How much do you get into the nitty-gritty of character building in games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt? If you’re anything like me, that probably depends on how long you’ve been playing. After all, it’s natural to tackle the big questions first to familiarize oneself with the fundamentals of play before delving into the tiny details of stat optimization. 

In other words, if you’re still learning the basics of being a witcher, this article won’t be the most helpful for you. But if you’ve made a vivisected cadaver of Witcher 3  spitting endregas on the point of Aerondight or pirouetting in your Grandmaster Feline Armor or bisecting people with the mighty TKSS — then using the Witcher 3 best runestones is a smart idea. That’s precisely what we’ll be discussing here. 

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In this article, we’ll break down the broad concepts surrounding runes and related items. Then we’ll go through the best runestones for your silver and steel swords and your armor. To round out the article, we’ll discuss the merits of Enchanting with the Runewright, analyzing whether the cost-to-benefits ratio pans out for the enterprising mage from distant Ofier. 

Runestones 101

Runes and glyphs are the most basic equipment upgrades in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Runes, which can produce status effects like freezing and burning or buffs like boosting damage and piercing armor, are slotted into weapons. Glyphs, meanwhile, usually boost a given Sign’s intensity and are slotted into armor. These items will often just give you an edge in combat, but if you make the right choices in the context of your build and equipment, they can be downright transformative. 

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Runestones at work

Now that you’re acquainted, how best to go about acquiring the Witcher 3 best runestones and glyphs? The simplest and most natural way is to explore the world, turning out a few pockets and looting a few chests until you find them. Beyond that, you can purchase them from merchants, with a given blacksmith or armorer providing runes or glyphs, respectively. 

This is quite expensive, so it behooves the thrifty witcher to dismantle old items, invest in some diagrams, and craft the runes directly. Doing so will cut down on costs and likely save time in the long run. The ability to craft a rune — and Geralt’s natural magnetism when it comes to crafting materials — will frequently result in quick creations that eliminate the need to run to a bunch of different merchants, all for one project. 

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The crafting screen

Best Runestones for Steel Sword in Witcher 3

When considering what the best runestones in Witcher 3 are, one must consider matters in context. In the case of steel swords, one need not worry about an abundance of resistances or a particularly diverse roster of opponents to counter. The threats addressed by the steel sword include humanoids and beasts. Generally, this means that you’ll be fighting bandits, wolves, and bears. Yes, other variants exist, but these are your most common foes. So how does one prepare for dispatching them?

As far as the Witcher 3 best runestones are concerned, Dazhbog and Triglav (which have a chance to inflict burning or stun, respectively) are significantly more effective to use on humanoids and beasts as opposed to monsters. As mentioned, resistances are considerably less common, and group fights are arguably the most dangerous types you can have with a steel sword. The extra crowd control provided by the stun and the burning is a considerable boon. 

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Side effects of rune use may include transformation of one’s sword into a lightsaber

Having established rules for the steel swords, what about the exceptions? In the case of something like the Toussaint Knight’s Steel Sword (or TKSS, for short), a rune like Dazhbog is a bit redundant. The TKSS reliably leaves folk (or fauna) flailing and flaming, so it might behoove you to double down on stuns or boost overall damage for an extra edge. Accordingly, excising Dazhbog in favor of more Triglav runes, or perhaps Chernobog or Zoria, would be a smart move. 

Best Runestones for Silver Sword in Witcher 3

As one might expect, the rules are a bit different when dealing with monsters. For the silver sword, enough enemies tend to have resistances that it makes more sense to invest in damage and armor-piercing capabilities. For these purposes, the Chernobog and Svarog runestones are your friends. The Greater Chernobog Runes are the best DPS runestones in Witcher 3, while the Greater Svarog Runes are the best AP runestones in Witcher 3. Of course, these are not as flashy as inflicting burning or freezing, but they’re certainly more practical for silver swords. 

As a rule of thumb, two Chernobog runestones and one Svarog runestone will serve a sword well. For those lamenting the lack of specialization here, there’s also the simple fact to consider that monsters are considerably more diverse than humanoids and beasts. You’ll need a broader, more generalized approach if you want your runestones to be as effective as possible on as many different enemies as possible. 

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Pictured: insane beach dance party

That said, and like we discussed with steel swords, what are the exceptions to the rule? For one, specialized builds often call for specialized equipment choices. If you want to rock a sign-heavy build, chances are good that you’ll benefit most from the Veles runes, which provide a bonus to Sign Intensity. It’s also worth considering which part of the game for which you’re optimizing your version of Geralt. The needs of a White Orchard Geralt differ considerably from those of a Toussaint Geralt. 

If you’re not sure what you need for your part of the game, take stock of the types of enemies you’ve been encountering lately. Pay attention to plot details that might indicate the enemies you’re about to fight. Once you’ve been playing a while, you can guess along with Geralt what monster you’re likely to encounter while tackling a given contract.  

Best Armor Runestones in Witcher 3 (Glyphs)

Now that you’ve devised all the different ways you’re going to eviscerate and incinerate your foes with sword runes, what about armor? Almost all glyphs enhance the Sign Intensity of a given spell, so that question will be a matter of personal taste to some degree. That said, there’s a clear choice from which the vast majority of players will benefit. It also stands among the best Death March runestones in Witcher 3, at least where armor is concerned. 

Those of you who have been reading my armor guides know that I am a consummate Quen advocate. Once, when both The Witcher 3 and I were younger, I treated it as a quaint little sign, a crutch to use when unable to parry. Now, playing on the hardest difficulty and continually revisiting the game for work, Quen is an indispensable part of my toolbelt. Most of the time, it’s just a reliable way to get out of a fight with full health. But for truly grueling encounters, Quen is the difference between life and death. 

Runewords and Glyphwords?

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The Enchanting screen

In the past, I’ve come down pretty hard on our good friend the Runewright. I’ve largely dismissed him as prohibitively expensive and his offered upgrades as anything ranging from mostly unnecessary to straight-up terrible. To a certain extent, this is deserved. The cost of upgrading his tools is so exorbitant that the game literally jokes about it. To make matters worse, other late-game money sinks (forging Grandmaster witcher gear with Lazare Lafargue, for example) tend to be much more vital and urgent investments for the player. Even still, I felt the Runewright deserved another shot. The question is, did he earn it?

The answer is, distressingly, “sort of.” One particular combination comes to mind as worthwhile — pairing the Invigoration runeword with the Troll and Water Hag decoctions, along with Swallow for added Vitality regeneration. Invigoration itself provides a damage boost proportional to the amount of health regen the player has active in a given moment. The result is that if you’ve got a sword like the TKSS, which already rocks crazy abilities inherently, Invigoration will provide a notably higher damage boost than, say, rocking three Greater Chernobog Runestones.  

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Crafting screen for the Greater Chernobog Runestone

With that in mind, what’s the problem? If it beats out, you know, the damage runestone, and what you’re looking for is extra damage to make a beast like the TKSS that much beastlier, why get cold feet on Invigoration? For one, the runeword itself isn’t the only part of the equation. If you’ve been reading along with guides like these, constructing a build kitted out for it as you play, it won’t be too much of an issue. But if you haven’t kept up with a particular build or gone out of your way to unlock all of the potions and decoctions in the game, you’ll be stuck without key factors that make Invigoration worthwhile. 

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Damage stats with the Invigoration runeword

So maybe sleep on Invigoration for a bit. It’s certainly worth picking up at some point, particularly if you’re interested in doing NG+, but wait until you have enough disposable income — and have made most of the big purchases you intend to make already — before looking too deeply into it. You can also mitigate costs somewhat by focusing on looting, dismantling, and crafting as methods of acquiring runes and ingredients.

On the Path

One of the most exciting things about the Witcher 3 best runestones and glyphs is how much they encourage experimentation. It’s easy to remove old runestones and try out some new ones, meaning that you can continually adjust and fine-tune your equipment to fit the needs of a given journey or contract. If a suggestion on this list doesn’t match with the current needs of your Geralt, you’ve hopefully gotten a sense for how to suss out that best fit. 

May your runes and glyphs serve you well, and good luck on the Path!

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