Hearthstone Keywords & Mechanics Explained – Master Your Deck

There are a lot of new terms and mechanics to learn when you start Hearthstone.  To help you out, we have compiled a list of common Hearthstone keywords and mechanics, what they mean, and how they can help (or hinder) your gameplay and deck building.  

At the time of writing, there are over 40 different card mechanics.  We will keep this guide updated as new mechanics are released and announced.

The Hearthstone card mechanics below are in alphabetical order, and more will be added as new cards with new mechanics are announced.  If I have left any out –  let me know.

Standard Hearthstone Keywords

Battlecry

You will notice cards that have text such as:

Battlecry: deal (X) damage to an enemy minion.

Battlecry effects vary by the type of minion you play.  Basically, the effect listed is triggered when you put the card into play. 

This effect only occurs once, when you first play the card.  Cards that have a turn-based effect, causing something to occur at the start or end of your turn will note when the effect takes place.

It’s important to note here, that a Battlecry is not considered a spell.  This means you can target cards such as Faerie Dragon or Laughing Sister with a Battlecry card.

Charge

Generally, when you first play a minion, you are unable to attack with that minion until you have waited a turn.  If a minion has a charge mechanic, they are able to attack in the same turn that they are played.

Some cards, such as Warsong Commander, grant charge to other minions.

Choose One

Choose one mechanics are generally found in Druid decks.  These cards allow you to choose one of two mechanics upon summoning the card.  Options include damaging minions, heroes, drawing cards, buffing cards/themselves, or gaining mana crystals.

Combo

Combo mechanics are found in Rogue decks.  These cards generally have two effects – the first allows you to use the card as you normally would – the second allows you to use the card after playing another card, for a better effect, or bonus.

There are currently 8 combo cards in the game, which are all Rogue-specific cards.

Deathrattle

When a card is removed from play through death, a mechanic is triggered.  This is a lot like Battlecry but works in reverse. 

Cards removed from play through effects such as Vanish, which do not kill the card but return it to its owner’s hand do not cause Deathrattle to take effect.

There are currently 11 cards with the Deathrattle mechanic, not including Soul of the Forest which grants other cards Deathrattle.

Divine Shield

Divine Shield will “bubble” a card with a shield that will ignore damage made to that card, one time.  Once the damage is made, the shield will be removed and another minion (or the enemy Hero) can damage the card.

There are currently 7 cards with Divine Shield, 2 of which are Hero class specific.  1 for Paladin and 1 for Shaman. 

In addition, there are 3 cards that grant Divine Shield to other cards.

Enrage

The Enrage mechanic is triggered when a card takes damage.  Once a card takes damage, they receive a new power or bonus to its power. 

The specific mechanic triggered may vary based on the specific card, but current Enrage mechanics involve either an increased attack for the card in question or an increase to your weapon attack. 

The exception to this rule is Raging Worgen who receives Windfury and grants +1 weapon attack.  If the Raging Worgen gains Enrage by attacking a card and surviving, it will then be granted the Windfury effect in that turn, allowing it to attack a second time.

Once a minion with Enrage has been healed, the Enrage effect disappears.   If you are playing a Priest, you can use this to your advantage and heal the enemy minion that has the Enrage effect applied.

There are currently 3 cards with the Enrage mechanic.

Freeze

The Freeze mechanic falls under CC or Crowd Control.  When a target is frozen, they are immobilized for the following turn, preventing them from attacking. 

Note that frozen minions are still capable of defending themselves, so if you freeze an enemy minion, and then attack it – the attacking card will still be damaged. 

If a minion receives damage while frozen, this does not “break” the freeze effect as you would expect in WoW.

Freeze effects can be removed with Silence. There are over 20 cards with Freeze mechanic in Hearthstone.

Frozen

Cards such as Ice Lance grant an additional effect against characters who are already frozen by the Freeze mechanic above.  In this case, if the target is frozen, additional damage is dealt.

Immune

When a card is Immune, it cannot take damage from other cards.  There are currently 3 cards with immunity mechanics, 2 belonging to the Hunter, and 1 (a Secret) belonging to the Mage.

Overload

Unlike previously listed Mechanics, Overload works a little differently because this is a mechanic that limits your Hero. 

This Hearthstone mechanic limits the amount of mana you have available on your next turn.  You will often see Overload(X), where X is the amount of mana you are limited to use the following turn.

If you case enough Overload cards, you can enter a state of negative Mana for the next round.

Currently, all Overload effects belong to the Shaman.

Secrets

The Secret mechanic is very non-traditional.  When a card with the Secret mechanic is played,  the Hero playing the Secret receives a question mark on their Hero image. 

The opponent has no idea which Secret card was played, or the effects of that card until the mechanic is triggered.

Hearthstone Keywords, Mechanics and Abilities Explained

Secret cards have effects that are triggered when a specific event takes place.  

For example, when an opponent attempts to deal damage to the opposing Hero, when a card is played, or when a minion is attacked.

There are also cards that interact with secrets, to grant the minion more damage or health.

Currently, Secret cards are class specific (there are no Neutral secrets) and belong to the Mage, Paladin, or Hunter.

You can have multiple secrets active at one time, but never more than one of the same secret active at the same time.

It is important to note that having multiple active secrets may work in unexpected ways if the same event triggers them. 

For example, if you have Misdirection and Freezing Trap in that order, and an enemy minion attacks your hero, then Misdirection will trigger before freezing trap – possibly negating any damage.

Silence

The Silence ability removes all effects from the target card as long as it remains in play.  This means that if a Taunt card is silenced, it will no longer work as a Taunt.

You can also use Silence on your own minions to remove any harmful effects applied, or limiting mechanics. 

For example, if you have Ancient Watcher in play, and you silence it, this will allow the card to attack.   If your minion has been Hexed, you can silence the Hex.

Spell Damage

The Spell Damage mechanic is a damage modifier, providing your spells X extra damage depending on how many cards with Spell Damage mechanics you have in play.  The Spell Damage mechanic does stack.

In certain cases, such as Arcane Missiles or Avenging Wrath, Spell Damage +1 will provide an extra missile and not extra damage per missile.

Spell Damage only boosts damaging spells and does not affect healing spells.

Spell Damage will not affect Hero Powers, Battlecries, or card text damage from minions, such as Knife Juggler.

Spell Damage is calculated and applied to damage spells before Prophet Velen doubles it.

Spell Damage will work with Secrets that have damage capabilities.

Stealth

When you play a card with the Stealth mechanic, this makes it so the opponent cannot target a card that has Stealth. 

It is important to note that your opponent will still see the card you play.   Once a stealthed minion attacks,  it will lose its still ability and can be targeted.

Note that any spells and effects played which not require targeting will have their effects applied to stealthed minions. 

For example, if you play a card granting all your minions +1/+1 then this will be applied to your stealthed minion. 

If the enemy plays Flamestrike, this damages all enemy minions and as such will also damage your stealthed minion.

Cards that target random enemy minions, such as Deadly ShotArcane Missiles, or Knife Juggler have a chance of hitting your stealthed minion.

If a stealthed minion receives damage, it does not lose the stealth ability.  The stealth ability is only lost when the card deals damage. 

This means if you attempt to stealth a card such as Knife Juggler the effect will be lost once the mechanic deals the 1 random damage.

There are currently only two cards that can remove the stealth from minions.  These cards are Mass Dispel and Flare.

Summon

Summon is a mechanic that allows you to summon the additionally specified minions when the card is played.

Taunt

Minions with Taunt cause all enemy minions to attack and destroy the Taunt card before other minions can be targeted.

If you have multiple Taunts in play, any Taunt can be attacked by your opponent, but all Taunts must be destroyed before damage can be applied to other minions.

Cards such as Flamestrike will still damage all minions regardless of Taunt.

Taunts can be silenced and will lose their Taunt ability.

Transform

The transform mechanic is used by cards such as Polymorph or Hex.   This permanently transforms the target into something else.

Windfury

Windfury gives your opponent the ability to attack twice each round.

If you have a card that grants Windfury, you can give a minion Windfury after they have already attacked, and use it to attack again.

Granting Windfury to a minion with Charge on the same turn it is summoned, can hit the opponent for a high amount of surprise damage.

More Hearthstone Keywords & Mechanics

more Hearthstone keywords and mechanics explained

Adapt

You will have a choice of three possible upgrades from a list of ten.

Can’t Attack

Can’t attack is an ability that makes a minion unable to be selected as an attacker during the Attack phase.

Can’t Attack Heroes

Minions are unable to attack heroes.

Card Draw Effect

Cards with a card draw effect cause the player to draw one or more cards from their deck. These are sometimes called “cantrips”, after similar effects in other games.

Cast Spell

A card with the Cast Spell ability is able to cast a spell without requiring any mana to do so.

Casts When Drawn

When a spell card is drawn from your deck, it’s automatically cast for no mana. The next card in the deck then gets drawn.

Choose Twice

Choose Twice is an ability that gives a player the option to choose among multiple possible effects when playing a card from their hand.

Copy

Copy is a card effect that makes copies of other existing cards. When you copy a living minion, you also copy all its damage and enchantments.

Corrupt

If a player plays an expensive card on the previous turn, this card gains extra benefits.

Counter

Counter lets you cancel an opponent’s card before it takes effect.

Deal Damage

This deals damage to one of your opponent’s characters.

Destroy

Destroys a card without damaging it.

Discard

A discard effect forces the player to discard cards.

Discover

Discover is an ability that lets the player pick one of three random cards from a larger pool.

Echo

The Echo ability allows you to play a card multiple times in the same turn.

Elusive

The term “elusive” is commonly used to describe minions that are immune to spells or Hero Powers.

Enchant

Enchantments, also known as buffs or debuffs, are special effects that apply to minions and weapons.

Equip

Equip is an ability that creates and gives your hero a weapon.

Force Attack

The term force attack is used to describe an ability that forces a player character to attack his or her opponent.

Forgetful

Forgetful is a triggered ability that causes weapons or minions to attack the wrong enemy 50% of the time.

Frenzy

Frenzy causes a minion to perform an action immediately after surviving damage for the first time.

Gain Armor

The hero gains armor specific to the text of the card.

Generate

The Generate ability can create and place new cards into a player’s hand or randomly add them to their deck.

Highlander

The term “Highlander” is used to describe a deck that contains no duplicate cards.

Inspire

A triggered effect that activates whenever the controlling player uses their Hero Power.

Increment Attribute

These cards apply enchantments that increase or decrease the Attack, Health, Cost, or Durability value.

Invoke

When you include Galakrond in your deck, Invoke makes him stronger.

Joust

When you initiate a Joust, this card reveals one random card from each player’s deck.

If the mana cost of your revealed card is higher than that of your opponent’s, then you win the Joust and can play an extra spell immediately. After that, both cards are returned to their original owner’s decks once they’ve been used.

Lifesteal

Lifesteal is an ability that causes a card’s damage to restore Health for the controlling hero.

Magnetic

This is an ability that certain Mech minions possess, allowing them to merge with each other.

Mega-Windfury

A character with the Mega-Windfury card is able to attack four times per turn.

Mind Control Effect

Mind control effects are a type of effect which allows the user to take ownership of another player’s minion.

Modify Cost

Cards and Hero Powers may cost more or less Mana to play.

Multiply Attribute

Double the Attack or Health stats of minions with this effect.

No Durability Loss

The hero’s weapon will not degrade and lose durability during their turn.

Outcast

If played as the left-most or right-most card in hand, it earns a bonus.

Overkill

When a card with the keyword deals damage to an opposing character whose Health is lower than the amount of damage dealt, you may activate that card’s Overkill ability.

Passive

Cards with the “Passive” ability provide an effect (buff) without being initiated by the player.

Permanent

Permanent cards are similar to minions, but unlike minions—which have Attack and Health points, can be targeted by spells or abilities and destroyed through combat—permanents cannot be targeted. Permanents reside permanently on the battlefield until they’re removed from play in a different way (by their own effects).

Playerbound

Playerbound cards have effects that apply directly to players.

Poisonous

Any minion that is damaged by a Poisonous ability becomes poisoned and is destroyed.

Put into Battlefield

Places a card from the deck or hero’s hand straight into the battlefield.

Put into Hand

Put into hand ability forces cards from the deck to go directly into a player’s hand.

Quest

In Hearthstone, a quest is an action or objective that players can complete in order to receive rewards such as XP and Gold. For more info check out: Hearthstone Quests.

Reborn

When a minion is destroyed it can immediately be resummoned with Reborn. The minion then gets 1HP and is able to be put into battle again.

Recruit

This ability summons a random minion from your deck.

Refresh Mana

This effect restores the player’s mana by replenishing the Mana Crystals.

Remove from Deck

A remove from game effect takes cards directly out of a player’s deck.

Replace

Swap one card or Hero Power with another without destroying or removing the original card.

Restore Health

It restores a character’s health by the specified amount.

Return

Returns a minion, weapon, or spell back to the player’s hand.

Set Attribute

Set attributes can alter the Attack, Health, or Cost of something.

Shuffle into Deck

The cards are randomly put into your deck.

Sidequest

Sidequests are spells that provide players with rewards when certain conditions have been met.

Spellburst

A one-time effect for your minion or weapon the first time you cast a spell but not again.

Spend Mana

The spend mana ability forces you to use even more mana than required to play a specific card.

Start of Game

An effect that activates as soon as you begin playing the game.

Transform in Hand

Some cards can transform into another card if a certain condition is met.

Twinspell

Twinspell gives you another copy of the same card, but without the Twinspell.

Unlimited Attacks

Allows the possessing hero to attack multiple times each turn—with no upper limit. It’s like Windfury or Mega-Windfury, but with unlimited attacks per round.

Hearthstone Generation Abilities

Death Knight

Death Knight is a special class of uncollectible cards that are generated by The Lich King, Arfus, and Transfer Student on the Knights of the Frozen Throne battlefield.

Jade Golem

Jade Golems are neutral collectible minions summoned by cards in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion.

Lackey

Lackey cards are minions that cost 1 mana and have powerful Battlecries.

Piece of C’thun

After playing with the four Pieces of C’Thun in your game, you will then get a shuffled C’Thun the Shattered into your deck.

Spare Part

Spare Parts are generated by certain cards from the Goblins vs Gnomes expansion. There are 7 different types of Spare Parts, each with a different effect on the card it is attached to.

Boss & Tavern Brawl Hearthstone Abilities

Auto-Cast

The Hero Power can be automatically usable at the start of each turn if enough mana exists.

Auto-Attack

This card causes the minion to attack automatically at the end of its turn, targeting whichever minion is opposite it. The player cannot command or stop this action

Shrine

Minions with the Shrine ability have a passive special effect that activates after death, offering they will respawn once again 3 turns later.

Conclusion: Hearthstone Keywords & Mechanics

Mastering Hearthstone keywords and mechanics is essential for becoming a better player.

It also allows you to understand the inner workings of the game and gives you a deeper appreciation for it. Yes, this can help you become a better player, but it also helps with your overall enjoyment of the game.

If you can’t remember them all, this Hearthstone guide will serve as an excellent reference point whenever necessary, so make sure you bookmark this page and come back to it whenever you need the extra info.

Hearthstone is an incredibly complex game, and it can be hard to keep track of all the different mechanics.

This guide should help you understand the basics, but if you have any questions about anything else related to Hearthstone, make sure you check out other resources:


Did you enjoy our Hearthstone Keywords and Mechanics Guide? Don’t forget to bookmark it for easy access in the future.

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