Masters of gun and blade alike, the Tenno are the protagonists of Digital Extreme's Warframe. This popular free-to-play game tasks players with clearing sections of the solar system for sweet loot and cool cosmetics.
When the game mentions that the Tenno are masters of both gun and blade, there is no exaggeration. Melee weapons are some of the most powerful weapons in the entire game, taking out the toughest of targets in a couple of hits. Rapid attacks, fluid combos, and incredible critical and status chances make these weapons shine above most primary weapons. From gunblades to heavy blades, here are the best melee weapons players can currently use in Warframe.
Updated December 23rd, 2021, by Charles Burgar: The melee meta has changed quite a bit in 2021. The introduction of weapon-exclusive Galvanized Mods and Weapon Arcanes has made melee weapons less dominant over the sandbox. Melees are still more than viable, however, capable of one-shotting groups of Steel Path enemies when build right. We've updated this list to include some notable melee weapons we missed in our last ranking.
What could be better than a weapon tailored to a player's preferences? Well, a few things, but player-made melee weapons are still more than viable. Zaws are special, player-made melee weapons crafted at Hok's Anvil in the Plains of Eidolon.
Zaws cover nearly every weapon category in the game. Skull-crushing hammers and swift nikanas are all available here. While more recent melee weapons have better stats than Zaws, all Zaws come with an Exodia Arcane slot. Exodia Arcanes grant powerful passive benefits to your Zaws, some of which grant life steal or AoE pulls upon slamming the ground.
If you decide to grind the Plains of Eidolon to craft your very own Zaw, you'll want to use one of three blade types:
- Sepfahn: Creates staffs and nikanas.
- Plague Kripaph: Creates rapiers and polearms.
- Dokrahm: Creates scythes or heavy blades.
These three blade types have higher base stats than the rest of Hok's blades. You'll find stronger weapons in each individual category than what these parts create, but the value of Exodia Arcanes cannot be overstated. The right Zaw can serve as a specialized sidegrade to more meta picks.
9 Pangolin Prime
The Pangolin Prime is unquestionably the best sword in Warframe. It deals a whopping 248 damage a swing, has a 26% chance to critically hit with a 2.2x multiplier, and it has a 30% status chance per swing. Making a traditional melee build for this weapon will turn you into a red-critting, Slash-inflicting machine.
So why isn't the Pangolin Prime higher on this list? It's boring. This is as generic as melee weapons get. Most sword stances feature rapid slashes or sweeping attacks, nothing truly unique from other melee weapons. Crimson Dervish does give this weapon plenty of sweeping attacks that inflict Slash, but the playstyle itself is quite dull. However, if you're just looking for a weapon that can carve through the Steel Path without any fluff, the Pangolin Prime is a safe bet.
8 Venka Prime
You'll have a hard time finding a better crit-focused melee weapon than the Venka Prime. This weapon comes with a whopping 32% critical chance and 2.6x multiplier, amplifying its 188 base damage into the stratosphere when modded properly.
Better yet, the Venka Prime is the only melee weapon in Warframe capable of reaching a x13 combo multiplier at 240 hits, allowing you to scale combo Mods or Heavy Attacks further than most melee weapons. If you can get past the Venka Prime's incredibly short reach, you'll find that these claws can carve through flesh and armor with ease.
7 Orthos Prime
Polearms are fantastic at clearing out hordes of enemies all around the player, not just in front of them. The Orthos Prime is still one of the best choices for clearing out hordes, thanks mainly to its 24% critical chance and immense range. Build this weapon for critical hits and range to become a whirlwind of death in combat.
You can also use the Guando Prime, but both weapons are about the same in terms of raw lethality. Since the Orthos Prime is an evergreen item—meaning it'll never be vaulted—it slightly edges out the Guando Prime for this list.
6 Gram Prime
Heavy blades were impacted heavily by the melee Mod nerf in the Sisters of Parvos update. These weapons are typically slow and unwieldy, making the nerf to Blood Rush and Condition Overload more impactful on weapons like the Gram Prime.
But does the Gram Prime care about the nerfs? Not even a little. This weapon still chugs along as one of the most powerful melee weapons in Warframe, featuring a DPS value that far surpasses most weapons, even meta picks like the Kronen Prime. With fantastic critical stats and base damage that biases Slash, it's easy to see why its DPS is so high.
Unfortunately, heavy weapons suffer from mediocre stances. Tempo Royale makes up for the unwieldy nature of heavy blades somewhat, although all Heavy Attack stances lack meaningful status procs in their combos. Most combos inflict guaranteed Impact, a status effect that isn't nearly as strong as Slash. It's quite telling that despite the lack of S-tier Stance Mods for heavy blades, the Gram Prime still manages to carve a spot in Warframe's melee meta. If you need a weapon to melt through Acolytes or Liches, look no further.
5 Reaper Prime
The Reaper Prime is a fitting name for this regal scythe. Even after the melee nerfs in Update 30.5, the Reaper Prime still stands as one of the most versatile melee weapons in the game.
A fantastic stat package and solid stances allow the Reaper Prime to excel at virtually everything. Reaping Spiral has many forced Slash procs that the Reaper Prime can take full advantage of, making it a great light attack spam weapon.
If you'd rather kill enemies with Slash procs that deal over a million damage, build the Reaper Prime for Heavy Attacks. All scythe stances force Slash procs on a Heavy Attack, and with the Reaper Prime's great base damage and critical stats, this weapon has no issue killing Acolytes or Liches. Keep an eye out for when this weapon gets unvaulted.
Gunblades are one of the strongest melee archetypes in Warframe due to their inherent benefits of firing projectiles while benefiting from a melee combo multiplier. While the Redeemer Prime is one of the best melee weapons in the game, it doesn't stand a chance against a good Stropha build.
Obtained from the Jackal and various tiers of Granum Void, the Stropha is an Arca Plasmor variant of the Redeemer Prime. This toaster gun/melee hybrid features a 30% critical hit chance with a 2.4x critical damage multiplier with a subpar 14% status chance, although this can easily be fixed with Weeping Wounds. When this weapon is built around Heavy Attacks, nothing within the player's close proximity will survive. Its plasma rounds will disintegrate all but the toughest of foes and penetrate through entire hallways worth of enemies.
Why Not The Redeemer Prime?
The Redeemer Prime is an excellent weapon, arguably a sidegrade to the Stropha. We ranked the Stropha over the Redeemer for two reasons:
- It will never be vaulted.
- It has slightly better critical stats.
Better criticals might not seem like a major boon, yet it makes the Stropha much more consistent. It does suffer from less status chance than the Redeemer Prime, but you can easily fix this with a primer weapon (Kuva Nukor, Epitaph, or the Cedo). For general gameplay, the Stropha slightly edges out over the Redeemer Prime. However, if you're fighting Profit Taker or need to take full advantage of Condition Overload, the Redeemer Prime will serve you better.
3 Nikana Prime
The Nikana Prime has been a powerhouse ever since it was released. Through various updates through the years, the Nikana Prime's identity has slightly shifted towards a Heavy Attack weapon.
And as a Heavy Attack weapon, the Nikana Prime is second to none. Stances like Blind Justice make it a breeze to rack up a high combo counter for your next Heavy Attack. Any enemy unfortunate enough to be in the path of your Heavy Attack swing will cease to exist. Heavy Gunners? Dead. Liches? They'll flee in terror. Acolytes? They'll vanish in an instant. If an enemy somehow survives the initial hit, the following Slash proc will surely kill them. Those looking for a good counter to Steel Path Acolytes or Liches should give the Nikana Prime a try.
2 Glaive Prime
If you're a Warframe veteran, this should come as no surprise. The Glaive Prime is less of a melee weapon and more of a throwable bomb. Very few users equip the Glaive Prime to spam its light attack. This weapon is mainly used for its Heavy Attack, releasing an AoE explosion that deals guaranteed Slash and Impact procs.
Since the Glaive Prime has excellent critical stats and a high status chance, this weapon is the perfect candidate for a hybrid build. A good Heavy Attack build can easily one-shot a horde of enemies with a single Heavy Attack. All glaives can also be paired with a single-handed secondary weapon like the Zakti, applying an immense amount of status procs before you throw a Heavy Attack. This makes Condition Overload absurdly strong on the Glaive Prime, allowing it to clear groups of Steel Path enemies with no issue. If you want an effective melee weapon that doesn't demand light attack spam, you'll love the Glaive Prime.
1 Kronen Prime
This should come as no surprise if you've played Warframe much recently. The Kronen Prime has everything you'd want from a melee weapon:
- High base damage
- Fast attack speed
- Good critical stats
- High status chance
- Good range
- Excellent Stance Mods
Almost every melee weapon has all of those elements except one: a good Stance. Tonfas have some of the best Stances in the game—the most used Stance being Sovereign Outcast. It packs forced status procs, mobility, and multi strikes into a neat package that brings the Kronen Prime to its meta-defining status.
Does this weapon have the highest DPS value? No. Is it the best Heavy Attack weapon? Not even close. But for those that want to swing their melee weapon with reckless abandon against Warframe's toughest foes, the Kronen Prime is hard to beat.
Warframe is an ever-evolving game. What does 2021 have in store?