Warframe for Beginners: which starter warframe to choose?

Here’s one for those of you that are YET to play Warframe – perhaps you are thinking of jumping in following the recent announcements at TennoCon, or maybe you’re thinking of grabbing it once it’s finally released to the Nintendo Switch. Either way, you’ll all be presented with the same conundrum – of the three starter warframes, which one should you choose?

After you sit through the initial cinematic, you’ll be thrown to a selection screen and presented with three options: Excalibur, Volt, and Mag. Of course, there are currently over 35 warframes available within the game, but each of these need to be earned in some way (or purchased), so your first choice will likely be your only warframe for a while, so your choice needs to be a good one.

While the options are good, there are a few reasons that would influence your choice, and it all boils down to one thing – what kind of player are you (or phrased differently, what do you expect to get out of the game)? From my perspective, there are two kinds of players, collectors, and role players (which includes those that just want the “best” option to start with).

Advice for Collectors

Collectors are those players that want to get their hands on everything and expect that if they do get into the game, they will eventually look to get their hands on everything the game has to offer. The advice here is simple to experienced players like me but not immediately apparent.

There are only a couple of ways to acquire a new warframe – most drop as parts from vanquished bosses. Some are awarded as Quest rewards. Others can be purchased from the Clan Tenno Lab – once you’ve joined a clan, of course, and provided the clan has done the research.

Taking the above into account, for collectors, the best choice is the HARDEST to acquire. That is, which one is going to cause the most trouble down the line. In the past, this was Excalibur, as his components were only available towards the end of the Star Map. This represents probably a good 50-100 hours of play, depending on how much you grind and how much support you have. However, this was changed with a recent update, and Excalibur’s parts are now available from Lt Lech Kril on Mars, one of the early planets.
This leaves Volt and Mag as the two best options for collectors. Volt is available for purchase from the Clan Tenno Lab, making him also quite easy to acquire, but it does have a couple of provisos – for one, you need to have joined a clan (which you can do from Mastery Rank 2, which you should hit after only a couple of hours worth of play). More importantly, though, your clan needs to have unlocked Volt through research. Most larger clans have done so, but if you are thinking of starting your own clan, keep this in mind, as you will need to do a bunch of research before you can access everything (research requires resources, and resources require farming).

This leaves Mag as the next possible choice for collectors, although realistically, her parts can be farmed from The Sergeant on Phobos, the next location after Mars. An added bonus is that The Sergeant is probably the easiest boss in the entire game (even calling him a boss is a bit of a joke), so she’s an easy farm for parts. When it comes to required resources for her build, it pretty much matches what is required for Excalibur, so by the time you acquire the resources, you’ll possibly have all of the parts for both.

When all is said and done, access to all three starter frames opens up at around 5-10 hours, so there’s no huge benefit to grabbing one before another. My suggestion would be to start with either Mag, and build Excalibur as soon as possible – by the time you begin to farm for Excalibur, you should have finished levelling your first frame, and Excalibur would be a better second frame to propel you into more difficult content. Volt also has more utility for the later game, so it is best to get Mag mastered early and move on, but that’s just my thoughts.

Advice for Role Players

If you’re not a collector, then you’re one of two other things – you either don’t care, and just want what may arguably be the “best” option, or you have a preferred playstyle and want to see which starter frame would suit you best.

For the former, my choice would be Excalibur, as he has a good balance of damage and utility, and in fact, some of his abilities make him the ideal choice for much of the Star Map (without giving too much away, you can use certain abilities to easily defeat the Specter Rail bosses, which will make progression a great deal easier). However, he is also a fairly straightforward damage-dealing ninja, as opposed to the other two options.
Let’s look at each individually for the role-players.

Excalibur

As mentioned, Excalibur is a damage-dealer, particularly with blades. He has some crowd control utility that comes in handy, but you would choose him if you want to do a lot of damage. He also has some good base stats for armour, and so has good survivability, but his stats level in a linear fashion. That said, his abilities can get quite overpowered when coupled with the right mods in the later game.

Passive – Swordsmanship

Excalibur gets a 10% boost to attack speed and damage for melee attacks when using swords, so it’s best to use these kinds of melee weapons when using him (this is on top of any mods you may be using).

Ability 1 – Slash Dash

Excalibur dashes forward and slashes enemies with his exalted blade, causing damage (primarily slash damage). It’s a fun ability to use but only targets a single enemy with fairly low damage initially.

Ability 2 – Radial Blind

Excalibur uses his exalted blade to cause a bright flash, blinding nearby enemies and causing them to halt movement. This leaves them open to melee finishers. An extremely useful ability when surrounded by enemies, and useful when you want to try to quickly finish tougher enemies.

Ability 3 – Radial Javelin

Excalibur summons javelins in a circle around him, and fires them outwards, damaging nearby enemies. This is a useful ability when surrounded, particularly as each javelin does significant damage that scales as you level.

Ability 4 – Exalted Blade

Excalibur draws his exalted blade and uses it as his melee weapon – when attacking, the weapon emits a wave of damage allowing the attack to ranged damage. This ability uses energy over time and ends either at the choice of the player or on depletion of energy reserves. This is one of the more enjoyable (and highly spammable) abilities in the game. With the right mods and the right conditions, you can almost use this ability endlessly at times. Good fun.

Volt

Volt is a great support frame best employed by those that fully understand his capabilities. His base stats are low, making him very squishy initially, but they scale well, and he has a solid shield base at max level.

Passive – Static Discharge

As Volt moves about, he will build up static energy, which is applied to his next attack (this applies to a single attack only, and stacks up to an additional 1000 electricity damage).

Ability 1 – Shock

As you would expect from an electricity-based frame, Volt can fire a bolt of static electricity at a target, which can chain to surrounding enemies (depending on level). Initially, this is not a very useful ability, as it feels weak, and doesn’t often chain. Over time, it does become more powerful.

Ability 2 – Speed

Volt energises himself and those surrounding him, providing all affected with a movement and agility boost, increased melee attack speed, and an increase to reload speed. An often misunderstood or overlooked ability, this is one of Volt’s best support abilities, and good Volt players will keep this in play for as long as possible.

Ability 3 – Electric Shield

Volt drops a shield comprised of electricity. This provides two functions – it blocks incoming damage, but it also buffs outgoing damage, adding 50% electricity damage and multiplying critical damage by 200%. Again, this is misunderstood by many new players, and Volt’s shield can be extremely useful, particularly against bosses and enemies with large health pools.

Ability 4 – Discharge

Volt will emit an electric charge in pulses, paralysing nearby enemies initially, and causing damage over time. Initially, this feels like a very weak ability, but damage, range, and duration scale over time making this effective at max level, particularly among mobs.

Mag

mag
Mag is a tricky one – she’s is very much a crowd control frame, but given her abilities are based on magnetism, they can be somewhat confusing at first, particularly as there is some additional utility that comes with applying multiple abilities at once. Her base stats are very low, but like Volt, she scales well with high base shield at max level.

Passive – Magnetism

When bullet jumping, Mag attracts nearby pickups, meaning she doesn’t necessarily need to get as close as others. Not an extremely useful passive in reality.

Ability 1 – Pull

Mag uses her control over magnetism to pull enemies towards her, stunning them, and bringing them within melee range. A useful ability in a party that can be utilised to bring specific enemies within range of the group (thereby quickly dispatching a particularly annoying enemy), but not much utility otherwise.

Ability 2 – Magnetise

Mag creates a magnetic field around enemies. This slows targets and causes damage over time, but it also attracts bullets and shards from her third ability, enabling good Mag users to deal large amounts of damage. However, the ability is a little confusing for new users, as it initially seems ineffective. Best used on bosses, shielded enemies, and enemies with large health pools, but multiple magnetic bubbles can be created at a time (up to 4 max).

Ability 3 – Polarise

Mag sends out an energy pulse that removes enemy shields and armour, eventually causing damage, and restores ally shields. Enemies damaged by Polarise also drop up to 2 shards, which can be attracted by Magnetise, causing damage to those ensnared within a Magnetise bubble. For this reason, Mag users should be using Magnetise to ensnare several enemies, followed by Polarise to damage remaining enemies, restore ally shields, and deal greater damage to enemies in a magnetise bubble.

Ability 4 – Crush

Simple really – Mag uses her ability to crush surrounding enemies. This also provides additional damage to enemies ensnared by Magnetise. In addition, Crush helps to replenish shields – an additional 40 units on cast, with a tick over time that increases with level. Much like other 4th abilities, it does feel weak initially, but scales to cause significant damage at max level. Of course, with the right mods equipped, Crush can clear entire mobs.

So there you have it – among the three starter warframes, you have a damage dealer, a support frame, and a crowd control frame (although I feel Mag probably leans more towards damage than actual hard CC). Depending on what you feel suits your playstyle, you should be able to make your choice, but realistically, any of these three will do you well. If you do get the Warframe bug, it won’t be your only warframe for long anyway.

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