In a few short years, Warframe has evolved from just a few planets and missions to a sprawling loot-shooter, with over 44 different Warframes (plus Prime variants) and hundreds of weapons. Each one can be customized to fit various roles and functions. That makes picking a single “best build” pretty difficult.
In this article, we will run through some of the stronger Warframes in 2020, but it is important to note that this issue has now been complicated somewhat by the Helminth system. Most intermediate and advanced players will have been playing the game for long enough to have their own styles, builds, and preferences, so we will keep this guide quite simple to best help newer players.
We run through the best Warframes, primary weapons, secondary weapons, and melee weapons for new players here, so scroll down to find exactly what you’re looking for.
The best Warframes for new players
Some of the Warframes below will be available quite early, while others are useful long-term options that you should be considering for help with late-game activities.
Count on Rhino to make a game about space ninjas seem almost boring. His straightforward ability set and tanky disposition make him an excellent choice for missions where you don’t want to worry about dying, or even consider it as a possibility.
It’s all about his second ability, Iron Skin, which creates an extra layer of armor on top of your existing health and shield pool. As long as you keep picking up energy orbs, you can refresh the shield as soon as it runs out, protecting you from any real danger.
Since you can rely on Iron Skin to keep you alive, it’s worth focusing heavily on ability strength, at the cost of duration. Fleeting Expertise and Transient Fortitude are both great options to improve your damage dealing, and Flow or Primed Flow are a must if you have them. Range can help ensure you hit plenty of enemies on your charge, and that your roar can reach all of your teammates.
On almost the opposite end of the difficulty spectrum, the infection known as Nidus has no shields and instead asks you to chain his abilities together to keep yourself alive. Once you’re used to the constant demands of feeding a living virus, Nidus can deal an awesome amount of damage, with excellent crowd control.
He also builds differently than a lot of other warframes in the game. You’ll have to drop your normal shield-boosting mods in favor of power and ability range to help your first two abilities hit as many enemies as possible. This will help you continue to build charges on the Mutation gauge, improving your power and letting you cast your third and fourth abilities. Plus, Nidus’ passive ability, Undying, will bring you back to life immediately if you die, assuming you have at least 15 Mutation stacks.
Like a lot of Warframes, Nidus is all about chaining your abilities together, keeping your energy up, and cashing in those mutation points at the right time.
If you’re looking to spend more time helping your teammates, Oberon is a great choice, and he doesn’t sacrifice your ability to solo and deal damage. He specializes in area of effect damage and healing, which great for dealing with swarms, crowds, and defense missions.
Oberon’s first and second abilities help you deal some extra damage and his second ability has become more potent now that Radiation damage confused enemies, but the third ability, Renewal, is where the magic happens. A field of flowers springs from the ground, healing allies inside over time. It lasts until you manually cancel it, but it will drain your mana, depending on how many people are inside, and how hurt they are.
With Oberon, you want to build toward ability strength and range, allowing your abilities to affect more enemies and allies and deal more damage or provide more healing. Rage can help convert damage you take, which Renewal will heal, into more usable energy to heal your teammates.
The dragon Warframe Chroma has a unique trait that’s quite useful for end-game missions. You can adjust his ability damage type and traits by changing his color scheme. You can set the different appearance loadouts to different color sets for the proper elements against each enemy.
Chroma really shines in boss fights. His third ability, Vex Armor, converts damage Chroma takes into extra weapon damage. Turn it on, let some of the trash mobs attack you, then deal up to 275% more damage with your best weapon. This can quickly shred even the most dangerous boss’s health, making Chroma an excellent addition to any team for Sorties or Assassination grinding. He is also still one of the standout Eidolon hunters in the game, as long as you can keep his Vex Armor buff maxed for when you need it.
Apart from the exciting damage boost, Chroma’s abilities are mostly AoE focused, and either deal damage or boost teammates, depending on which colors you choose. However you choose to outfit Chroma, we recommend building for Ability Power and Ability Duration, so you can make the most out of the awesomely powerful Vex Armor.
The definition of glass cannon, Mesa deals wild amounts of damage to single targets, at the cost of a small health and shield pool, and only one true defensive ability. Instead, you’ll have to keep moving and dispatch your enemies quickly to stay alive.
Fans of Blizzard’s Overwatch may recognize Mesa’s ultimate ability, Peacemaker. When activated, you stop in place and hold the trigger to unleash a storm of bullets at your enemies without having to aim. You can either let it run until you run out of energy or stop it by pressing the ability key again.
Mesa’s relatively low defense capabilities definitely require a deft hand and quick parkour skills. As a reward, you’ll deal massive amounts of damage and tear down enemies quickly, assuming you survive. Building up your ability power, maximum energy, and duration will give you the best fighting chance, and the right Arcanes that give additional damage and fire rate based on crits will turn her into a monster.
Inaros is another impressively tanky Warframe that doesn’t have shields but can be modded to have a massive health pool. He can also be made practically unkillable with Arcane Grace, as he will never take more damage than he is able to heal. While not an exciting Warframe, he is superb for long Arbitration missions if you are worried about dying too much, and a little bit of range in his build can give him an impressive way to deal out some crowd control by throwing sand in his enemies eyes.
Inaros is incredibly fun to pair with very strong melee weapons, as he is less reliant on ability spamming to keep him alive and you can just stay in the thick of it with enemies and mulch them up like soft summer grass.
The best Primary Weapons for new players
Warframe encourages you to build and master as many weapons as possible. Not only does this build up your Mastery Rank, allowing you access to new content and weapons, but it also provides you with a lot of options for challenging missions.
At some point, you are going to get hunted by the Stalker, and it is something I would actively encourage you to try and make happen if you are new to the game. The Stalker will come after you if you kill bosses, and you should be trying to do this to get access to new Warframes. If you manage to kill the Stalker, you can get the Dread, arguably the best bow in the game.
It combines solid damage with a high critical chance and multiplier, making it something that can actually bring you into the end game without much issue. Mod this for damage, critical chance, and multishot and throw on some elemental damage mods and you have yourself one hell of a weapon.
For the shotgun fans, Hek is available at Mastery Rank 4, and packs all of its pellets into a narrow cone, for high stopping power at short range. It should feel familiar to classic shotguns, so you can charge through huge crowds and tear them down quickly.
In addition to building for raw damage, Hek has its own augment mod, Scattered Justice, that provides punch-through and a unique ability. Collecting enough affinity with Hek will cause a blast of AoE damage, and restore some of your health. No real secret there, just keep killing to stay alive.
Shotguns in Warframe also have the advantage of high status chance, thanks to more pellets hitting the target. You can use this to your advantage to boost more powerful status effects in situations where you won’t kill the target on the first hit.
The Ignis is the ultimate room cleaner in Warframe. It shoots a jet of pure heat damage at enemies, reducing their armor and making them more susceptible to damage. A Mastery Rank 5 weapon, it does impressive damage when modded for pure damage, some extra elemental types, and adding Heavy Caliber will increase the damage and the spread. You can pick up the blueprint from the Chem Lab in the Clan Dojo.
The Corinth is a little higher in the Mastery Rank requirement, coming in at MR 8, but its a superb shotgun. A fast rate of fire, excellent critical stats, and an alternate firing mode that will obliterate groups, the Corinth is a weapon for all occasions.
At some point, you will need the single target damage of a good Sniper Rifle, and the Rubico and Rubico Prime are personal favorites. You can get the RUbico at MR 6, and this fast-firing Sniper Rifle will increase in damage as you zoom in, and land shots.
The best Secondary Weapons for new players
Your offhand weapon isn’t just for when you run out of ammo. You’ll end up using it in a variety of missions and situations, not the least of which is that it becomes your last line of defense if you get downed. Like primary weapons, it’s worthwhile to build and configure a number of secondary weapons for different situations and enemy types.
An advanced technique in Warframe is the idea of Condition Overload Priming. Condition Overload is a powerful melee mod that improves melee weapon damage for every status type an enemy is afflicted by. The Atomos is basically a one-handed Ignis, and you can easily spray down a group of enemies with it, doing lots of status damage, then jump into the mix with your melee weapon and completely melt them.
If you want to try it out, build for high status chance, and different damage types than you use on your melee weapons to maximize the benefit. You can grab this weapon at MR 5, so can start experimenting with the method early.
Continuing our run of non-traditional secondaries, the Gammacor fires laser beams and deals innate magnetic damage, stripping away Corpus shields with ease. It’s not quite as satisfying as the Sonicor’s audio blasting power, but it does feel pretty good to melt enemies.
You should take the Gammacor’s high status chance and run with it, boosting up the status damage and multi-shot to bring the most pain to any faction. The multi-shot mods, Barrel Diffusion, and Lethal Torrent help increase your laser’s speed and damage.
Down the road, if you find yourself using the Gammacor a lot, the Synoid Gammacor comes from the Cephalon Suda syndicate rewards and is worth the upgrade. It boasts higher stats almost across the board, with a slightly slower reload speed.
The Pandero was introduced as Octavia’s signature weapon. It can fire in semi-auto to take advantage of high critical chance and damage multipliers, or it can dump all rounds in a burst to put out some massive damage. It’s also high in Slash damage, one of the most advantageous damage types in the game at the moment. Another weapon that offers great adaptability depending on the threat you are dealing with.
The Grineer Marelok boasts high base damage, and importantly, status chance. Effective use of multi-shot boosting and status mods can boost the chance this high recoil weapon hits its target, or one nearby.
Marelok works well by leaning on its already-high status chance. Lethal Torrent, Barrel Diffusion, and a combination of the gold status damage/chance mods (Jolt, Scorch, etc) can push the status chance to 100 percent, so it procs on every hit. All of those mods are useful in other weapons, and maxing them out should be a priority anyway.
The Marelok is a straightforward sidearm with a lot of potential, and it doesn’t need much adjustment from round to round. It doesn’t have the best range though, so you’ll want to stick with a primary unless you’re up close and personal. Marelock is a great option if your loadout lacks real single target damage.
Are you ready to channel the awesome power of Clem? How often do you see a Primary weapon become a secondary weapon? Not very often, but that is what happens with the Twin Grakatas. Instead of one gun, there are now two, and they are in your Secondary slot, freeing up your Primary slot for something else. Hard to find a better deal than that. While the weapons do have pretty high recoil, that can be solved with the right mods, and it also comes with innate multishot, high critical Chance, and an extremely high rate of fire to churn out the damage.
The best Melee Weapons for new characters
In Warframe, your melee weapon determines both damage dealt and movement pattern. It can affect the way you jump, dive, roll, and slam into the ground, based on the weapon type and stance mod you choose.
Gram is a heavy blade that you get at Mastery Rank 2, and while you might not have the mods as a new player to really make it shine, it will eventually become a complete monster with the right build. You can then transition to the Gram Prime, it’s bigger, badder brother. The Gram shines thanks to high Slash damage, good critical stats, and decent status. If you like the idea of running Rhino or Inaros and just not needing to care about whatever is around, the Gram is a solid option.
While Broken War is technically locked until Mastery Rank 10, you can receive it for completing the Second Dream quest after Mastery Rank 3. It’s one of the best one-handed swords in the early game and looks pretty mean to boot.
Like most weapons, you’ll want to build for damage and status chance, but Blood Rush can certainly help when paired up with a fast stance. It blinds nearby enemies as you swing, which can help you deliver a chain of devastating blows without taking any damage.
It’s worth hanging onto even if you don’t use it that much, because its parts only drop from the Shadow Stalker, so it’s hard to rebuild. It’s also a piece of the larger War greatsword, which is great for fans of giant, sweeping weapons.
You can get your hands on the Lesion at Mastery Rank 7, and it is something I use constantly in the late game. Amazing status chance means this thing will rip enemies apart when combined with mods like Condition Overload, some elemental mods in the form of Dual Stat mods that give both Status Chance and Elemental damage, and some attack speed.