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Phasing is a game design tool that changes outdoor areas of World of Warcraft, based on an individual player's accomplishments or quest progress.[1]


Not every player is at the same stage of every quest, and being an MMO, this presents a challenge. Blizzard created a workaround by hiding players from one another in different phases, usually limited to small geographic areas.

Phasing causes the appearance of some outdoor areas to drastically change from the player's perspective, based on quest progress. For example, if a player has completed B [15-30] Return To Angrathar (the Wrathgate quest line), they will see Alexstrasza before the Wrathgate, and the surrounding area on fire. However, players who have not completed the quest will not see those things even though they are in the same location. These are different phases, and players affected by this are sometimes referred to as phased. However, moving just outside the Wrathgate area allows phased players to see one another.

Players in different phases cannot see each other unless they are in the same party and party sync is enabled.


Usage before Wrath of the Lich King[]

WoW Icon update This section concerns content related to the original World of Warcraft.

Before Wrath of the Lich King, phasing was used in stealth and invisibility mechanics. Events such as the opening of Ahn'Qiraj and the taking over of the Isle of Quel'Danas were simply different realm databases adding game objects and NPCs for all players.

Phasing was invented as a bug fix for the climax of the Ogri'la introduction quest chain in Blade's Edge Mountains: N [20-30G] Into the Soulgrinder.[1] It was later used for the Blade's Edge Shattered Sun Offensive daily quests: N [70 Daily] Intercepting the Mana Cells† and N [25-30 Daily] Maintaining the Sunwell Portal.

In Wrath of the Lich King[]

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

In World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard has made full use of this system. The most well-known examples are Acherus: The Ebon Hold, which looks different to the character depending on his progress through the DK questline, and the Angrathar the Wrathgate line of quests, which end with A [74] The Battle For The Undercity for Alliance characters and H [74] The Battle For The Undercity for Horde characters.

To characters having completed the questline, Alexstrasza is located in front of the Wrathgate and Varimathras, who was killed along with Grand Apothecary Putress, will no longer be in Undercity. For players on certain steps of the quest, the Undercity will also be inhabited by demons. Another example is the existence of Alliance NPCs in front of the Undercity which are not visible to players in a different phase of the quest.

Phasing is also used in (not by far a complete list):

In Cataclysm[]

Cataclysm This section concerns content related to Cataclysm.

Prior to Cataclysm, phasing was unable to change the base terrain of the world. This means that the normal ground could not change in texture or positioning. An example would be the Court of Bones at the Wrathgate having burnt ground prior to being burned by the Red Dragonflight.

Cataclysm changed those limits. Terrain became able to phase, land could sink beneath the waves as well as rise above them. A raging fire was able to expand further along as time moves forward. Whole mountains crumbled and fall leading the way to new lands. With this technology, you could see, for example, a harbor built before your eyes, without the use of in-game patches.

Phasing plays a huge role in Cataclysm, and not just in the newly made zones, but a good amount of the revamped zones as well. A few of the known phase changes are that of the starting areas for the newly announced races of goblins and worgen, in much of the same way the Death Knight starting zone was handled, except with the new terrain phasing feature.

Comparison to similar tools[]

Sharding is distinct from phasing. Sharding is used solely to alleviate player overcrowding, unrelated to the story or quests. But similar to phasing, players in different shards cannot see each other.

Layering is the same as sharding, but affects an entire realm, covering all zones, unrelated to the story or quests. Layering was used to alleviate overcrowding at the launch of World of Warcraft Classic, but was later removed.[2]

Cross-realm zones are designed to prevent under-crowding. If a zone on a realm has very few players, the game automatically merges players across multiple realms into the same "instance" of the zone. It is also unrelated to the story or quests.


See also[]


  1. ^ a b Chris Remo 2009-09-24. Interview: Blizzard's Afrasiabi On WoW's Cataclysm-ic Expansion. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2010-11-18.​ “Absolutely. It's actually interesting. Initially, we created phasing as a bug fix. It was used to fix a bug with the Blade's Edge quest.”
  2. ^ Guys calm down!. Retrieved on 2019-11-02.