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Warframe mods guide for beginners

Learn the ins and outs of Warframe’s mod system

Warframe - the Mesa Warframe poses Image: Digital Extremes

In Warframe, players can unlock new Warframes and weapons to use in missions. Every item you can equip has its own set of stats and properties, which is why a Soma rifle will work very differently than a Hek shotgun. But when players want to make a piece of equipment stronger so they can take on more challenging enemies and levels, they need to upgrade their mods.

If you can equip something, you can mod it — including companions, Archwings, and Warframe accessories like Khora’s Venari. You can find mods as random drops from enemies, get them as awards at the end of missions, or purchased them from faction vendors.

While you should always be installing mods and upgrading them (which we’ll cover in more detail below), you don’t have to worry about doing high-level customization and min-maxing. Choosing mods that boost basic stats like health, shields, and damage is a good strategy and will cover you through the first few planets.


Table of contents


Warframe mod basics

You can access mods through your Mod Station, which lets you browse your collection and install mods into an individual piece of gear from your armory. Select the piece of gear, and then hit Upgrade. This will allow you to see all mods applicable to that piece of gear, to auto-equip them, or to manually apply mods. Some mod slots will be unavailable at first on certain pieces of gear. We’ll explain this in more detail later on.

Here’s what your Warframe’s mod menu will look like when you open it up on one of your characters.

Image: A picture of the Warframe mod screen on a fresh account
Players start with a humble selection of mods and a small capacity to hold them.
Image: Digital Extremes via Polygon

Every piece of gear has three configurations: A, B, and C. This means you can experiment with different mod combinations to create different specializations. For instance, one mod build might be about survivability, making a Warframe tanky and difficult to kill. Another build might be about dealing lots of damage in close combat with enemies. As you collect mods, be sure you equip them and experiment with different combinations.

Let’s look at an individual mod. You’ll see these on mission complete screens and on the side of your screen during a mission when you find one in a level.

Image: The North Wind mod card in Warframe
The North Wind mod, which adds Cold damage to any melee weapon.
Image: Digital Extremes via Polygon

The name and the description are front and center. You can also see the category of the mod. A Warframe mod will fit on any Warframe, but an Atlas mod can only go on the Atlas Warframe. A Hek mod goes on the Hek Shotgun. That includes variants on the Hek, like the Vaykor Hek shotgun.

The individual mod and its information card can come in different colors, which denote rarity. They range from bronze (Common) to silver (Uncommon), gold (Rare), and platinum (Legendary). Purple crystal mods, known as Riven mods, are rare endgame mods that you must equip and unlock via endgame achievements in missions.

Unlike many other games, a rarer mod isn’t usually a sign of being objectively better, despite taking up more capacity than its lower-ranked alternatives. Especially at lower levels, you may be happy with a selection of mostly bronze mods. Always check the effect of the mod over the rarity of the card.

In the top right corner, you’ll see a number and a symbol. The number denotes capacity. Each piece of gear has a capacity that scales with its level, maxing out at 30. You can raise your capacity and add more and increasingly powerful mods.

There’s a small symbol next to that number, which denotes polarity. A mod’s polarity is one of five schools, each represented with their own small shape. The mod menu for a piece of gear also has those symbols on individual gear slots. If there is no symbol, then it is just a standard slot. But if the slot has a polarity symbol on it, equip a mod of the same polarity. It’s much easier than it sounds: Just put cards with a specific symbol in a slot with the same symbol.

If you match symbols, you’ll see them depicted in green, and they’ll cost 50% less capacity. If you mismatch symbols, they’ll be depicted in red, and they’ll cost 25% more capacity.

Warframe - an action shot of Grendel, the newest character, swinging his sword. Image: Digital Extremes

Hitting level 30 (and beyond)

Once you get gear to level 30 and fill its capacity, you can start planning to acquire Orokin Reactors, Orokin Catalysts, and Forma.

  • Catalysts double the capacity of any weapon.
  • Reactors double the capacity of any Warframe.
  • Forma is an item that can change the polarity of a gear slot. Once you change the polarity, your gear resets back to level 1. That allows you to match the polarity on gear slots and mods that you like.

With Forma, you can eventually create a grid perfectly suited to the mods you like best. Here’s what a high-level mod menu will look like for a player who’s advanced and picked up many different mods.

Warframe - a shot of a high-level player’s mod loadout
What a mod screen could look like after 200 hours.
Image: Digital Extremes via Polygon

Aura, Exilus, and Arcane mod slots

What about the missing slots for Aura, Exilus, and Arcane?

The Aura slot is for Aura mods. These mods only go on Warframes, and they effect the entire group of players in a mission. Physique is an incredibly good choice to upgrade as an early Aura mod, because it gives a powerful stat bonus. These mods are unique, as all other mods only effect your character.

Then there are Exilus mods, which are locked until you acquire an Exilus Adapter. You can purchase these with Platinum, earn them through a few campaign story quests, or purchase Blueprints to construct them from faction vendors.

Finally, there are Arcane slots. Don’t worry about these until you’re past “The Second Dream” quest. They’re endgame content, and new players can ignore them.

Making mods stronger

Now, let’s talk about leveling mods up.

When they start, mods are usually unranked: They have the mod’s standard effect, but they aren’t as strong as they could be. Leveling mods up dramatically spikes that effect. For example, Physique gives players a 15% health boost. Leveling it to max turns that into a 90% health boost.

To level up mods, you’ll need to use the mod resource called Endo, as well as Credits. You’ll find Endo during missions as random drops or rewards. That won’t be enough to upgrade all of your mods, but you have options.

Turn your unneeded mods into Endo

Check your Duplicates tab on the mod menu.

You cannot equip two copies of one mod onto a piece of gear. For example, if you have one Endurance mod, you can’t equip a second Endurance for a stacking bonus. You also can’t have the same mod on two pieces of gear. Serration, a rifle damage mod, can go on your companion or your primary weapon, but you can’t use that primary weapon and companion at the same time until you remove the Serration mod from one of their loadouts.

That means you are free to mulch your duplicate mods into Endo. If you have a Flawed Mod, that’s a primary candidate to dissolve as well.

Dissolving is nearly always the best option for duplicate mods over the Transmute option, especially for new players.

Upgrading mods

Now, let’s go through the process of upgrading a mod. We’ve selected Intensify, a mod that increases ability strength, and then we selected Fusion from the mod menu.

Image: A mod screen of the Fusion process in Warframe
Upgrade mods at the Mod Station on your Orbiter.
Image: Digital Extremes via Polygon

Once we have selected the mod and chosen to fuse it with Endo, we just have to select what level we would like to upgrade it to. Here, we can see the full cost of that upgrade, the new stats on the upgraded mod, and the new capacity of the upgraded mod.

Image: A shot of an individual mod being upgraded in Warframe
Intensify now makes our Warframe’s abilities much stronger.
Image: Digital Extremes via Polygon

You can also acquire Ayatan Treasures. Ayatan Treasures and Stars are a mission reward or drop on a map. When you visit the Ayatan Treasure tab on your Mods station, you’ll see a selection of statues and gems.

You can visit Maroo’s Bazaar, a star node in the Mars map, to sell these to Maroo for Endo. Maroo also gives a weekly quest to acquire an Ayatan Treasure after you complete a timed obstacle course. These are a major source of Endo for players at all levels of Warframe.

To maximize the volume of your Endo gain, make sure that the statue is fully socketed. You can make a socketed treasure by going to the Ayatan Treasures tab on the Mods menu and selecting a statue. If you have enough stars of the appropriate color (blue is Common, amber is Rare), you can socket the statue. Maroo will pay the maximum amount of Endo for a socketed statue, whereas selling individual components would get you a significantly lesser amount.

Once you have enough Endo to level up a mod, you can level up any mod on your Orbiter. Select the mod, go to the Upgrade tab, and select the upgrade level you would like to purchase.

Mods seem very complicated, but don’t worry. You can complete the early game just fine without carefully balancing capacities and polarities. Leveling up a few mods like Physique or Serration will allow you to create a powerful Warframe and complete early missions, including campaign missions that require you to solo the content.