Over the course of the game we are often introduced to many new ways that cards react and interact, and it didn't take long for them to pile up! Some are printed consistently, while others may not have escaped the boundaries of the their expansion theme. Though many of these are consolidated into a Keyword, there are plenty of common interactions that are more verbosely described. While these are somewhat explained in-game when you hover over keywords, this guide contains explanations for how they work and are used. 


Keywords

On Hearthstone cards Keywords are bold words that represent a specific event, effect, or generated card type (non-collectible) that can be triggered by a player.

  • Can appear on cards or Hero Powers, alone or in tandem.
  • Used as a concise and consistent means of conveying game mechanics that trigger in a consistent way.
  • The mechanics themselves are all very different and many may only be used in a single set.

Adapt

Introduced with Journey to Un'Goro

Exclusive to Un'Goro, Adapt presents you with a choice of 3 random Adaptations from a pool of 10. These are various minion buffs that will be applied to the target upon selection.


Battlecry

A very common keyword; you will find this on countless cards throughout the game. This triggers when a card is played from hand and has an immediate effect described by text following it.


Casts When Drawn

Introduced with The Boomsday Project

Currently you will find this only on uncollectible cards that are created by other cards. When drawn from your deck, these are cast automatically at no cost.

Examples:


Charge

Very powerful keyword, as it allows a minion to attack all enemies immediately after it is played instead of waiting one turn.

  • A very strong and controversial keyword throughout Hearthstone's history.
  • Used primarily as 'burst' damage, especially Leeroy Jenkins which is primarily used as a win condition.
  • A new keyword was released with The Witchwood, Rush, which mimics Charge except you can't attack heroes the first turn.
  • Since Rush's inception, new Charge cards have not been printed and Rush is used frequently.
  • Dinotamer Brann is the latest card to involve charge, but only through summoning King Krush.

Choose One

This is exclusive to the Druid and part of the class's identity. Cards with Choose One give the player two options in the card text and one is chosen when played.

  • These cards often have below-average stats to compensate for the great flexibility of this keyword.
  • Several Choose One minions are Druids that offer a choice between a transformation of some kind.
  • After a minion transforms it is permanent. If returned to your hand, you will receive the transformed minion.
  • Some legendaries can grant additional value from Choose One options.

Choose Twice

Introduced with Kobolds & Catacombs

Currently a only featured on Branching Paths. This card lets players make two choices rather than just one.

  • This card has 3 options to choose from rather than the usual 2.
  • Players can choose between all 3 options both times, allowing for the same one to be picked twice.

Combo

This is exclusive to Rogue and part of the class's identity. Combo is very similar to Battlecry, with the additional requirement playing another card prior to trigger the effect.

  • If a Combo card is the first played on your turn, the effect will not trigger.
  • After the first card is played, Combo keywords will trigger for the rest of the turn.
  • Cards can have both Battlecry and Combo, however only Perdition's Blade currently has this.
  • Some cards may synergize with Combos and provide extra synergy and value.

Counter

Only Counterspell has the Counter keyword. When a spell is played by the opponent it negates it and nothing happens.


Death Knight

Introduced with Knights of the Frozen Throne

This refers to powerful & uncollectible type of card specifically designed for The Lich King and Arfus.


Deathrattle

When an entity with Deathrattle is destroyed their effect is triggered. Minions and Weapons can both possess Deathrattle effects.


Discover

Introduced with League of Explorers

Since it's inception Discover has been a staple in the game. The mechanic presents three random cards of a stated type and the player chooses one. 

  • Generally you will only be able to Discover your own class cards unless otherwise stated like on Hench-Clan Burglar or Stolen Steel.
  • Tri-class cards from Mean Streets of Gadgetzan can present options from all three of the classes.
  • The options will always be unique; no duplicates. 
  • If you play a hero card you will also become that class, modifying which cards you may Discover.
  • Class card weighting does not apply when Discovering a card from a deck or hand.
  • If a deck or hand you are Discovering from has fewer than three unique cards it may display 2-0 options depending on what is available.
  • The player must choose one of the cards and can only hide the options from view to see the board.
  • If you hand is full you will not receive a card and it will be burned.
  • If the card allows you to Discover secrets and your class does not have secrets they will instead be from the class of the Discover card.
  • After playing Sir Finley Mrrgglton or Sir Finley of the Sands the chosen hero power will overwrite your current one and be immediately usable.
  • If a Discover card states a condition in which you may keep all 3 the Discover sequence will be skipped and cards added to your hand.

Divine Shield

Minions with Divine Shield possess a protective barrier that will absorb all damage the next time they receive any. This keyword is part of Paladin's class identity.

  • If a minion already has a Divine Shield they can receive any more until the first is consumed.
  • Effects other than and unrelated to damage will still trigger on targets with Divine Shield allowing them to be frozen or destroyed for example.
  • If a minion is transformed it will also lose it's Divine Shield.
  • Divine Shields can also be removed by the Battlecry of Blood Knight from the Classic set, although it also affects your own.
  • The only non-Paladin or Neutral card that has Divine Shield is Al'Akir the Windlord.
  • If a card like Explosive Runes triggers on a minion with Divine Shield it will block only as much damage as the minion has health.

Echo

Introduced with The Witchwood

After playing a card with Echo it will add a ghostly copy of it to your hand, allowing you to play it as many times as you want in a turn, Mana permitting.

  • At the end of the turn the ghostly Echo copy of the card will disappear.
  • The Echo copy counts as a card in your hand.
  • Any direct changes to the original copy of an Echo card prior to it being played will not apply to the copies.
  • The card must be played by the player for an Echoed copy to be granted.

Freeze

Minions and heroes affected by this status effect can not attack and lasts until they miss one attack opportunity.

  • If you Freeze a friendly character before it attacks it will be un-frozen at the end of your turn because it missed an attack.
  • If you Freeze a friendly character while it has summoning sickness or after it attacks it will be frozen your entire next turn as well.
  • If a card requires damage dealt to Freeze a character is blocked by something like Divine Shield the character will not be frozen.

Immune

Any character that is Immune can not take damage, receive any sort of status effect or be targeted by it's opponent.

  • Immune characters can still be targeted by friendlies.
  • Effects that do not require targeting can still destroy a character with Immune or modify stats like Twisting Nether or Equality.
  • Taunt will be disabled temporarily for minions that become Immune.

Inspire

Introduced with The Grand Tournament

Effects linked to the Inspire keyword trigger when the controlling player uses their Hero Power.

  • This keyword was only used in a single expansion set.
  • Only minions have Inspire.
  • Inspire can trigger as many times as the Hero Power can be used in a turn.
  • Cards with Inspire generally had lower than average stats due to the snowball potential of this keyword.

Jade Golem

Introduced with Mean Streets of Gadgetzan

This keyword refers to a token generated by specific Jade Lotus cards.

  • Only Druid, Rogue, and Shaman classes received cards that summon Jade Golems
  • The first Jade Golem summoned will have 1 Attack and 1 Health.
  • Each subsequent Jade Golem summoned in a match it will have +1/+1 on a per-player basis up to a maximum of 30/30.
  • Cost also increases on the tokens, up to 10.
  • The cards will display the stats of the next Jade Golem to be summoned dynamically in-game.
  • The art of the 4th, 7th, and 20th Jade Golems will sequentially be enhanced from the previous version.
  • If a card that summons a golem is played but your board is full it will still increase the size of the next.

Lackey

Introduced with Rise of Shadows

This refers to a pool of uncollectible cards. Lackeys are 1/1 minions that cost 1 with various powerful Battlecry effects.


Lifesteal

Introduced with Knights of the Frozen Throne

When anything with Lifesteal damages a target your hero will also be healed for that amount.

  • This keyword may be present on minions, spells, weapons, and Hero Powers.
  • If anything with Lifesteal possesses an effect that deals damage that will also heal your hero.
  • If damage is absorbed by Divine Shield and no damage is done Lifesteal does not trigger.
  • If a hero deals damage with Lifesteal while also taking lethal damage the healing will prevent defeat providing their Health is brought back above 0.

Magnetic

Introduced with The Boomsday Project

This keyword solely involves Mechs. A Mech minion with Magnetic can be combined with an existing Mech on the board adding all stats and card text.

  • You must have room on the board to play another minion in order to use Magnetic, even though it ultimately join with another.
  • To trigger Magnetic you must play the minion to the left of the existing Mech on the board; an animation and audio cue will play.
  • If you wish to play a Magnetic minion without triggering the keyword you can play it to the right of an existing mech.
  • Buffs to Magnetic minions in your hand will be considered part of the effect and remain when resurrected by Kangor's Endless Army.
  • Silence will remove all Magnetic upgrades.

Mega-Windfury

Introduced with Goblins vs Gnome

This is an enhanced version of Windfury that allows 4 attacks per turn.


Overkill

Introduced with Rastakhan's Rumble

An effect tied to the Overkill keyword will trigger when the damage dealt exceeds the health of the target.

  • This keyword will only trigger on the controlling player's turn.
  • A minion or weapon with Overkill does not need to survive for the effect to trigger.
  • Spells may also possess the Overkill keyword.

Overload

This keyword is exclusive to the Shaman class identity. A card with Overload will usually have a lower than normal cost but lock the corresponding number of Mana crystals for the next turn.

  • Overload will not lock out usable mana on the current turn.
  • The keyword will trigger only when minions are played, however it will trigger when any time a spell is played or cast by any means.
  • You may Overload more Mana crystals than you have which may affect cards like The Coin and Innervate on the turn they are locked.
  • There are a couple of cards that can unlock an locked Mana crystals after playing Overload cards.

Passive

This keyword denotes an effect that is continuous throughout a match.


Poisonous

Introduced with Mean Streets of Gadgetzan

Damage dealt to a minion by a card with Poisonous will destroy it.

  • Divine Shield will prevent Poisonous from triggering.
  • Cards with triggered effects that also possess Poisonous will destroy all minions they damage.

Quest

Introduced with Journey to Un'Goro

This denotes a legendary spell as being a Quest which presents you with a Reward when a condition is met.

  • A special Quest icon is displayed when in play that occupies a space where a Secret will typically appear.
  • Only one Quest may be in play at a time.
  • Can not be played if there are already 5 Secrets in play.
  • Quests will always appear in your opening hand but can be swapped out during the mulligan phase.
  • As progress is completed it is updated and displayed through the Quest icon.
  • If your hand is full when the Quest is completed the Reward will be burned.
  • Cards like Counterspell can trigger when a Quest is played as they are still spells.
  • These cards can not be randomly generated through any effects.
  • Quests are disabled for Arena.

Reborn

Introduced with Saviors of Uldum

Minions with this keyword will be resurrected the first time they die with 1 health remaining.

  • All enchantments will be lost upon dying
  • Being resurrected or re-played by other means will refresh the Reborn keyword.

Recruit

Introduced with Kobolds & Catacombs

Cards with Recruit will summon a minion directly to the battlefield from your deck, often of a specified type or cost.

  • Minions will always be put into play on the right side of the board.
  • If your board is full or there are no applicable minions remaining in your deck nothing will happen.
  • Effects of cards that are triggered when played have no effect when put directly into the battlefield.

Rush

Introduced with The Witchwood

Very similar to Charge, Rush allows minions to attack only other minions immediately after entering the battlefield.

  • This keyword only affects minions that would otherwise have summoning sickness, preventing an attack the turn they are played.
  • Charge will override Rush and allow targeting of heroes.
  • If there are no enemy minions on the board Rush will have provide no value.

Secret

This refers to a type of spell that remains hidden to the opponent until it is triggered on their turn.

  • Only Hunter, Mage, Paladin, and Rogue have Secret cards.
  • A maximum of 5 Secrets can be in play at any time.
  • The maximum number of Secrets is reduced to 4 if a Quest is in play.
  • Only one of each Secret may be in play at a time.
  • Secrets will only trigger on the opponent's turn unless specifically stated like on Competitive Spirit.
  • Battlecries will always trigger before Secrets.
  • Secrets of a class all have the same mana cost to remain consistent and prevent easy identification by the opponent.
  • If the board state does not permit the effect of a Secret to be fulfilled it will not trigger.
  • Spell Damage does affect Secrets if active when they trigger.
  • Secrets will activate in the order they are played if they have the same trigger.

Silence

Removes all enchantments, keywords, and other card text from minions. This keyword plays a role in the class identity of Priest.

  • Does not affect minion types or other permanent statuses.
  • Minions with modified Attack and Health values will be reverted to their original values, and only remain damaged if that value is below the original max Health. 
  • Does not affect auras provided by other cards that are not Silenced.
  • Silence can not be removed and lasts until the minion is destroyed, however it can be buffed again after being Silenced.
  • While Silence can typically target all minions, some cards are designed to target only a specific subset or only friendlies with this keyword.

Spare Part

Introduced with Goblins vs Gnomes

Refers to uncollectible 1-cost spells with various enchantments generated by specific cards exclusive to Goblins vs Gnomes.


Start of Game

Introduced with The Witchwood

Cards in your deck with this keyword will trigger as soon as the game begins.


Stealth

Minions with Stealth at not targetable by the opponent until the effect wears off.

  • The controlling player can still target their own Stealth minions.
  • Damage received will not break Stealth.
  • Stealth lasts until the minion attacks or is indirectly Silenced unless the card text states how long Stealth will last.

Spell Damage

When a spell that does damage is played from you hand Spell Damage will increase the amount it does.

  • The amount of damage is dynamically updated in the text and also has an aura of sparkles when Spell Damage is in effect.
  • A card that grans Spell Damage will state the value of damage as +1 or more.
  • Spell Damage values that are in play stack with each other, and some minions may even repeatedly stack it on their own.
  • Typically Spell Damage is granted by minions you control.
  • There are cards that synergize with Spell Damage in other ways such as requirement for another effect to trigger.
  • Spell Damage is calculated before damage is multiplied by other cards such as Prophet Velen.
  • If a spell deals damage with individual 'ticks' like Arcane Missiles Spell Damage is applied to each instance of damage.

Taunt

A minion with the Taunt keyword will require enemy minions and heroes to destroy it before they may attack any other minions without Taunt.


Twinspell

Introduced with Rise of Shadows

As the keyword suggest this is found only on spell cards. After a spell with Twinspell is played a second copy without the keyword is added to your hand, if there is room.

  • If a Twinspell card is cast by a source other than the player like Archmage Vargoth they will receive the copy.
  • The copy will take the same spot in your hand if cast by you, otherwise it will be added to the right side.

Windfury

Cards with this keyword allow a maximum of 2 attacks per turn.

  • Windfury is part of the Shaman class's identity however it may also be found on some neutral cards as well.
  • If a minion gains Windfury after having already attacked once that turn they will still be able to utilize the second attack.
  • The only non-minion card with Windfury is Doomhammer.

Non-Keyword Mechanics

Card text can also contain recurring effects or mechanics with varying conditions. These are often results of various Keyword triggers.


Add Cards

Many cards in Hearthstone generate additional cards and add them to the hands and decks of either yourself, your opponent, or both.

  • Cards may be collectible cards, special uncollectible cards, or copies of existing cards.
  • Generated cards may be random or specific, and the quantity may vary as well.
  • Cards that generate others will state in the text the type or name of the card.
  • Some keywords are designed around adding cards to your hand including Discover, Echo, and Twinspell.
  • If your hand is full cards that would have been added to are burned.

Can't Attack

A minion with this in the card text prevents them from attacking even if they have an Attack value.


Can't Be Targeted

This phrase is used for a mechanic unofficially coined 'Elusive' which prevents a character from being targeted by spells and Hero Powers specifically.

  • When this is in effect there is a special translucent animation visible on the target.
  • Typically this forces direct attacks with minions or weapons.
  • Characters with this can still be affected by damage and other effects that do not require a target to be chosen.
  • Although most uses apply to the card with the text, some grant this Elusive protection to other characters

Discard Cards

While the discard mechanic is a signature of the Warlock class for the most part, there are a handful of other cards that use this as a downside.


Dormant

When a minion becomes dormant it permanently occupies a spot on player's board. Often they have a conditional requirement to awaken them that tracks progress.

  • Often seen as part of PvE content.
  • When a dormant minion or other permanent is on the board they can not attack, be removed, or be affected by anything except any conditional text it may have.
  • The only permanent obtainable from a collectible card is Nether Portal, the Reward for Lakkari Sacrifice.
  • Other minions that do possess the ability to be dormant can be Silenced or Transformed when they are active as a minion.

Draw

Although the concept of drawing cards is fairly straightforward the mechanic of card draw is utilized in many ways.


Reveal Cards

This refers to when a card is displayed to your opponent to show them what it is.

  • This mechanic gives some information about cards in your deck to your opponent.
  • When secrets are triggered they are revealed; Eaglehorn Bow uses reveal in this context.
  • In The Grand Tournament a mechanic referred to as 'Joust' involved each player revealing a random card from their deck. Reused for Raven Familiar.
  • Some cards reveal a card from your own deck and base it's effect on that card's stats.

Repeatable

This was only used by two cards thus far, and is the same effect as Echo without actually using the keyword.


Transform Cards

Transformations are irreversible and change a minion into a completely different one.