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Instance limitations are limits on various aspects of instances (dungeons and raids) for various reasons like keeping a level of challenge, reducing load on instance servers, and slowing attempts to get rare drops. Some limit on how fast you can run through instances (dungeons and raids), primarily for farming or to get a rare drop. As expansions have been released and the level cap has been increased, the ease of soloing instances has increased and so players will often attempt to speed run through instances repeatedly.
As of Patch 5.4.7, players are limited to entering 10 instances per hour. Meaning that if you start your first run at 1:00pm, and do 9 more runs within an hour, you will not be able to enter any more instances (aside from Battlegrounds) until it is 2:00pm. An AddOn like Saved Instances can illustrate this to you and help you time your runs.
- 1:00 : Instance 1 entered
- 1:05 : Instance 2 entered
- 1:10 : Instance 3 entered
- 1:15 : Instance 4 entered
- 1:20 : Instance 5 entered
- 1:25 : Instance 6 entered
- 1:30 : Instance 7 entered
- 1:35 : Instance 8 entered
- 1:40 : Instance 9 entered
- 1:45 : Instance 10 entered
- 1:50 : Instance 11 Unable to enter. You will simply walk through the portal without entering the instance. A message will display: "You have entered too many instances recently."
- 2:00 : Instance 11 entered
Instances are designed for a certain character level - mainly because of the level of the mobs inside. Higher level mobs will crit your tank more often, dodge more attacks and resist your casters' spells also any mob that is higher than 4 levels of you can do crushing blow. Lower level mobs, on the other hand, may not pose enough of a challenge and will give you little to no experience.
The Looking For Group tool shows the instances suggested for that level.
Each instance also has a minimum required level to actually be able to zone in, however this is considerably lower than the suggested level. Both these level requirements can be checked at the Instances by level article.
Some instances are limited to a party of 5. These are considered dungeon, party, or just plain instances. Some others have a player limit of 10, 20, 25 or 40 players. These are considered Raid instances. Most raid instances will not allow you to enter unless you are in a raid, the exception being Blackrock Spire, which has two areas, one of which is intended to be done as a 5-player party, the other as a 10-player raid.
Past player limitations
The number of instances you can enter is linked to your other characters on the same account as well. This means that if you have reached the entering limit on character A, character B will not be able to enter any instance.
Time limitations (Heroic)
You can only enter each heroic instance once per day. Heroic instances reset at a specific time each day (around 9AM server time). Players inside an instance during reset time receive a prompt telling them that they will be saved to the instance again, with the option to teleport out. Clicking "Accept" or remaining in the dungeon for more than sixty seconds from the time the prompt is displayed will save players to the instance again, as would extending the instance lock. It is possible to enter same instance more than one time if you get there via random instance, using the Group Finder.