ATC and Altitude Instructions

When I come into approach for landing you are given height instructions etc. to get you down safely to an airport and sometimes it will end up sending you near mountains and terrain that from your perspective can seem a little questionable. I am wondering though in what version are height instructions given? Are they based on airport elevation, are the MSL, or AGL? I was on training with someone who was practicing to become IFATC but Mt. Rainier was in the way and came within 900 ft of it was it because I did the height wrong or is it something else.

Altitude instructions will be in MSL. People who are training might not always know the correct procedures for a given airspace, especially since we don’t have a terrain map anymore.

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so in airports like Denver if they wanted you to be 5000 agl they would say 10000ft right?

yes that would be correct if you assume Denver aerodome level is 5,000 feet

ok thank you.

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