A rune, similarly to a sigil, is an upgrade. Unlike sigil's however, runes are used only on pieces of armour. Each rune is capable of providing you with an instant attribute based upgrade once attached to a single piece of armour and will scale upwards in potency, dependent on how many runes you apply onto your armour set. With 6 pieces of armour available (head, shoulders, chest, gloves, legs and boots) there is a possibility to apply 6 runes at any one time.
What makes runes interesting and as mentioned previously is the fact that the attributes and tiered benefits they provide you increase based on the number you have, however the fact you can mix and match multiple runes - for a variety of attributes or benefits - leads to some exciting combinations and possibilities.
Runes can also be crafted by armorsmiths, leatherworkers and tailors, though its far more cost effective (and time effective) to simply buy them from the Trading Post)
Rune Types (and the primary attributes the provide across their 6 tiers) are Power, Precision, Toughness, Vitality, Condition Damage, Critical Damage, Healing Power and Other. With the exception of Rune of Divinity, I would recommend you stay clear of runes listed as "Other" as they tend to only support Magic Find (which in itself is awful).
You can view a full list of the runes here.
As just briefly described, runes provide tiered bonuses based on the number equipped that are of the same type and level. There are two tiers for minor runes, four for major runes, and six for superiors. Dependant on the rune type and typically, the odd-numbered bonuses provide attribute bonuses, while the even provide an effect on the player. When a rune is equipped onto a piece of armour, the tooltip tallies up the total number of identicle runes and colours them based on context: blue is active, red shows excess (two for minor, four for major) and gray if additional effects can be obtained.
You will note from the image below that my mesmer has 6 Superior Runes of Mesmer equipped and as a result, is obtaining the benefits of all 6 tiers of that rune. Were I to remove one rune on a piece of my armour, only the benefits up to tier 5 would be obtained. The sixth rune would then provide its own separate benefit, dependent on which was chosen.
At level 80, you should always aim to have a full set of 6 superior runes (you really should ignore minor and major). While the benefits to moving up the rune tiers are often powerful, there are some additional benefits to splitting your rune types, to obtain a spread of benefits from lower tiers.
As an example, engineers often rely heavily on bleed stacking to deal damage. To prolong the duration of such bleeds, the options are to trait for it, consume food (in WvW and PvE) or to utilise runes. There are a series of runes which prolong bleeding at tier 2 (i.e having two of that rune type equipped) so equipping 3 sets of those rune types allows for some serious duration increases.
To demonstrate this, I've placed 3 screenshots below of my engineer utilizing 3 sets of runes (2 of each type, totaling 6) to achieve a bleed duration increase of 45% (15% per pair of runes).
- x2 Superior Rune of the Krait (+15% Bleed Duration)
- x2 Superior Rune of the Centaur (+15% Bleed Duration)
- x2 Superior Rune of the Afflicted (+15% Bleed Duration)
The possibilities that this multi-tiering allows, across multiple rune types lends itself for some impressive combinations. Should I have wanted to have increased my burning condition duration, I could have replicated the above but instead chosen to use:
- x2 Superior Rune of the Baelfire (+15% Burning Duration)
- x2 Superior Rune of Flame Legion (+15% Burning Duration)
- x2 Superior Rune of Balthazar (+15% Burning Duration)
The principals of the above can be extended to all rune types, such as might stacking (using 3 sets of rune types to increase might duration) while you can also utilise "boon duration" or "condition duration" runes, which cover all their subsidiaries.
Runes For Professions
Unlike in our Sigil Guide, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to rune combinations. Some are inevitably more expensive than others on the Trading Post simply because cookie-cutter builds require compliment such runes. However, the vast majority are incredibly cheap, leaving the hardest part down to your choice of combinations. What I would add is the fact that you shouldn't be afraid to mix up your runes, though its often more worthwhile going to tier 2 or all the way to tier 6 with little value in anything in between. Below I've placed a list of recommended runes for the 8 Guild Wars 2 professions though this list is based on my own experience and the recommendations may not suit your build or playstyle.
If you are a mesmer utilising a pistol or offhand sword, x6 Superior Rune of the Mesmer is unquestionably a brilliant choice. Providing a healthy boost to your Power and Precision, it also extends your Daze duration which is never a bad thing.
As mentioned above, if you are a condition based engineer it's highly recommended you seek out ways to prolong your bleed duration (through traits as well as runes). Utilising x2 Superior Rune of the Krait, x2 Superior Rune of the Centaur and x2 Superior Rune of the Afflicted should allow you to easily reach the 50% duration increase sweet spot that you need.
If you're a bunker ranger utilising conditions, I'd highly recommend you choose a full set of x6 Superior Rune of Dwayna. Most bunker rangers rely on healing power and regeneration to stay alive (as well as to compliment your other boons) putting this specific rune way ahead of others as it does all of those things in abundance.
Most elementalists rely heavily on might stacking. As a result you should seek out (similarly to an engineers principals) 3 sets of might duration runes. x2 Superior Rune of the Fire, x2 Superior Rune of Hoelbrak and x2 Superior Rune of Strength will provide you with a 60% duration to your might boons. Amazing!
Perhaps purely my taste, but I always find x6 Superior Rune of the Undead particularly useful. It gives you a helping hand to toughness but also a good chunk of condition damage. Alternatively, you can always replicate the engineer runes above to prolong your bleed durations (which is what most necromancers do).
Thieves rely heavily on their ability to kill targets quickly. As a result (and you'll notice the huge price tag on the Trading Post) x6 Superior Runes of Divinity are a common choice (they provide 12% extra critical hit damage) which is a huge amount. If you aren't flush with cash, the best alternative is x6 Superior Rune of the Eagle
Similarly to a bunker ranger, the vast majority of guardians use bunker builds. To compliment this, x6 Superior Rune of Dwayna is still a good choice or x6 Superior Rune of the Monk because the Aegis boon on use of an Elite is incredibly annoying to fight against and can work wonders for your party.
A great deal of warrior builds, similarly to an elementalist rely on might stacking. As a result, replicating the rune choice of the elementalist isn't a bad choice (x2 Superior Rune of the Fire, x2 Superior Rune of Hoelbrak and x2 Superior Rune of Strength). However, if you're a full berserker specced warrior after huge damage numbers, replicating the thief and x6 Superior Runes of Divinity or x6 Superior Rune of the Eagle is common practice. Lastly - x6 Superior Runes of the Warrior is always a good option simply because -1 second on weapon swap is surprisingly awesome.