Game terms

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Game terms in Hearthstone are used to describe some common game rules and card effects.

Some game terms have meanings that differ from their English translations and/or from their use in other games. This page aims to clarify some of those, as well as to provide a longer list of game terms through the templates below.

Commonly confused terms[edit]

Below are short descriptions for game terms that are often misinterpreted. The distinctions between these terms are often important in understanding the circumstances in which triggered effects will activate. For comprehensive information on any term, visit its full page.

Play vs Summon, Cast, and Equip[edit]

Many cards in Hearthstone describe effects on their card text using the terms "Play", "Summon", "Cast", or "Equip". In many ways "Play" overlaps with the other three terms, but in some important ways they are distinct. In short, "Play" always implies either a Summon, Cast, or Equip, but has additional implications; while Summon, Cast, or Equip events may be caused in other ways than by Playing a card.


Main article: Card

"Play" is a specific term that is used in game text to identify the action of playing a card directly from the player's hand. Playing a card does result in the summoning of a minion, the equiping of a weapon, or the casting of a spell, but it has additional implications that do not apply when those events occur in other ways.

Any triggered effect that requires a card to be played will activate when the player takes the specific action of playing a card from the hand, assuming the circumstances meet any other requirements of the trigger. Such triggers only require the player to take the action, they do not consider whether it was successful. Battlecries also require the minion with the ability to be played from the hand.

Any cards involuntarily or randomly lost from your hand are not considered played.

Cards summoned, equipped, or cast as an indirect result of playing a card, such as through the Battlecry of a played minion, do not count as played themselves.

  • Example: You play Alleycat. This act of playing a card first summons a minion, and then the Battlecry of that minion activates to summon Tabbycat. In this case, one card is played but two minions are summoned.


Main article: Summon

The term "summon" is used to describe the addition of a minion to the battlefield. This is usually the direct result of a player playing a minion card, but some cards have the ability to put minions into the battlefield from other areas, or summon them directly from the effect itself. Any trigger that activates when a minion is summoned will activate anytime a minion enters the battlefield, regardless of how, as long as the minion meets any other conditions of the trigger.

  • Example: You attack and kill a Piloted Shredder. Its Deathrattle triggers to summon a new minion. In this case, no cards were played but you did summon a minion.
  • Example: Your opponent plays a Cornered Sentry. The minion is summoned, and due to its Battlecry three Raptors are summoned for you. Your opponent played one card and summoned one minion, but you also summoned three minions, despite not taking any intentional action yourself.
  • Example: You have Hogger in play. At the end of each turn, you summon a Gnoll, without playing a card.

When a minion is summoned by any means other than by playing the card from the hand, its Battlecry will not activate.

  • Example: Your Redemption Secret activates and re-summons a Murloc Tidehunter. Because the Tidehunter was summoned, not played, its Battlecry does not activate and no additional Murloc Scout is summoned.

For the purposes of evaluating triggers, minions are always considered to be summoned by the controlling player, regardless of what caused the minion to be summoned.

  • Exammple: You have an Unlicensed Apothecary in play. Your opponent plays Leeroy Jenkins. Its Battlecry summons two Whelps on your side of the battlefield. These are considered to be summoned by you, so the Apothecary's effect is triggered twice, dealing a total of 10 damage to your hero.


Main article: Spell

"Casting" is the term for the invocation of any spell effect. As with summoning, the most common way to cast a spell is to play the corresponding card. Though the summon ability is much more common, spellcasting has its equivalent in the cast spell ability, which causes spells to be cast without being directly played from hand. Because spell cast through a card ability are considered to be cast by a minion rather than by a player, triggered effects that require the player to cast a spell do not trigger on those spells, making "when you cast a spell" nearly equivalent to "when you play a spell card" as a trigger condition.

The most infamous example of a card that casts spells is Yogg-Saron, Hope's End; other examples are Servant of Yogg-Saron and Tortollan Primalist. Playing any of these three cards results in the following events:

  1. You play the card;
  2. You summon the minion;
  3. The minion (not you!!) casts the selected or randomly chosen spell(s).


Main article: Equip

Weapons are typically equipped by playing a weapon card, but they too can be equipped without playing one from the hand if another card has the Equip ability. Any triggered effect that specifically requires a weapon to be equipped will activate regardless of how it was equipped, assuming the event meets any other circumstances specified by the trigger. As with summoning, some cards can cause your opponent to equip a weapon.

  • Example: You play Blingtron 3000. His Battlecry equips a random weapon for both players. If your opponent has a Buccaneer in play, its effect will trigger for the opponent's weapon, but not for yours.

When(ever) vs After[edit]

If a Hearthstone card has a triggered effect, the description nearly always includes either the word "whenever" or "when", or the word "after". Which of these two terms is used can have significant effect on the order of events, and hence on the outcome.


If a card text uses the term "when" or "whenever" to describe a trigger, it means that the triggered effect will take place at the time the indicated action starts to take place. This means that the effect acts on, and affects, the board state as it was before the trigger took place.

  • Example: You have an Ice Barrier in play, and your hero is at 2 Health. Your opponent equips a Fiery War Axe and attacks your hero. Because the card text of Ice Barrier reads "When your hero is attacked, gain 8 Armor", you first gain armor, before the War Axe hits, and the damage is taken from your Armor.
  • Example: You play a Violet Teacher, then target it with a Fireball. Because the Teacher summons an Apprentice whenever you cast a spell, the Apprentice is summoned before the Fireball hits and kills the Teacher.


If a card text uses the term "after" to describe a trigger, it means that the triggered effect will take place after the time the indicated action has completed. This means that the effect acts on, and affects, the board state as it is before the trigger takes place.

  • Example: You have a Snipe in play. Your opponent plays Big-Time Racketeer. Since Snipe triggers after your opponent plays a minion, the Racketeer will first be summoned and its Battlecry will summon his "Little Friend"; after that your secret deals its damage to the Racketeer.
  • Example: You play a Cult Sorcerer, then target it with a Frostbolt. The card text on Cult Sorcerer states that it buffs C'Thun after you cast a spell. However, the spell killed your Cult Sorcerer; after the spell is cast there is no Cult Sorcerer anymore and C'Thun will not receive a buff.

Battlecries and Deathrattles[edit]

Though not explicit on the card text, the keyword "when" applies to both Battlecries and Deathrattles. This can be seen in the tooltip that appears when you mouse over a card with one of these abilities: "Does something when you play it from your hand" and "Does something when it dies".

  • Example: Your opponent has Swamp King Dred on the battlefield. You play Blade of C'Thun, targeting Dred. Because the Battlecry resolves when you play the card and Dred attacks after you play a minion, the Battlecry destroys Dred and the Blade will not be attacked.
  • Example: You play Dirty Rat, whose Battlecry summons Swamp King Dred from your opponent's hand. The Battlecry resolves when you play the card, so both Dred and the Rat get summoned. After the minions are summoned, Dred is on the board and now his "after you play a minion" effect triggers, causing Dred to immediately attack the Dirty Rat.
  • Example: You have Timber Wolf and Rat Pack in play. Your opponent casts Flamestrike, killing both minions. Because the Rat Pack's Deathrattle activates when the minions die, the Timber Wolf has not yet left the battlefield, so the +1 Attack still applies. You will summon three Rats.

Useful templates[edit]

The templates below provide links to some common game terms used in Hearthstone.