24 hour reset timer that resets at your server reset time each day. So you can only do one of each regular heroic per day, unless you use the LFG random system introduced in 3.3.

Heroic versions of regular instances are level 80 only and generally require a good bit of gear from normal dungeons before you can successfully run them. Heroic raid encounters often require a substantial amount of gear from the regular raid before you’re successful in attempting it.


Entry into an instance can be a daunting task so it’s important to prepare properly. First ask yourself if you have enough gear to run the instance. Any pre-max level instance can be run in almost any kind of gear so you don’t have to worry about that. Max level instances do require you to have a certain amount of gear and it changes from instance to instance. For example, a raid will often want you to be epic’d out in gear from the previous raid. Naxxramas requires epic’d out gear from heroic, Ulduar requires epic’d out gear from Naxxramas, and so on and so on.

You’ll need potions, food and drink, and reagents too. You don’t want to run out of arrows or raid wide buff reagents in the middle of an instance. That’d be inconvenient and time consuming to stop the instance while you run out and resupply.

Be sure to read a guide too. We’re full of guides around here so this is an excellent resource on finding out what to do inside of an instance. There is usually a lot of ‘em and tricky boss encounters so it can be worth the time to read a quick guide before you hop in.

What to Expect

Instances can run anywhere from half an hour to 10-12 hours+. No, no, you don’t do the 10-12 hour ones in one sitting. If you remember, you’re often saved to a raid, so you can do ‘em in 4-5 hour chunks to make them more manageable. Regular instances often last an hour to half an hour. Raids can be fast (as quick as an hour) or long (the whole 12 hours+). It all depends on the raid, skill, and gear of those playing.

You’ll often be expected to perform a singular role in the instance which is either healing, tanking (or offtanking), or damage dealing and may have to do additional things depending on the encounter. That’s why it’s a good idea to read up on a guide first so you can be sure you’ll know what to do beforehand. During the instance you’ll have to fight trash on your way to bosses (these are easy elites). Each boss in the game works a different way with different abilities. When you defeat a boss you’ll get some shiny loot (superior quality armor/weapons or better) and the ability to continue on. Some bosses, who are optional, won’t block your way but will give you additional loot if you feel like taking them on.


We’ve got ten tons of guides here at Ten Ton Hammer. Below you’ll find a list of all of our guides in one easy place. Why not bookmark this page so you can easily find it in the future?

Original WoW The Burning Crusade


Cataclysm Cataclysm Mists of Pandaria


Level Name Description Location
13-18 Ragefire Chasm Located within Orgrimmar, it's one of the easiest instances for lowbies to do and one of the first. Orgrimmar
17-24 Deadmines The first lowbie Alliance instance, inside of Westfall, and rather lengthy. Westfall
17-24 Wailing Caverns Located in the Barrens, the Wailing Caverns have a large number of quests but it is also a very lengthy instance. The Barrens
22-30 Shadowfang Keep A short instance inside of Silverpine Forest that is primarely for the Horde. Silverpine Forest
24-32 Blackfathom Depths A watery themed instance that most avoid these days. Ashenvale
24-32 Stockades A Alliance instance located in Stormwind, the Stockades is a good wool farming location. Stormwind
29-38 Gnomeregan Gnomer is full of gnomes and is a very long instance with a ton of a quests (for the Alliance at least). Dun Morogh
29-38 Razorfen Kraul RFK for short, Kraul is short and sweet. The Barrens
34-43 Scarlet Monastery SM is good for a lot of excellent gear and some very good level 40 quest rewards. Trisfal Glades
37-46 Razorfen Downs RFD is short and easy, and has a very good plate helm off the lich. The Barrens
41-51 Uldaman Uldaman is rarely ran these days, but it's an interesting instance. Badlands
44-54 Zul'Farrak ZF is a "must run", fun, quick, and with a lot of quests there is little reason not to pay a visit to this troll city. Tanaris
46-55 Marudon Marudon is long and scary, often avoided, but does have a good bit of interesting gear in it (with lots of nature resist). Desolace
50-60 The Sunken Temple The Sunken Temple is in SoS and your average instance. Swamp of Sorrows
55-60 Blackrock Spire BRS is broken up into two parts lower and upper. Upper has better loot than lower, but both sides are great for loot and quests. Blackrock Mountain
55-60 Dire Maul DM has some of the best pre Outlands loot out there, an awesome storyline, and some fun encounters. Feralas
60 (Raid) Zul'Gurub ZG is a raid instance in STV that provided a lot of pre-MC purps in the day. Stranglethorn Vale
58-60 Scholomance Scholomance is in WPL and is rather short with a lot of loot in it. Western Plaguelands
58-60 Stratholme OLD Stratholme is pretty good for loot, but has two sides. Undead and Alive, both which are usually ran apart from one another. Eastern Plaguelands
60 (Raid) Molten Core MC is an old 40 person raid. Blackrock Mountains
60 (Raid) Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj AQ20 is an old raid in Silithus. Silithus
60 (Raid) Temple of Ahn'Qiraj AQ40 is an old raider in Silithus. Silithus
60-62 Hellfire Ramparts Hellfire Ramparts is the first instance you can run in Outland and is short, easy, and full of loot. Groups still regularly run it. Hellfire Peninsula
61-63 The Blood Furnace The second instance you can run in Outland. A decent instance with some fun bosses. Hellfire Peninsula
62-64 The Slave Pens The first instance in Zangarmarsh, rather lengthy, but does have some good loot (with lots of sockets). Zangarmarsh
63-65 Underbog About the same as The Slave Pens, more fish people! Zangarmarsh
64-66 The Mana Tombs A very difficult instance, but well worth it for the quests. Terokkar Forest
65-67 Auchenai Crypts Not as hard as The Mana Tombs, but with a lot of good quests going to it. Terokkar Forest
66-68 Old Hillsbrad Rescue Thrall! This is located in the Caverns of Time. Tanaris
67-69 Sethekk Halls A very hard instance that's for higher level players. Usually skipped at this level. Terokkar Forest
68-70 Black Morass Another Caverns of Time instance, you have to run Old Hillsbrad first. Tanaris
69-70 The Mechanar A very easy to run instance in Netherstorm. Netherstorm
70 Magisters' Terrace A HARD instance that isn't used for leveling. The heroic version has some interesting rewards. Isle of Quel'Danas
70 Shadow Labyrinth Usually only ran as a heroic now for some pre-WotLK leveling gear. Terokkar Forest
70 Shattered Halls See above. Terokkar Forest
70 Steamvault See above Zangarmarsh
70 The Arcatraz See above. Netherstorm
70 The Botanica See above Netherstorm
70 (Raid) Karazhan Medivh's tower in Deadwind Pass. A level 70 raid for 10 players. Good entry level epics were obtained here, but now it's mostly about the Mongoose enchant and achievements. Deadwind Pass
70 (Raid) Magthridon's Lair An old defunct raid. Hellfire Peninsula
70 (Raid) Serpantshrine Cavern An old defunct raid. Zangarmarsh
70 (Raid) Zul'aman An old defunct raid. The bear mount is no longer obtaintable. Ghostlands
80 Halls of Lightning HoL is where you fight off Loken, a really powerful dude left by the Titans. Storm Peaks
80 Halls of Stone Help Brann discover the history of the dwarves. Storm Peaks
70+ Nexus Really good for heroic badge runs. Borean Tundra / Coldarra
80 Trial of the Champion Partcipate in the Trial of the Champion! Stacked ilvl 200 epics drop in the normal and heroic version. Icecrown
80 Utgarde Keep A rather short instance in WotLK. The heroic is good for badge runs. Howling Fjord
70+ Utgarde Pinnacle One of the first instances you can run in WotLK. Pretty easy going. Howling Fjord
80 (Raid) Eye of Eternity Malygos drops ilvl 213+ loot in this fun raid instance. Borean Tundra / Coldarra
80 (Raid) Naxxramas Naxxramas returns! Entry level raid instance that drops ilvl 213+ items. Dragonblight
80 (Raid) Onyxia's Lair ilvl 245 weapons? Onyxia returns better than ever with some excellent loot. Dustwallow Marsh
80 (Raid) Trial of the Crusader A very hard raid that drops ilvl 245+ items. Icecrown
80 (Raid) Ulduar A hard raid that drops ilvl 232+ items. Storm Peaks
80 Throne of Tides An underwater adventure Vashj'ir
80 Blackrock Caverns A return to Blackrock mountain Burning Steppes / Searing Gorge
82 The Stonecore Explore the plane of elemental earth Deepholm
82 Vortex Pinnacle A journey to a castle in the sky Uldum
85 Grim Batol An ancient Dwarven stronghold Twilight Highlands
85 Lost City of the Tol'vir An outdoor instance in a jungle temple Uldum
85 Halls of Origination A huge instance with many bosses Uldum
85 (Raid) Dragon Soul - Part 1 The final raid in the Cataclysm expansion Dragonblight
85 (Raid) Dragon Soul - Part 2 The second part final raid in the Cataclysm expansion Dragonblight

Temple of the Jade Serpent

Help the Jade Serpent get back into her temple by defeating the Sha of Doubt Jade Forest
85 Stormstout Brewery This should be a great place to get a drink, but first you need to clear out the enemies Valley of the Four Winds
87 Mogu'shan Palace A stronghold of the Mogu Kun-Lai Summit
87 Shado-pan Monastery Home of the ancient Shado-pan order Kun-Lai Summit
90 Gates of the Setting Sun Face a huge Mantid living battering ram Dread Wastes
90 Heroic Scholomance A great update to a classic instance Western Plagulands

Mogu'Shan Vaults LFR

The Mogu'Shan Vaults LFR version Kun-Lai Summit
90 Heart of Fear LFR The first part of the Heart of Fear when done with LFR Dread Wastes
90 Nightmare of Shk'zeer LFR The second part of the Heart of Fear when done with LFR Dread Wastes

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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

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