Hearthstone Glossary: Terms and Terminology

If you’re new to Hearthstone or card games in general then you might not be familiar with some of the terms and phrases that come along with the game. I’ll try to clear up as many as possible below.

I’ve even included some of the crazy things that are said in Twitch chat that a normal human being might not understand.

Do a CTRL+F and type in the name of the term you are looking for to quickly find it.

Hearthstone Card Game Terminology

A lot of these terms originated from Magic the Gathering (MTG) and other popular card games.

Aggro: Short for aggression, decks are usually labeled this if they have low cost creatures and seek to push damage to the opponent as quickly as possible.

AOE: AOE stands for Area of Effect, and refers to cards that do damage to your opponents side of the board or both sides of the board (e.g. Flamestrike, Holy Nova, Whirlwind).

Bomb: A card that has a large effect on the board and can end the game quickly if not dealt with (e.g. Deathwing).

Bounce: Cards that return creatures to the owners hand (e.g., Sap and Kidnapper).

Burn: This can have multiple meanings, one is a reference to MTG where direct damage spells are generally referred to as “Burn.” In Hearthstone, Burn typically means a card was burnt from your deck. When you are holding 10 cards and draw another card it is destroyed. The animation of this process appears as a card being burnt.

Cantrip: Another term from MTG that refers to cards that have a “draw a card” effect along with their main effect (e.g. Gitaxian Probe in MTG). The perfect example of this in Hearthstone is Flare. This term is sometimes used as a catch-all for cards that allow you to draw a card.

Combo: Decks referred to as combo decks seek to initiate powerful interactions with multiple cards that inevitably lead to victory. A common combo finisher in Rogue decks is Leeroy Jenkins and 1x – 2x Cold Blood.

Constructed: This term refers to the ability to build a deck from cards you own for use in Ranked or Casual play. Arena is what would be referred to as a Limited format, because you are limited to the amount of cards you play from.

Control: A deck is labeled Control if it seeks to hold the board by using defensive minions (taunts) and utilizing AOE and Spell cards to destroy minions. It then finishes off the opponent with late game minions and threats.

Cycle: Using a card to draw and replace itself with another. A good example of this is Shiv, you deal one damage and gain a card to replace it. You can also cycle cards by using something like Cult Master. Sacrifice one of your minions to draw a card which essentially replaces the card you lost. Cycling also allows you to thin your deck and get to cards you might need to win.

Direct Damage: A card that can do damage directly to the opponent (e.g. Lightning Bolt, Soulfire).

Draft, Drafting: This is a term that originated in MTG and is a popular way to play the game. Each player gets three packs, opens one, chooses a card and passes the rest of the pack to the next player. This continues until all cards and packs are distributed. You are then given time to construct your deck, which you then use to play your opponents with.

This inevitably lead to players referring to Hearthstone’s Arena Mode as Drafting.

Face: Each Hearthstone player is represented by a Hero Portrait, so “going to the face” is just attacking your opponent.

Face Tank: The term “tank” is a reference to the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game e.g., World of Warcraft) version of the word, where you take the damage for your team while they heal and do damage themselves. In this case, you are using your Hero (Face) to deal damage to a minion instead of trading away your minions. This is common with weapon classes such as Rogue, Shaman, and Warrior.

Initiative: When you have the initiative it means you will get to attack with a minion before your opponent can. When you summon a minion it will have “summoning sickness” (unless it has Charge), and that means you can’t attack with it the turn you put it on the board. If you play a minion on an empty board, and your opponent then plays a minion, that means you have initiative because you can choose to attack the minion or your opponent’s face.

Ladder: The ladder is in reference to Ranked Play. When you play Ranked you are climbing in ranks, aka Climbing the Ladder. There are technically two separate ladder or ranked systems: Ranks 25 – 1 and Legend. In the ranks of 25 – 1 you gain stars for each win, once you hit rank 1 and get enough stars you become Legend. You then get a Legend number that displays where you are on the Legend Ladder. The highest spot you can obtain is #1 Legend, while the lowest spot is however many Legend players there are at that time. So, if it’s early in the Constructed Season and there’s only five Legend players then the lowest possible Legend spot is #5!

Meta: The current mix of decks that popularize the Hearthstone Ladder. Knowledge of the current meta helps you tweak your deck in a way that is better suited against it. An example of this is running The Black Knight against a taunt heavy meta, or running Harrison Jones in a Weapon heavy meta.

Midrange: A term that refers to an Aggro-Control style of deck that generally hosts the majority of its minions in the 4 – 8 mana range. Midrange looks to control Aggro and beat down Control. The lines between Midrange and Control are fairly thin compared to Midrange and Aggro.

Mill, Milling: This is another term from MTG that originated from the card, Millstone. In Hearthstone, to “Mill” someone is to make your opponent burn cards from his deck (cards are burned if you draw a card with 10 cards in hand). Some decks are focused around this concept, and seek to make their opponent burn all of their cards and lose due to Fatigue damage.

Mulligan: This refers to the cards you are shown in the beginning of your hand that you can keep or pick which ones to send back into your deck.

Nerf, Nerfed: When Blizzard reduces the power of a card that was deemed overpowered. A common nerf from Blizzard has been to add extra Mana to certain op cards. A good example of this was Starving Buzzard being increased to 5 mana from 2.

Netdeck: Utilizing quality websites (like this one, cough) to play the best decks instead of creating your own.

OTK: OTK stands for One Turn Kill which is associated with decks that can generate huge burst damage and can kill the opponent in one turn.

Overpowered, OP: Cards that are so dominant that they “break” the game.

Ping: Usually associated with the Mage Hero Ability, it is in reference to dealing 1 damage to a target or removing a Divine Shield.

Ramp: Using cards to increase the amount of your Mana pool permanently or temporarily. Druid is usually associated with Ramp due to the cards Innervate and Wild Growth. Ramp effects can be associated with cards that decrease mana cost, such as Mechwarper and Summoning Portal.

RNG: RNG stands for Random Number Generator. It’s a programming term that refers to the computer “randomly” generating a number that will determine the outcome of certain abilities. Learn more here.

The term is used to explain the element of randomness in Hearthstone. To the chagrin of some players, certain cards are heavily reliant on RNG (e.g., Ragnaros the Firelord, Crackle, and Unstable Portal).

Roping: When a player continually extends their turn for the fully allotted time it is referred to as roping. The reason for this is due to a rope or fuse that appears when you have a limited time remaining in your turn. Lifecoach is referred to as “Ropecoach” due to his fondness for using the entire turn to think out his moves and only acts once the rope starts to tick down.

Standard: Standard is currently one of two formats you can play in Hearthstone (the other being Wild). The Standard rules are that you play with only card sets from the previous and current year. Any sets of cards that came out before this time period are not allowed to be used in Standard. The only exceptions are the Basic and Classic sets which are always part of Standard.

Tempo: In general, a simple way to consider Tempo is being a step ahead of your opponent (or attempting to be). The best way to look at this is to consider your mana, if your opponent plays a 6-Cost minion, and you remove it with a 4-Cost spell, you’ve gained tempo (2-Mana). You can then potentially use the rest of your mana to develop a minion. Rogue is a great class to look at when trying to understand Tempo. Backstab is one of the ultimate Tempo cards. You play it for 0-Mana, remove your opponent’s minion, and are able to develop your own. In the early game this is huge, because you’ve likely taken the board from your opponent forcing them to have to deal with that new minion while not being able to play their own.

Another common example of a Tempo play is playing a minion rather than hero powering or casting a slow spell. As a Mage, if it’s turn two and your opponent has a 1/1 on the board, you could potentially use your hero power to remove it, or you could play a 3/2 minion instead. If you hero power (gaining value/card advantage), you allow your opponent to play another minion on their turn on an empty board, but if you play your minion they have to deal with it and potentially not allow them to play their own minion.

Token: Cards that are generated from other cards and that are not collectible are considered tokens (e.g. Squire from Silver Hand Knight). There are certain decks that revolve around generating many tokens and using them to overrun their opponent.

Top Deck, Top Decking, Top Deckin’ and Wreckin’: Drawing a card off the top of your deck that perfectly fits a situation. This term is often overused by people looking for a way to excuse a loss. A true top deck is when someone is in a hopeless spot and can only win if they draw a particular card.

Value: Getting value from a card refers to using one card to take out multiple of your opponent’s.

Wild: Wild is currently one of two formats you can play in Hearthstone (the other being Standard). While Standard restricts the card sets you are allowed to play, Wild allows you to play all cards from any set.

Zoo: A term that originated in MTG that refers to decks that gather the best low cost creatures and seeks to take out the opponent quickly. Reynad famously coined his Aggro/Control Warlock deck “Zoo.” The term is now used to describe any Warlock deck that uses low cost minions to aggressively control the board and destroy the opponent.

Hearthstone Keyword Definitions

A Hearthstone Keyword is any word you see in bold in a cards text. These are used as a way to simplify the explanation of common effects in the game. I’ll be listing the official in-game definitions below, and I will chime in when I feel like clarification is needed.

  • Adapt: Choose one of three bonuses.
  • Battlecry: Does something when you play it from your hand.
  • Charge: Can attack immediately.
  • Choose One: Oddly doesn’t have an official in-game definition, but you are offered two options to choose from. This is currently limited to the Druid class.
  • Combo: A bonus if you already played a card this turn.
    • Combo is currently limited to the Rogue class.
  • Counter: A card that is Countered has no effect.
    • Currently the only card that has this keyword is Counterspell.
  • Deathrattle: Does something when it dies.
  • Discover: Choose one of three cards to add to your hand.
  • Divine Shield: The first time a shielded minion takes damage, ignore it.
  • Enrage: While damaged, this minion has a new power.
  • Freeze: Frozen characters lose their next attack.
  • Immune: Immune characters can’t be damaged.
  • Inspire: Does something after you use your Hero Power.
  • Jade Golem: Your first Jade Golem is 1/1. Each future one has +1/+1.
  • Mega-Windfury: Can attack four times a turn.
  • Overload: You have X less mana next turn.
    • The X is represented by the number on the card. Overload is currently limited to the Shaman class.
  • Poisonous: Destroy any minion damaged by this.
  • Quest: Starts in your hand. Complete for a reward.
    • It more accurately starts in your mulligan, and you can pitch it back into your deck if you choose.
  • Secret: Hidden until a specific action occurs on your opponent’s turn.
    • Currently only three classes have Secrets: Hunter, Mage, and Paladin.
  • Spell Damage: Your spell cards deal 1 extra damage.
    • This isn’t always the case, certain cards can increase the damage further like Malygos.
  • Stealth: Can’t be attacked or targeted until it deals damage.
    • Flare is currently the only card that can remove Stealth.
  • Taunt: Enemies must attack minions that have Taunt.
  • Windfury: Can attack twice each turn.

Hearthstone Card Nicknames and Emote References

Some cards are referred to in shorthand, by nicknames, or by misheard emote sounds that can sometimes confuse a newer player. Here’s a list that should help clear some of them up.

BGH (Big Game Hunter): BGH stands for Big Game Hunter and is referred to frequently because of its ability to destroy a 7 attack or greater minion.

Disguised Toast (SI:7 Agent): When SI:7 hits the board he says, “Heh, this guy’s toast!” If you aren’t listening closely it can be misheard as “Dis-guised Toast!” This is also the name of a popular Twitch Streamer/YouTuber.

Fiery Win Axe (Fiery War Axe): Pretty obvious, but it’s referred to as this because when a Warrior has it in their opening hand they usually win.

Frog (Hex): When you use Hex on a minion it turns into a 0/1 Frog with Taunt.

Get Down! (Noble Sacrifice): When this secret is triggered a Defender minion is summoned and the emote is “Get Down!”

HaHa! (Southsea Deckhand): When Southsea Deckhand hits the board he yells, “HAHA!”

Rag (Ragnaros the Firelord): Just a shorthand version for Ragnaros.

Scar (Savannah Highmane): The main villain in The Lion King went by the name “Scar.” Savannah Highmane’s Deathrattle summons Hyenas which were Scar’s henchmen in the movie.

Scrub (Defias Ringleader): When Defias Ringleader hits the board his emote is, “This is our town scrub!” If the card was comboed a Defias Bandit is summoned that follows it up with, “Yeah, beat it!”

Sheep (Polymorph): When you use Polymorph on a minion it turns into a 1/1 Sheep.

Taz’dingo (Sen'jin Shieldmasta): Sen’jin Shieldmasta’s emote is “Taz’dingo! Yes!”

For more information on why this phrase is used, we turn to World of Warcraft:

The usage of the phrase “Taz’dingo” in Zandali appears to be as a victory chant or cheer. When troll players do the /cheer emote, their avatar shouts “Taz’dingo!” – Source

TBK (The Black Knight): TBK is an initialism for The Black Knight.

Yogg (Yogg-Saron, Hope's End): Yogg-Saron was initially celebrated upon release due to all of the crazy things he could do in a game, but once players realized that he was going to be used competitively the tide quickly turned against Yogg. He eventually would be nerfed (he stops casting once he’s removed from the board), and sees less play.

Yolo Bomber (Mad Bomber, Madder Bomber): Sometimes you are put into a situation where a well-placed bomb from one of these cards can either help turn the game around or make it worse for you. This means it’s time for a YOLO (You Only Live Once) play.

Twitch/Reddit Hearthstone Memes & Terminology

I seek only to educate and do not necessarily agree with, or endorse the following terminology.

4-Mana 7/7 (Flamewreathed Faceless): Shaman was a really weak class at one point which lead to it receiving a lot of strong cards. Shaman would end up going on a tear in the meta and one of the sore spots was Flamewreathed Faceless which was deemed overpowered. Shaman was eventually nerfed, and while the Aggro Shaman decks took a hit, Midrange Shaman would live on as the best deck in Hearthstone. The funny thing about that is that most Midrange lists don’t run this card.

BM: BM stands for Bad Manners. Some examples of BM are: Spamming emotes, drawing out turns intentionally, delaying a victory by playing all the cards in your hand with clear lethal.

Here are a few infamous instances of BM:

If you believe in karma then you might want to watch this video after the one above. This might be my favorite Hearthstone moment of all-time.

Keep in mind that Twitch chat will sometimes troll people by asking, “What does BM stand for?” This inevitably leads to different combinations of words that start with B and M being spammed.

Cancer: This is usually in reference to Aggro Decks like Hunter and Zoo Warlock that use low cost minions and direct damage to burn down the opponent. This can also refer to decks that are frequently encountered on the ladder which are a “cancer” on the meta.

Dennis: This is used to refer to a player of low skill who makes noticeably bad plays. It originated in Kripparrian’s stream, while playing Arena on the very first turn a player named Dennis cast Holy Smite on Kripp’s face. Chat went crazy, and the name Dennis will be forever linked to bad players in Hearthstone. You can watch the full game here.

Dennis would later have his revenge here.

HAHAHAHAHA 4Head: This originated with Artosis and his sometimes maniacal laughter during his commentating of Starcraft 2. In Hearthstone, Ben Brode, Senior Game Developer of Hearthstone, commentated matches for the BlizzCon 2014 Hearthstone World Championship. Mr. Brode is an incredibly boisterous man, who seems to love life and gaming in a way that is enviable. During his casting, he exhibited a laugh that was undeniably infectious which caused Twitch chat to spam HAHAHAHA and the emote 4Head every time he laughed. At points during the broadcast, Artosis and Ben Brode shared the commentating couch which nearly destroyed the universe.

The spam has moved on to being used during commentating when exaggerated laughter can sometimes be used to fill awkward pauses after bad jokes or awkward statements.

For an example of Ben Brode in action check out this video.

Hi Mom!: An infamous incident involving Rdu at Dreamhack Summer 2014 where people on Rdu’s friends list messaged him throughout his matches. Included in these messages was the phrase “Hello mom !” (video here), but more importantly one individual messaged him the contents of his opponent’s hand. The incident caused a ton of controversy, you can read more about it here.

KITKATZ LIED: Kitkatz is a Hearthstone Streamer that is known for his proficiency with the Warrior class. Kitkatz would often claim that his Armorsmith would win every Brawl. Inevitably, Armorsmith lost a Brawl for him and KITKATZ LIED was created.

There is proof, however, that he doesn’t lie here.

LEGAL, Chat Lethal: Chat has a tendency to call out lethal damage in situations where the streamer either doesn’t have the damage, or where there wouldn’t be enough mana to do all the things they are referencing. To be fair, sometimes chat is right about the lethal and the streamer just misses it.

NAXX is Out, NAXX OUT: Curse of Naxxramas was the first Adventure Mode released for Hearthstone. Blizzard announced that the expansion would be released sometime in July 2014. This lead to people in Twitch chat trolling others by saying, “NAXX IS OUT.” The excited and gullible among us would check and be disappointed while the trolls would laugh maniacally.

SKILLstrike: A play on the card Flamestrike, which refers to the perceived overpowered nature of the card in Arena.

SMOrc, smorcing, smorced: SMOrc is a Twitch chat emote of an Orc that basically kind of looks like Rexxar who is the Hunter Hero. The Hunter class is known for being aggressive due to its hero power, so naturally this emote became associated with indiscriminately attacking your opponent while ignoring their board.

Snipe (I’ve Got the Stream in my Sights, Ghosting): This is not referring to the actual card Snipe, but Snipe or Sniping refers to when a streamer believes their opponent is watching their Twitch stream (often correctly, yes people do this) so the opponent knows which cards are in their hand.

☑ “This guy’s deck is CRAZY!” ☑ “My deck can’t win against a deck like that” ☑ “He NEEDED precisely those two cards to win” ☑ “He topdecked the only card that could beat me” ☑ “He had the perfect cards” ☑ “There was nothing I could do” ☑ “I played that perfectly” 

This copy-pasta originated in Kripparrian’s stream because of the things Kripp says when he loses or is getting beaten.

You will see it in many forms, including the actual pasta copy-pasta inception:

☑ “This guy’s pasta is CRAZY!” ☑ “My rigatoni can’t win against a linguini like that” ☑ “He NEEDED that alfredo to win” ☑ “He meatballed the only marinara that could beat me” ☑ “He had the perfect fettucini ☑ “There was nothing I could cook” ☑ “I cooked that al dente”

༼ ▀̿Ĺ̯▀̿ ̿ ༽ WE ARE BOB༼ ▀̿Ĺ̯▀̿ ̿ ༽

Bob co-casted the M-House Cup, and with an exuberant attitude and some crazy phrases he caught on with Twitch chat. The spam relates to his signature glasses that he wears while he casts. You can see Bob in action here.

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