What Are Keywords, and How Do They Work in Combat?

Everyone is unique, and the units in Legends of Runeterra are no different! Sure, some units are stronger than others, but each one has the potential to turn the tide of battle. Power alone cannot win the day, however, and keywords play an important part in any winning strategy.
 
Keywords appear on certain cards to indicate that a unique effect will occur when certain conditions are met. Some keywords, like Lifesteal, will recover health after a successful Strike, whereas Regeneration will recover health at the start of each new round. Each keyword is different, but their interactions with each other can be game changing!

 

Keyword Quick Facts

  • Some units have multiple keywords. For example, Braum, the Heart of the Freljord himself, has both image-3.pngChallenger and image-13.pngRegeneration at his disposal. Understanding how Keywords work together, both for your units and your opponents’, is vital to using your cards to their fullest potential.

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  • Some spells add or remove keywords from cards, so think about interesting combinations you can use in your strategy!
  • Be sure to use Oracle's Eye when setting up your attack or defense to help you plan better. This can sometimes reveal Keywords and combinations that you may not have taken into account.
  • If you’re ever confused on what a keyword does when you’re playing, just hover over it for the definition. Alternatively, memorize every word in this guide forever.

 

Whether it’s striking fear into the hearts of your enemies or bolstering the might of your allies, keyword knowledge and mastery is essential to becoming a Legend. So buckle up, and let’s dive into the Keywords of LoR.

 

Allegiance

When you summon a unit with Allegiance, it will receive an effect if the top card in your deck matches the region of the unit.

  • This means if you summon Basilisk Rider, and Darius is sitting pretty at the top of your deck, your Rider will receive +1/+1 and Overwhelm!

   

Barrier

The best offense can be a strong defense. Prevent the next damage that would be done to a unit.

  • Some spells drain health from units in order to heal the caster’s Nexus. If the target of drain has a Barrier, no damage is dealt, but the caster’s Nexus heals for the full amount of the Drain’s damage.
    • Example: If you have a unit with Barrier, and the enemy uses a spell to drain 3 health, your enemy’s Nexus will heal for 3 even though your unit takes no damage.
  • It’s not possible to stack barriers. Generally, only one source of damage can be prevented.
  • Since Barrier blocks damage, units with Lifesteal will not heal their controller’s Nexus when striking a unit with Barrier.
  • A defending unit with Barrier will not prevent Overwhelm damage to the defender’s Nexus.
    • Example: If you are blocking a 3/1 Overwhelm unit with a 1/1 Barrier unit, the Nexus will take 2 damage and the defender will survive.

Capture

Remove a target from the game until the capturing card leaves the board.

  • The captured card can trigger summoning effects when brought back to the board. This action will also remove debuffs and damage on the captured unit!
  • Captured units aren’t affected by effects that hit “everywhere.”

 

Can’t Block

You can’t declare these units as blockers.

  • Challenger units can issue a challenge to a unit that would otherwise be unable to block.

 

Challenger

Units can choose which enemy unit blocks them, forcing opponents’ units into combat. No one can back down from a challenge!

  • Challenger is capable of “breaking” other keywords, such as forcing units that “can’t block” into defending against a Challenger’s attack.
  • If a unit has both Elusive and Challenger, it can pull non-Elusive units in to block!

 

Double Attack

Get ready for some double trouble.

  • Units attack before blockers AND normally. Keep in mind! Double Attack is not active on defense (only the normal attack occurs).

 

Drain

Damage never tasted so good.

  • When your unit with Drain successfully Strikes an enemy (or the enemy Nexus), it will heal your Nexus for the damage dealt. Yum!

Elusive

Opposites don’t always attract. Elusive units can only be blocked by other Elusive units.

  • There are a few exceptions. An Elusive unit with Challenger can challenge a non-Elusive unit.
  • Some spells can swap the positions of units. If such a spell is cast, a non-Elusive unit could end up blocking an Elusive unit! So be careful, okay?
  • Giving a unit Elusive after it’s already been blocked won’t undo the block.

 

Enlightened

A unit is Enlightened when you’ve unlocked all 10 mana gems. While this happens naturally across the course of the game, some cards may give you more mana! Who knew the key to enlightenment was patience?

  • If you go back below 10 mana gems, units that became Enlightened will stay that way, but any new units you play will need you to reach 10 mana again.         

 

Ephemeral

These units die immediately after they strike or when the round ends, so make the most of their time!

 

Fearsome

A Fearsome unit can only be blocked by units with 3+ Power. Use these intimidating cards to strike fear into the hearts of your enemies.

  • Units with Challenger and Fearsome can choose to pull lower powered units.
  • Fearsome units with less than 3 power are still scared of other Fearsome units and cannot block them. Being scary doesn’t mean never getting scared!

 

Fleeting

Fleeting cards discard from your hand as soon as the Round ends. Sometimes it's better to run away.

Frostbite

Brrr! Sets a unit's Attack to 0 until the end of the round. Remember! Even a frostbitten unit can be buffed through spells and effects. Did it just get cold in here, or what?

 

Last Breath

This keyword is triggered when the unit with Last Breath dies. They won’t go down without a fight.

 

Lifesteal

The Nexus of a player controlling a unit with Lifesteal gains health equal to the unit’s power each time it Strikes.

  • Watch out for units with Barrier! Lifesteal damage inflicted to a Barrier will not heal your Nexus.

 

Nexus Strike

A Nexus Strike sounds simple. A unit with this keyword just needs to strike the enemy Nexus, after all. But this also means they can't be blocked. Strike true to get what's coming to ya!

 

Obliterate

It’s as intense as it sounds. This removes units from the game!

  • This keyword shows no mercy. Units with Last Breath don’t even get a chance to trigger their ability. They’re simply...gone!

 

Overwhelm

If the power of a unit with Overwhelm exceeds the defending unit’s health, the excess damage goes to the Nexus.

  • Defending units with Overwhelm don’t do any damage to the attacker’s Nexus.
  • If a unit with Overwhelm has its blocker removed, all the damage goes through to the Nexus. (Normally, even a removed blocker will absorb all the power of its attacker.)

 

Play

Whenever you see a card that says you need to Play it, it has to be dragged from your hand to the board to trigger any special effects.

  • Remember, there are some cards that can just summon cards from anywhere. However, if you summon a card with an effect that would have been triggered by Playing it, it won't activate since it didn't come from your hand.

Quick Attack

Think fast! When attacking, Quick Attack units always strike first.

  • Example: If a 1/1 Quick Attack unit is attacking, and it’s blocked by a 1/1 unit, the blocker dies as the 1 damage is delivered by the Quick Attack unit first.
  • When defending, Quick Attack units DO NOT strike first, and instead attack at the same time as the attacker (unless the attacker has Quick Attack).

 

Rally

Get on the offensive. If you don't have one, gain an attack token.

 

Recall

Return a unit to your hand and remove all effects applied to it (except for champion level ups). This includes any buffs, added keywords through spells, or any added effects or text.

 

Regeneration

Units with Regeneration heal to their max health at the start of each round! That’s very good for you, and very frustrating for your enemies. Perfect!

 

Stun

Stunned units are removed from combat, and they can’t attack or block this round.

  • Stunned units can still attack through the use of spells or abilities.
  • A Challenger unit can pull Stunned units in to block.
  • There are certain spells that can swap Stunned units in to block!

 

Strike

This one's easy! Striking happens when your unit attacks another with its own Power (that means magic doesn't count towards your Strike).

  • Remember! Units with 0 Power can't Strike!

 

Strongest

Big. Damage. The Strongest unit is the one with the highest power.

 

Support

If an ally is to the right of a unit with Support during an attack, the effect will be applied to the unit on the right (supported unit).

  • For example, Shen’s Support keyword gives a Barrier to the unit on his right during an attack.
  • When placing units, be sure to place the unit you want supported directly to the right of the unit with Support (in the above example, we’d place the unit we want with Barrier to Shen’s right). Order is important!

 

Tough

A Tough unit reduces damage from any source by 1.

  • This applies to each source of damage, so Tough is valuable against opponents who use lots of low-damage spells.
  • Tough can mess up some combos. Be careful when granting Tough to a unit that likes to take damage!
  • Tough is “under the Barrier." A Barrier will block damage and get removed before Tough comes into play to reduce the damage. So if a unit has Barrier and Tough, and you hit it with 1 damage, the Barrier will be destroyed.

 

Weakest

There's all different sorts of strength, but in the case of being the Weakest, we're only looking at that damage potential, and the fact that to be the Weakest, a unit has to have the lowest Power.

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