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1) gripping and shield runes aren't critical to high tier combat. Useful, yes. Required, not at all. I have a gripping just because I got irritated with my athame decaying. Never had one before that.
2)Since whatever you attach a shield rune replaces a shield, and caster weapons are all one handed, you don't actually have to trade in your runes. It is now a fully functional shield for use in any guild. Can spend 50 credits to customize it if the RP is off, worst case scenario. Viynain is a Pyro with a shield runed athame, for example.
Everiine said:"'Cause the fighting don't stop till I walk in."-Synkarin's Lament.
Shieldrunes are a bigger deal now a days since shieldstats were nerfed a while back, I forget what the best shield is now, but 52/52 is loads above regular shield stats.