Genes which confer partial resistance to the rusts in wheat figure prominently in discussions of potential durable resistance strategies. The positional cloning of the first of these genes, Lr34/Yr18 and Yr36, has revealed different protein structures, suggesting that the category of partial resistance genes, as defined by phenotype, likely groups together suites of functionally heterogenous genes. With the number of mapped partial rust resistance genes increasing rapidly as a result of ongoing advances in marker and sequencing technologies, breeding programs needing to select and prioritize genes for deployment confront a fundamental question: which genes or gene combinations are more likely to provide durable protection against these evolving pathogens? We argue that a refined classification of partial rust resistance genes is required to start answering this question, one based not merely on disease phenotype but also on gene cloning, molecular functional characterization, and interactions with other host and pathogen proteins. Combined with accurate and detailed disease phenotyping and standard genetic studies, an integrated wheat-rust interactome promises to provide the basis for a functional classification of partial resistance genes and thus a conceptual framework for their rational deployment.