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Artifact keywords: abilities and effects, what they mean

Much like Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone, cards in Artifact have keywords that make them a little easier to read. All have hover-over text, which can be accessed in-game, but this guide will go through what the keywords mean and when abilities trigger. This guide will go over all of the keywords

Artifact Keywords guide

Understanding all the keywords is perhaps the most vital thing in Artifact, which given that there are so many makes predicting the opponent's move very difficult. However this is only one part of a very complex looking game, so check out our Artifact guide hub for more on how to play the game, as well as a rundown on the colours and the types of cards that you can play.

Artifact's abilities and effects

Abilities are only assigned to heroes and improvements, but certain spells can grant units certain abilities.

  • Active ability - Abilities that require the player's action to execute. Once triggered, it is inactive for the duration of the cooldown.
  • Reactive ability - Abilities that activate automatically when triggered.
  • Continuous effect - Abilities that are always active.
  • Play Effect - An effect that triggers as the card enters play.
  • Death Effect - An effect that triggers as the card exits play.
  • Equip Effect - An effect that triggers when the item is equipped to a hero.

Artifact keywords for tower and retaliate underlined on the card Burning Oil.

Artifact keywords

The bulk of the terminology is relatively self-explanatory, however there is always hover-over text to allow you to see exactly what each card can do. You can also use this to get information on keywords that have been modified onto a particular unit. Below is a complete list of all the current keywords in Artifact.

  • Modify - Usually refers to increased attack, armour, and health on allies. This is permanent and lasts until the unit is removed from the battlefield.
  • Give - Usually refers to increased attack, armour, and health on allies. This is temporary and lasts until the end of a round.
  • Move - Moves the hero to another lane.
  • Swap - Swaps the position of two units.
  • Summon - Summons the unit onto the current lane.
  • Stun - A stunned unit is both silenced and disarmed.
  • Silence - The unit can't use any active abilities and can't be used to play cards of its colour.
  • Disarm - The unit can't attack its target during battles.
  • Regeneration - The unit heals an amount during the combat phase. Regeneration is applied before checking for death.
  • Damage Immunity - The unit can't be damaged this turn.
  • Condemn - Marks a unit, improvement, or equipment for death. Death shields may save a condemned unit, but damage immunity has no effect.
  • Pulse - A delay between effects of a spell or ability. Continuous effects are updated, reactive abilities are processed, and units that have been condemned or dealt lethal damage are destroyed.
  • Piercing - Any damage that is dealt to the opposing creep or hero will ignore armour.
  • Taunt - Force units to target a certain enemy.
  • Get initiative - After this spell is played, you get the initiative coin and may immediately take another action. Retain initiative if you then pass the turn and act first in the next lane.
  • Death Shield - If a unit would die, instead remove its death shield and it survives with one health. A unit may only have one death shield at a time.
  • Cleave - When blocked during the combat phase, in addition to battle damage to the blocking unit, also deal the cleave damage to to that unit's neighbours.
  • Retaliate - When attacked during a battle, deal this much extra damage to the attackers. This can happen outside of the combat phase.
  • Rapid Deployment - Applies to heroes. When a hero dies, it is immediately ready for deployment, and can be deployed at the start of the next round.
  • Siege - When blocked during the combat phase, in addition to battle damage to the combat target, also deal the Siege damage to the enemy tower.
  • Purge - Removes all effects from a unit.
  • Lock - Cards can't be played while they're locked. The lock is applied for a duration of rounds, with one ticking off after each one is concluded.
  • Quicken - Reduce cooldown by 1, but not below 1.

With all the keywords now explained, you'll probably want to get a list of the best decks and how some of the keywords are used to the player's advantage. Head over to our Artifact best decks guide to find them, or if you want to see all the cards in the set, head to our Artifact Call to Arms set list guide.

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Dave Irwin avatar

Dave Irwin

Former Guides Writer

Dave was a guides writer for Rock Paper Shotgun from 2018-2020. He previously worked as a freelancer for TheSixthAxis, Tech Advisor and Kotaku, producing hundreds of guides to help people get better at their favourite games. He now writes guides for PCGamesN.