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A selection of minions, each with its own ability. From left to right: Divine Shield, Deathrattle, a triggered effect, and Spell Damage

Abilities are special effects, powers or behaviours found on cards. For spell cards, the ability describes the total effect of playing that card, while for minion and weapon cards, abilities are special effects or powers additional to the basic functions of the card. Abilities may be described in the card's text, or granted by enchantments.

Hearthstone features a large range of abilities. Abilities may trigger in response to certain events, provide ongoing effects to certain minions, or grant special powers or characteristics. Certain abilities are found on numerous cards, and are denoted by special keywords, while others are unique or written in full.

Minion abilities granted by card text or enchantments can be removed using the Silence ability. However, abilities granted to minions through other minions' aura effects can only be removed by neutralising the aura minion.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • When multiple abilities are triggered simultaneously, the order of events is generally determined by the order in which the cards were played or summoned. For example, if two minions with Deathrattle die in the same combat, the minion which was summoned first will activate its Deathrattle first, followed by the minion which was summoned second. All triggered abilities will take place before the current phase of activity concludes.
  • Although some abilities are only present on cards playable by a specific hero class, these cards can be played by any hero that manages to acquire them in an ongoing game (e.g. through Thoughtsteal or Mind Vision).

Keywords[edit | edit source]

Keywords are specific terms words or phrases on cards which to denote a specific power or behaviour without explicit description. Mousing over a minion card with a keyword ability will generate a text display describing the ability. For a more detailed exploration of each keyword, and a list of related cards, click on the section headings.

For a discussion of why keywords exist for some behaviours but not others, see the trivia section.

Battlecry[edit | edit source]

Triggers an action when the minion is played from your hand.

Charge[edit | edit source]

Enables the minion to attack on the same turn that it is summoned.

Choose One[edit | edit source]

Gives the controlling player the ability to choose between two or more effects stated in the card. Found only on druid cards.

Combo[edit | edit source]

Triggers an effect if you already played another card this turn. Found only on rogue cards.

Counter[edit | edit source]

Prevents the next enemy spell cast from taking effect. Currently the only card to use Counter is the mage spell Counterspell; see that page for details.

Deathrattle[edit | edit source]

An ability that is triggered when the minion dies.

Discover[edit | edit source]

Choose from one of three random class-appropriate cards, then add one it to your hand.

Divine Shield[edit | edit source]

Absorbs the first source of damage taken by the minion, removing the shield.

Enrage[edit | edit source]

While damaged, this minion gains the stated effect. Healing the minion to full Health will remove the effect.

Freeze[edit | edit source]

Frozen characters cannot attack the following turn.

Immune[edit | edit source]

Immune is an ability that prevents damage dealt from any source to the target, and prevents all enemy interaction with the target.

Inspire[edit | edit source]

Inspire is a type of triggered effect, which activates each time the controlling hero uses their Hero Power.

Mega-Windfury[edit | edit source]

Can attack four times each turn. Currently the only card to use Mega-Windfury is the uncollectible minion V-07-TR-0N.

Overload[edit | edit source]

You have {X} less mana next turn. This effect is activated when the card is played from the hand, and typically allows a powerful card to be played for a low mana cost this round, at the price of reduced mana next turn. Found only on shaman cards.

Secret[edit | edit source]

A special type of spell card that remains hidden until its trigger condition occurs, revealing it and triggering its effect. As a rule Secrets can only be activated during the opponent's turn, but some exceptions activate at the start of the player's next turn.

Silence[edit | edit source]

Removes all card text, enchantments and abilities from the target minion.

Stealth[edit | edit source]

Minions with Stealth may not be the target of attacks, spells or abilities until they attack or deal damage. Once they attack or deal damage, Stealth is removed. Minions with Stealth can still be affected by AoE spells such as Consecration, and randomly targeted spells such as Arcane Missiles.

Spell Damage[edit | edit source]

Increases the output of your damaging spells by X.

Summon[edit | edit source]

Summons the specified minion/s. Distinct from simply playing a minion card from the hand, this is an ability found on spell or minion cards, sometimes triggered by a Battlecry or Deathrattle.

Taunt[edit | edit source]

Enemies must attack minions with Taunt before any non-Taunt characters. This includes minions and hero attacks. Taunt is illustrated by a large shield-like border.

Transform[edit | edit source]

Changes a minion into something else irreversibly, entirely replacing the previous card.

Unlimited attacks[edit | edit source]

Can attack an unlimited number of times each turn.

Windfury[edit | edit source]

Can attack twice each turn.

Other abilities[edit | edit source]

Card draw effect[edit | edit source]

Causes the player to draw one or more cards from their deck.

Cast spell[edit | edit source]

Casts a spell on behalf of the controlling player.

Copy[edit | edit source]

Copies an existing card. Usually combined with a Summon effect to summon the copy into the battlefield, or a generate effect to place it into the player's hand.

Deal damage[edit | edit source]

Deals damage to a character, attempting to reduce its Health by the stated amount.

Destroy[edit | edit source]

Destroys a minion, weapon or Secret without dealing damage to it.

Discard[edit | edit source]

Causes the player to discard one or more cards from their hand.

Enchant[edit | edit source]

Modifies the statistics or card text of one or more cards. May be temporary, permanent, or ongoing.

Elusive[edit | edit source]

An unofficial term for minions which cannot be targeted by spells or Hero Powers, from either player.

Equip[edit | edit source]

Equips the hero with the stated weapon.

Forgetful[edit | edit source]

A term for a minion which has a 50% chance of attacking the wrong enemy. Forgetful is a type of triggered effect.

Gain Armor[edit | edit source]

Causes the controlling hero to gain Armor.

Generate[edit | edit source]

Generates a new card, and places it into the player's hand.

Joust[edit | edit source]

Reveals a minion from each player's deck. If the player which initiated the Joust produces the minion with the higher mana cost, they win the Joust, activating a secondary effect. Both minions are then shuffled back into their respective decks.

Mind control effect[edit | edit source]

Transfers ownership of the targeted minion.

Modify cost[edit | edit source]

Alters the mana cost of another card or Hero Power.

Poison[edit | edit source]

An unofficial term for the card text "Destroy any minion damaged by this minion." Poison is identified by a green bubbling flask at the bottom of the minion's portrait. Poison is a type of triggered effect.

Put into battlefield[edit | edit source]

Directly places a card from the player's deck or hand into the battlefield, without triggering any Battlecries.

Put into hand[edit | edit source]

Draws cards of a specific type directly from the player's deck and places them into the player's hand.

Refresh Mana[edit | edit source]

Refills the player's empty Mana Crystals.

Remove from deck[edit | edit source]

Removes cards directly from the player's deck, without placing them into the hand. Similar to discard effects.

Replace[edit | edit source]

Replace one card with another, without destroying or discarding the original card.

Restore Health[edit | edit source]

Heals a character, increasing their Health by the stated amount, up to but not beyond their current maximum Health.

Return[edit | edit source]

Returns the target minion to its owner's hand.

Shuffle into deck[edit | edit source]

Places a card into a player's unused deck, with its placement randomly determined.

Unlimited attacks[edit | edit source]

Allows the possessing hero to attack any number of times each turn.

Types of ability[edit | edit source]

These are rough categories of abilities that describe certain common behaviours.

Area of effect[edit | edit source]

Affects all characters of the stated type.

In-hand effect[edit | edit source]

Effects which activate while the card is in the player's hand.

On-draw effect[edit | edit source]

Effects which activate upon being drawn from the deck.

On-discard effect[edit | edit source]

Effects which activate upon being discarded from the hand.

Ongoing effect[edit | edit source]

An ability which provides a specific effect on an ongoing basis.

Positional effect[edit | edit source]

Takes effect depending on the specific order and position of minions on the battlefield.

Proportional effect[edit | edit source]

The output of these effects is proportionate to the amount of mana consumed.

Random effect[edit | edit source]

Chooses a target or effect at random.

Removal[edit | edit source]

Used to remove minions from the board. Generally refers to destroy, transform or high-damage effects.

Triggered effect[edit | edit source]

An effect or behaviour which only activates in response to a certain event. On minions, these are denoted by a lightning bolt icon at the bottom of the portrait.

Boss and Tavern Brawl abilities[edit | edit source]

The following abilities so far only appear on cards featured in boss encounters and Tavern Brawls.

Auto-cast[edit | edit source]

Causes the Hero Power to be used automatically at the start of each turn, provided the hero has enough mana to spare.

Auto-Attack[edit | edit source]

Causes the minion to attack automatically at the end of the turn, targeting the minion or minions directly across from it. The minion cannot be commanded to attack, or prevented from attacking.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • According to Ben Brode, the game's alpha featured 4 or 5 keywords which were removed from the game prior to the beginning of the beta.[1]

Keyword creation[edit | edit source]

Keywords were specifically designed by the developers to help players to quickly recognise when a large number of minions have exactly the same ability, such as minions with Taunt, saving time spent reading each individual card's text. However, while keywords make it easier in cases where they are frequently encountered, when such examples are rare, keywords can actually serve to make understanding cards harder, requiring players to mouse over cards in understand to examine their abilities. The case of the Poison ability was cited by Ben Brode as an example where the developers could have added a keyword, but chose instead to simply describe the ability in full, since it is was originally only found on 2 cards.[2] Senior Producer Yong Woo explained:

"You know, keywords are double-edged swords. On the one hand, it really condenses information. I tell you Deathrattle and you know what it is right away. I tell somebody off the street Deathrattle and he is going to be like "What are you... selling me a snake?". They will not know what I am talking about, so it is a balance we have to reach between condensing the information and making too hard a set of vocabulary for new players to understand. It is something we continue to work on."[3]

Ben Brode has also stated that when a keyword conveys more than one behaviour rule, it can be hard for players to remember these from just the keyword.[4] For example, Taunt and Charge immediately convey that the minion possesses a single, specific ability.[4] In contrast, the "elusive" ability is tricky because it has more than one effect,[4] protecting the minion from both spells and hero powers, but not Battlecries or attacks. Ben Brode has stated that the elusive ability was "right on the razor's edge" regarding whether or not to create a keyword for it.[4]

Yong Woo has stated that it is possible in the future that keywords may be added for currently existing abilities such as the "elusive" ability of the Faerie Dragon, Laughing Sister and Spectral Knight - should there come to be a sufficient number of minions with that behaviour in the game.[3] Other card text for which keywords were considered, and for which keywords may be added in the future, include on-draw effects, Poison, and Joust.[5]

New keywords

Following its launch, the game did not see the addition of any new keywords until The Grand Tournament, when Inspire was introduced. Inspire was initially represented by the text "Whenever you use your Hero Power do X", but the developers felt that replacing it with a new keyword would both save space on cards and also highlight the new mechanic as a key feature of the new expansion. They also felt that the game had been around long enough that it was acceptable to introduce a new keyword.[6] However, the developers did not choose to make the same expansion's new Jousting mechanic into a keyword, partly because of a lack of synergy with established keywords, and partly because it is "more in depth" than other keywords.[7][8] Inspire also featured on a larger number of cards than Joust.[9]

As the game grows, the developers feel increasingly open to adding new keywords.[10] When the game was new, Ben Brode says, the developers "really wanted to keep ourselves in check as far as the number of keywords we added and how quickly we added them",[10] but since The Grand Tournament have begun adding keywords quite regularly.

The one exception to the general rules for keywords is Mega-Windfury, a keyword added with Goblins vs Gnomes for just one minion: the uncollectible V-07-TR-0N, summoned by Mimiron's Head's triggered effect. However, this keyword is followed on the card by the italicised text, "(Can attack four times a turn.)", essentially negating the use of the Mega-Windfury keyword. The redundancy can be explained by the obvious similarity between Windfury and Mega-Windfury, with the use of the keyword aiding players in immediately understanding the card's ability.

Patch changes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. How a Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Card is Made. (2015-04-30). 
  2. ChanManV (2014-04-24). Value Town #27 w/ ChanManV, Trump, Gnimsh, and Ben Brode Pt. 1
  3. 3.0 3.1 GamesCom Interview: Hearthstone Observer Mode Coming Soon. (2014-08-25). 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Blizzard Hearthstone Developer AMA - Ben Brode, Yong Woo and Christina Sims!. (2014-12-15). 
  5. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2016-11-14). 
  6. #100 - The Angry Chicken: “May the Chicken be with You” - Ben Brode (2015-09-01)
  7. Zeriyah on Twitter. (2015-08-11). 
  8. Zeriyah on Twitter. (2015-08-05). 
  9. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2016-03-15). 
  10. 10.0 10.1 IGN.com - HEARTHSTONE: CREATING THE DISCOVER MECHANIC. (2016-01-17).