Legends of Runeterra: Every Key Word Mechanic And What They Do

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Among the many genetic traits that Legends of Runeterra shares with other digital card game is the heavy usage of Key Words.

The game's mechanics are far more complex and diverse than they may seem.


Decks, strategies and engagements are all based around these keywords in Legends of Runeterra.

Here's what they are and what they do.

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What Are Key Words?

Essentially, Key Words are one-word names for a card’s ability – they play a major role in determining your deck strategy or how to defeat your opponents.

There are a lot of similar-looking ones too – Quick Attack is very nearly analogous to Magic’s First Strike, while Overwhelm works pretty much identically to Trample.

But where they differ is extremely important for finding wins in Legends of Runeterra, and others have less immediately obvious parallels.


To make sure you don’t confuse your Ephemerals for your Fleetings, have this guide in alphabetical order!


Runeterra Key Words

  • Allegiance – When summoned, you get a bonus effect if the next card in the deck is from the same faction.
  • Burst – This spell resolves instantly, and the opponent can’t cast anything in response.
  • Can’t Block – Exactly what it says on the tin!
  • Capture – When this card comes into play, you can take an enemy unit out of play. When this card leaves play, the captured enemy comes back into play.
  • Challenger – You can choose to have an enemy unit block this card.
  • Double Attack – When attacking, this card deals damage twice: a Quick attack and a normal one.
  • Drain – Deal damage, then heal the nexus for the amount of damage done.
  • Elusive – This card can only be blocked by another Elusive card.
  • Enlightened – This card gets bonus effects when cast while you have all 10 mana crystals unlocked.
  • Ephemeral – This card dies when it strikes or when the round ends.
  • Fast – This card can be played at any time, but can be pre-empted by another Fast or Burst card.
  • Fearsome – When attacking, this card can only be blocked by a unit with 3 or more Attack.
  • Fleeting – This card is discarded from hand at the end of the turn.


  • Frostbite – Turns a unit’s Power to 0 until end of round; it can be further changed afterward.
  • Last Breath – When this unit dies, an ability is triggered.
  • Lifesteal – When this unit deals damage, it heals the nexus by that amount.
  • Nexus Strike – If this card strikes the enemy Nexus, gain an effect.
  • Obliterate – Remove from the game entirely, does not get discarded, and does not trigger Last Breath.
  • Overwhelm – When blocked, this card deals any excess damage to the nexus. It also still does damage if the blocker is removed in combat.
  • Quick Attack – When attacking, this card does damage first.
  • Regeneration – At the end of the turn, this card heals back to full health.
  • Slow – This card can only be played outside of combat and other castings. The opposing player can play Fast or Burst spells in response.
  • Strike – The unit deals damage based on their Power, unless it has 0 Power.
  • Strongest – The card with the highest Power, then highest Health if tied, then highest Cost.
  • Stun – A card cannot attack or block for the turn. Remove it from combat.
  • Support – When attacking, the card to the right of this card gains an effect.
  • Tough – Take one less damage from any effect.
  • Trap – Another card in the targeted player’s deck gains an effect that triggers when drawn.
  • Weakest – The card with the lowest Power; if tied, then the lowest Health, then lowest Cost.


Note that, unlike in Magic, a lot of these keywords only apply if the card in question is attacking.

There aren’t yet keywords that only apply when blocking, and disappear when attacking (even Tough persists through both sides).


Many are also rare effects. Obliterate, for instance, only shows up with She Who Wanders, and is a major reason why she’s such a powerful finisher.

Some of the most important abilities also don’t have a dedicated keyword.

“Draw a card,” for instance, is an extremely basic card game interaction – yet in a game like Legends of Runeterra, faster card access and having as many options available to you at any time is just as or more impacting than any ability listed above.

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Written ByJames Chen@Obscurica