There are a few types of keys:
- An item that can be used to unlock a specific or general type of locked container. Blacksmiths can create skeleton keys and use them (skeleton keys require the same blacksmithing skill to use as to create). These are destroyed upon use.
- A usually soulbound item (often a quest reward) that can be used to unlock a specific or doors and such (gates, hatches, etc.). For example, will open the door to Scarlet Cathedral and Scarlet Armory within the Scarlet Monastery and the Scarlet Bastion within Stratholme. The will open the gate into the Searing Gorge from Loch Modan. These keys are not destroyed upon use.
- Quest item "keys": See below for explanation.
Quest item keys
One example of a quest item key would be the required for the cannon near the end of the Deadmines. It is picked up and consumed each dungeon run. It is not exactly a quest item, but it is the only way to open the cannon, it is consumed there, and it cannot be used anywhere else.
Another example would be the , commonly referred to as the "Onyxia Key" or "Ony Key". It was required to gain access to Onyxia's Lair. The method to obtain the amulet varies between the Alliance and the Horde. See for details on how to obtain it.
Patch v1.11 added a "bag" called a keyring. It is an expandable bag that can store various types of keys, reducing the number of backpack and vault slots filled with these re-usable items. Dungeon keys (like the ) and Blacksmithing keys (such as ) may also be stored in the keyring.
A rogue with enough skill in the ability can open most of the locked containers or doors that require keys, with the exception of a few high level dungeon doors.
This section concerns content exclusive to Cataclysm.
In Cataclysm most keys associated with instances would be removed from the game and the doors they opened will no longer need something (including lock picking) to allow access. In light of this, achievement was removed entirely.
The subject of this section has been removed from World of Warcraft.
was a General Achievement to collect many of the dungeon related keys in the game, spanning from World of Warcraft and all the way up to World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. The following were required for the Achievement (See The Achievement Page for Information on obtaining each key):