Legends of Runeterra effect keywords and mechanics explained

Here's a detailed explanation of several keywords in LoR.

legends of runeterra keywords terms effects
Image via Riot Games

Riot’s digital card game Legends of Runeterra saw immediate success as the third-most watched title on Twitch when it was first released in beta last October.

Whether you’re one of the lucky few who scored a beta access key from a stream giveaway or you’re just trying to enjoy the game as a fan, there’s new terms and keywords to learn from LoR. Here are explanations for some of LoR’s original and unique effects.

Related: Hands-on with Legends of Runeterra: Gameplay and first impressions

To check the meaning of keywords, right-clicking will fill the screen with the card, allowing you to mouse over the particular effect for more details.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of keywords, but rather an explanation of some of the more original mechanics in the game. While some, such as Can’t Block, can be taken in the literal sense, there are new terms that might be confusing.

Allegiance: A card with this effect will activate if the top card of your deck also comes from the same region. Instead of race or class, LoR groups cards by using the regions in Runeterra, allowing for varied playstyles even if the deck is mono-region.

Barrier: Negates the next instance of damage taken. It’s like Hearthstone’s Divine Shield but only lasts for one round instead of until it’s popped. 

Challenger: Choose which enemy unit to block the Challenger. Due to LoR’s distinct positional advantage for defenders, good Challenger usage can really throw a defensive strategy out of whack.

Double Attack: Strike before and during an attack against its blocker. 

Enlightened: Activates only when you reach 10 max mana. Players gain a max mana gem every turn and there are cards that provide the player with empty mana gems.

Elusive: Elusive characters in LoR can be targeted by offensive spells and attacks, but can only be blocked by other Elusive units when attacking. It’s more like Magic: The Gathering‘s Flying and not like Heathstone’s Stealth or the unofficial Elusive term in that community.

Ephemeral: The unit dies when it attacks or after the end of the turn.

Fearsome: Can only be blocked by enemies with three or more power.

Frostbite: Sets a unit’s power to zero. Even on the same turn, the value can be increased by using spells or effects.

Lifesteal: Damage dealt by this unit heals the Nexus, not the card.

Nexus Strike: The effect triggers when the unit attacks the Nexus. You can’t actually target the Nexus with an attack, so it’s not as easy to activate as it sounds.

Overwhelm: Excess damage dealt by the unit will spill over to the Nexus, like in Yu-Gi-Oh!

Quick Attack: Strike first before its blocker, but only during the attack phase, not blocking. The splitting of an offensive and defensive phase means that some effects are only applicable in certain phases. Usually, units clash at the same time and both will take damage. Quick Attack means that cards will attack before their opponent does. If the Quick Attack unit kills its opponent, the unit doesn’t take any damage. This is a powerful offensive ability that allows glass cannons to survive battles.

Slow, Fast, and Burst Spells: Spell cards come in three different varieties.

  • Slow Spells can’t be cast during the battle phase and will take a turn to prep before taking effect, giving the opponent a chance to respond.
  • Fast Spells are much the same, but can be played in response to other Spell cards and can be used during the battle phase. 
  • Burst Spells resolve instantly, with no chance for a reaction. Unlike the other two spells, it doesn’t consume an action, allowing the player to immediately play another card.

Support: Attacking with a support unit will buff the unit to its right. It only applies when the unit is attacking, not all the time.

Fleeting: Fleeting cards are discarded from the hand at the end of the round. This means you need to make sure you have the mana to spend them, otherwise you’ll lose the card.

Obliterate: Completely remove from the game. Cards that are obliterated don’t have their Last Breaths trigger and can’t be revived from the graveyard.

Rally: If you don’t have an attack token, gain one. Previously, this wasn’t a keyword. But since enough cards had this effect, it was added into the game to classify it easier.

Rally can happen during either player’s turn. If it’s during your opponent’s turn, you gain a surprise round of attacks. If you do it after you declare an attack, you get a second set of attacks during your same turn.

You can Rally any amount of times during the same turn. If your board is full, this can be one of the most lethal keywords in the game.

Scout: The first time only Scout units attack each round, ready your attack. This gives you a Rally-like effect if you can build your board to be Scout-only. If your board has a mix of non-Scout units with Scout units, you can always send in only your Scouts first to gain an extra attack with them later.

Vulnerable: Units that are made vulnerable can be challenged by enemy units, forcing them to block it. This allows you to take cards that often don’t want to block, like Elusive units or Heimerdinger, and destroy them in combat.

Toss: Obliterate X non-Champion cards from the bottom of your deck. This destroys parts of your deck to increase the odds of finding your Champions easier. Be careful with how often you use Toss, though. If you attempt to draw from an empty deck, you’ll lose. Toss enables strategies with the newest Shadow Isle champion, Maokai.

Plunder: A card triggers its Plunder ability when played from hand if you damaged the enemy Nexus this round. Featured primarily in Bilgewater and Freljord, this new keyword promotes aggressive strategies by forcing you to deal damage to get maximum value from these cards.

Plunder can trigger from both combat and effect damage. Even odd damage, like Teemo Shrooms activating, can set up a Plunder trigger.

Deep: When your deck has 15 or fewer cards, gain +3/+3. This keyword is found in the depths of Bilgewater. It wants you to play longer games than average to get massive value from these large units. Synergizing well with the Toss keyword, you’ll want to make sure you empty your deck as soon as possible to run over your opponents with this mechanic.

If cards are added to your deck after you activated the requirements, you’re still considered Deep after the fact.

Attune: When a card with Attune is summoned, refill one spell mana. This is a much more subtle keyword than others. This allows you to weave in more cheap spells by giving your units an effectively soft rebate when they’re summoned. Players looking to combo more cards together in one turn should turn to this new keyword.

Nab: While it wasn’t originally a keyword with the LoR: Rising Tides’ release, it was made into a keyword in a later patch when it got reworked. Nab draws a non-Champion card from the bottom of the enemy deck.

Spellshield: The first keyword revealed with LoR: CotM. A unit with Spellshield is unaffected the first time it’s targeted by an opponent spell or ability.

Behold: This is the second keyword revealed with LoR: CotM. Cards with Behold activate their bonuses if you’re holding a specific card or have it in play. This keyword is found in Freljord and Targon.

Nightfall: Another keyword revealed with LoR: CotM. Introduced in Shadow Isle and Targon, Nightfall cards gain their bonuses as long as they aren’t the first card that you played in a turn.

Daybreak: The fourth keyword revealed with LoR: CotM. Solely a Targon mechanic, Daybreak cards activate their effects if they’re the first card played within a turn. Rahvun, Daylight’s Spear can allow you to chain multiple Daylight cards together in the same turn.

Invoke: This was the penultimate keyword revealed for LoR: CotM’s release. Cards with Invoke allow you to select a powerful Celestial card out of three choices to add to your hand. There are 22 total Celestial cards that can be obtained, one unit and one spell for each mana cost from zero to 10.

Some Invoke cards can search for Celestials cards of specific costs.

Fury: The final keyword revealed with LoR: CotM. Fury has been introduced as a mechanic that’s solely found on Dragons. Units with Fury increase their stats by +1/+1 whenever they kill another unit. This can be done through spells that induce battle, like Single Combat.