Complexity Analysis

A misbehaving client might send a very complex GraphQL query that would require considerable resources to handle. In order to protect against this scenario, the complexity of a query can be estimated before it is resolved and limited to a specified maximum.

For example, to enable complexity analysis and limit the complexity to a value of 50 – if we were using directly – we would do this:, MyApp.Schema, analyze_complexity: true, max_complexity: 50)

That would translate to the following configuration when using absinthe_plug (>= v1.2.3):

plug Absinthe.Plug,
  schema: MyApp.Schema,
  analyze_complexity: true,
  max_complexity: 50

The maximum value, 50, is compared to complexity values calculated for each request.

Complexity Analysis

Here’s how the complexity value is calculated:

By default each field in a query will increase the complexity by 1. However it can be useful to customize how the complexity value for a field. This is done in your schema using the complexity/1 macro, which can accept a function or an explicit integer value.

As an example, when a field is a list, the complexity is often correlated to the size of the list. To prevent large selections, a field can use a limit argument with a suitable default (think, for instance, of page sizes during pagination), and complexity can be calculated keeping that in mind. Here is a schema that supports analyzing (and limiting) complexity using that approach:

defmodule MyApp.Schema do

  use Absinthe.Schema

  query do
    field :people, list_of(:person) do
      arg :limit, :integer, default_value: 10
      complexity fn %{limit: limit}, child_complexity ->
        # set complexity based on maximum number of items in the list and
        # complexity of a child.
        limit * child_complexity

  object :person do
    field :name, :string
    field :age, :integer
    # constant complexity for this object
    complexity 3


For a field, the first argument to the function you supply to complexity/1 is the user arguments – just as a field’s resolver can use use arguments to resolve its value, the complexity function that you provide can use the same arguments to calculate the field’s complexity.

The second argument passed to your complexity function is the child (that is, the result of the field); in the example above, child_complexity would be 3, as the field returns a list of :person objects, and the complexity of :person is explicitly set to 3.

(If a complexity function accepts three arguments, the third will be an %Absinthe.Resolution{} struct, just as with resolvers.)

If the value of a document’s :limit argument was 10, the complexity of a singe :people field would be calculated as 30; 10, the value of :limit, times 3, the complexity of the :person type.

So this would be okay:

  people(limit: 10) {

But this, at a complexity of 60, wouldn’t:

  people(limit: 20) {

Complexity limiting

If a document’s calculated complexity exceeds the configured limit, resolution will be skipped and an error will be returned in the result detailing the calculated and maximum complexities.