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.


  • 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.
  • Some keywords allow you to transfer the effects of other keywords (because we hear you like keywords). Check out Which Keywords Transfer to learn more.


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.



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!



Play an Attach unit on an ally to give it the Attaching units stats and keywords. When the ally leaves play, the Attach unit is recalled.

  • Attaching a unit to one that already has an Attachment will return the previous Attach unit to the player's hand, and remove the associated stats/keywords that were being granted by that unit.
  • Attach units can either be played attached to an ally or placed on the board by like a normal unit.



Get in touch with your magical side! When a card is Attuned, they refill one spell mana when summoned!



Feeling creative? Put your mechanical mastermind to work. Any unit or champion with Augment gains +1/+0 whenever they see you play a created card.



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.



Earn a bonus if you have a card that meets the conditions specified in play or in hand.



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.



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!



3, 2, 1... Go! Countdowns begin at the start of the round, and will count down the listed number of rounds until an effect is triggered! Of course, there's probably some cards that can speed up the process...


Day & Daybreak

If a card with Daybreak is your first card played in the round, you activate its Daybreak bonus.

  • Just because it’s Day on your board, doesn’t mean it’s the same for your opponent, and vice versa.
  • When Daybreak is active, you’ll see a little sun atop any impacted cards (which means it’s Day)!



Let's dive right in! When a card goes Deep, they gain +3/+3 when your deck has 15 cards (or less) remaining!

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).



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!


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.



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.         



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


Each round, the first time a unit with Fated is targeted by an ally, they are granted +1|+1. Targeted cards must be in play—targeting cards in your hand does not count towards Fated.



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



Formidable units strike with their Health instead of their Power.


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?



Get mad? Get even! Cards with Fury are granted +1/+1 when they kill an enemy unit.



Stop right there! Immobile units can't attack or block!



When a card with Impact strikes while attacking, it deals 1 to the enemy Nexus. This keyword can stack.



Feeling a little starstruck? Invoke presents 3 Celestials, and you get to pick one to add to your hand.




Fancy a bit of sightseeing? Landmarks are less a keyword and more a whole new type of card!

  • Landmarks are special places of power throughout Runeterra that you can bring to your board.
  • They don't have Power or Health, so they can't take damage, however they have unique effects (including Keywords), so use them wisely!


Last Breath

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



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.



If a Lurker is the top card of your deck when an allied Lurker attacks, grant Lurker allies everywhere +1/+0. Max once per round.



Manifest creates in hand 1 of 3 randomly selected cards.


Night & Nightfall

If a card with Nightfall is NOT your first card played in the round, you’ll activate its Nightfall bonus.

  • Just because it’s Night on your board, doesn’t mean it’s the same for your opponent, and vice versa.
  • When Nightfall is active, you’ll see a little moon atop any impacted cards (which means it’s Night)!


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!



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!



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.)



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.



Avast! The mark of a good swashbuckler is knowing when to take advantage! A unit can trigger Plunder when played or summoned IF an ally has dealt damage to the enemy Nexus this round.



It's time to get that third eye open! Predict lets you pick a card from three in your deck. That card goes right to the top, while the rest of the deck is reshuffled.


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).



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



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.



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!



Sometimes you want to bring in some extra muscle, only to realize your back row is full! Replace lets you clear up some space... by Obliterating one of your allies.



Ready to boost your rep? Reputation activates when your allies have struck for 5+ damage at least 4 times during a game. Looks like you're making a name for yourself!



It pays to pave the way forward. The first time a unit with Scout attacks each round readies your attack token!



A little magical meddling never hurt anyone. Actually, it can do the opposite! Spellshield protects against the next enemy spell or skill that threatens this keyword user.

  • Remember, a shield only protects one user at a time, so multi-target spells will still affect anyone without a Spellshield. Best to plan accordingly!


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!



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!



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



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!


Obliterate x non-champion cards from the bottom of your deck. This is especially useful when you're trying to go Deep!



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.



Vulnerability can be a good thing... but not in Legends of Runeterra! Units that are Vulnerable mean that anyone can draw them into a fight! It's like giving Challenger to your enemies!



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.

Was this article helpful?

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

From tech to tilt, we're here to help you! Submit a Ticket! So long as it doesn't fall through a portal, we'll get back to you soon.

/ Submit a Ticket