Welcome! I suppose you've come here to learn how to mod melee weapons in general. Or maybe this guide has such credibility you've been sent here by grumpy Regiondwellers. They can be allergic to newbie's questions. As I said, this guide covers the basics of melee weapon modding, how to get the maximum out of your melee weapons, and the playstyle you need to adopt with such builds (yes, there actually are differences to it!).
For sake of reasonable length, the effects of Mods in question will not be mentioned here in depth, however their names should link you to the respective Mod pages here on Wikia where you can read about the details and possible bugs. This build is current as in Update 16.1.
Choosing Your Weapon
Doing this is not a clever choice without the knowledge listed below. However, I am concerning this aspect now to offer you a reference as you read. What weapon you choose is dependant not just on what build do you choose to play with, the weapons look differently, often have special properties and some cannot be acquired with a small Mastery Rank. So to get an overview of what choices do you have, take a look at Weapon Comparison, where you can sort the weapons by a given stat and check out the candidates' pages for special properties or bugs they may have.
Categorizing Melee Weapons
One of the most important aspects of deciding on modding your weapon is assessing its greatest advantages. The build is purposed to take these advantages and push them through the roof. With this in mind and considering the array of melee Mods at your disposal, the vast arsenal of Warframe can be narrowed down to just a few variants that have a corresponding build. Here are the builds covered in this guide:
and some special cases
Building the Melee Weapon
Here are mods that must be applied to your melee weapon, no matter what kind of weapon it is. Always use them on maxed rank if you have them. They won't be mentioned further because I absolutely take it for granted that you use them.
Stances should always be used of matching polarity and maxed. The polarity of the Stance slot is actually set to make you use the stance most suited to the particular weapon. If you disagree, however, feel free to polarize the slot.
Also, unless stated otherwise, any other mod mentioned should be at max rank for maximum performance.
Spoiled Strike (use ONLY with maxed Fury mod or when Fury bonus overcomes the penalty of this mod)
This build belongs to any weapon that is not mentioned in other categories, and to a certain extent, is included in all the others to tip in some damage through the last few free mod slots. If you have any free mod slots left after getting a desired build together, use elements.
This build is not exactly harsh on the weapon's mod capacity compared to how efficient it can become, but it requires you to possess a great collection of mods especially because you need different elements against different enemies. And still, actually using a potato is better.
I'm not going into details here and I recommend you to read up on Damage 2.0. I'll just add you can make switching between variants for different factions easier by using the A, B and C mod loadout slots in the Upgrade screen of your weapon.
Also, if you get your hands on so called "event mods" like Pistol Pestilence which give you elemental damage and status chance at a same time, they are a good way to casually assemble an elemental build due to drain/effect ratio. If you want the strongest weapon this build can make though, you need to max the basic element mods. This might make you use several Formas on a weapon to make them fit in.
Mods to use: A lot of different ones, Damage 2.0 can cover you on that.
This build is efficient on quite any weapon that has a base critical chance beyond 15%. Examples could be Tipedo, Dual Zoren, Dual Ichor...
The build results in a vastly increased critical chance and damage multiplier, to such an extent your weapon relies on it to put out decent damage, but usually doesn't let you down.
It has a disadvantage in that it's one of the more strict builds in capacity requirement aspect; if you do not potato your weapon, the build is unreliable and high-level builds often require your weapon to be polarized with Forma.
However, critical damage mightn't be enough. Thanks to the Berserker mod, you can make a critical-built weapon swing at unreal pace which takes your weapon's DPS to unbelievable numbers.
Not as much of a stand-alone build, rather a derivative, but deserves a mention. It applies well to polearms and staves such as Bo, Orthos, Tonbo and Tipedo.
It might seem that range is irrelevant with such a thing as melee weapon. I understand that claim, but I'd still prompt you to procure a Tonbo, maximize range, and perform a spin attack through a middle of a corridor filled with enemies. I've been told the attack has an 8m diameter and 3m height. Given that I repeatedly lost duels against a Tonbo wielder despite my most valiant efforts to dodge (including melee-powered jumps and wallrunning), I must say giving range some love is not without perks.
Since there's just one mod in question, equipping this build is easy.
Mods to use: Reach
This build concerns throwable weapons such as Kestrel, Halikar and Glaive. These weapons can have their attack button held to be thrown like a boomerang and have their own mods, but use normal melee mods too.
Given the stats of the weapons, you apply your knowledge of elemental build, and channeling if you like, in the melee mod aspect. Concerning the special mods, however, there are options.
Firstly, Quick build. For this build, you need the weapon to come back sooner than usual. Use the Quick Return mod to lower the number of bounces, two or three ranks below max for respective amount of bounces.
Secondly, there's Specialized build. You can, but don't have to, make the weapon bounce around more, so use a Rebound mod of which rank is optional. Trying out more different ranks and having several of the mod will help you decide.
Regardless of what you choose, use Power Throw. Also, you may find the throwable weapons (except Glaive Prime) to fly a bit slow, so if you don't mind sacrificing an element or penetration, use the Whirlwind mod.
This build is very special, because it is suitable for any weapon, but also is not. It is also not a build that you can use alone. If you only use channeling mods on your weapon, you will make it a big mess that works for only 10-15 swings. Read up on the appropriate section of Melee 2.0 before reading on.
Now, if you've done so, let's move on. The variety of channeling mods available revolves around temporarily affecting not just damage, but other stats while channeling is active. The point of a channeling build is that you don't care about elemental damage and want to further improve the centerpoint of your weapon's strength.
You have to remember though that your energy will dwindle. You will need that energy to save your butt often, and if you forget yourself and slash around with channeling on, you're done for no matter how much energy and channeling efficiency you had.
Also, I strongly advise against using channeling builds for any critical-built weapons with Berserker, as well as fast-hitting weapons like Dual Daggers, Daggers and Dual Swords. If I had to use channeling, I would pick the heaviest weapon I could find like Galatine. Focusing DPS towards the damage factor rather than attack speed eases up on your energy much more than channeling efficiency alone.
Mods to use:
Include in any build:
Critical/Speed (if you're daft and don't want to use any Warframe abilities)
Note to mod ranking: Reflex Coil and Focus energy always maxed. The other mods cut down your efficiency so you need to keep it in mind and balance the mod effects. Especially with Quickening, since not only it costs more energy to channel, but it drains it faster due to faster attack speed.
There is a small exception in form of Life Strike. It is usable on quite any weapon, but don't rank up too much, if your weapon is strong, you don't need to. Also remember to use Reflex Coil and Focus Energy regardless. Lastly, forget about Life Strike if you play as Valkyr.
Throughout its existence, the Katana has been considered the most versatile and capable sword ever devised. The Nikanas, inspired by this mighty design, tend to remain true to this feat. They possess vast power while maintaining neutrality towards any kind of specialization. This means that whatever build you decide to go with, do it. You won't do a mistake with a Nikana.
A weapon with an integrated shotgun which is either fired by charge attack or through certain combo moves of the Gunblade stance. Elements and a Channeling build (speed/damage channel) is a decent combination if you're planning to shoot the Gunblade more often than swing it.
Playing With Your Weapon
Now that you know how to prepare your weapon, you should learn how to use it. Many weapons are indeed as simple as you might think, but I devised a trick or two in some cases to utilize the performance of the weapon more adequately.
If an enemy suddenly gets close to you (pops from below a corner or makes a run for you), slash him up with Quick Melee. If you see him staggered, line up a nice headshot. Or, if you're feeling badass, take the time to equip the melee and combo your assailant.
If you see a group of enemies ahead and you think you can get to them quickly or go cover to cover, equip your melee beforehand and remember to use blocking while on the way there. Then, just slash them up. Keep in mind that the other enemies don't wait around and will shoot you unless you're already slashing them. They even know to smash their gun into you. Use mobility, and if possible, eliminate enemies that are secluded and separated by cover first. Roll and wallrun often. This confuses them a bit and decreases accuracy ever since the recent AI aiming rework.
What is said here is pretty much the basic melee gameplay.
This might deter you from using this build, but don't bother wielding your melee weapon directly, use Quick Melee instead. I know it means you don't get to use the awesome combos the weapons have, but it's for the better.
In my experience, even though the animation is much faster, the combos take full control from your character away briefly and unless you're slashing at an enemy that is tough for you, half of the attacks of the combo slice air.
This build's power can get insane really quickly if you keep going at the enemy and you need to control its flow. Sometimes, you even end up not being able to do a combo because the pauses and holds of keys become too hard to pull off. So just take your gun and spam the melee button if you get close. Unless it's a (mini)boss, you will rape the enemy anyway.
Mostly basic procedure, but putting some emphasis on spin attacks (also known as coptering) will put your enemy in a world of hurt because the high range will literally mop them up. Also don't be afraid to stand a little bit far from the enemy. The range really works substantially and in case of Infested might help you not get scratched back.
Let's cover the Quick first. The charge attack makes you throw the melee at your reticule regardless of whether you equip it or not. This build is based on a fact that you wouldn't equip the melee too much. Why would you do that when the Throwable stances have such amazing moves? Firstly, the moves are much slower than quick melee and make you an equivalent of a practice target.
Secondly, Halikar in particular makes a good use of "quick" throw because of its ability to disarm enemies. See an annoying Heavy Gunner? Make her lay down her Gorgon in a jiffy and face you like a gal (they are female, after all).
Thirdly, catching the weapon is considered a "single-hand" action and doesn't interrupt most animations, importantly reloading (you need both hands to reload a weapon... weird? Nah, Warframe). If your mag is empty, throw your melee to give the enemy another bump (or maybe stop them from shooting you while you reload with Halikar). If it arrives before you reload, it's okay. You can reload with one hand for a while.
Now for the Specialized. As a contrast to Quick, it assumes you will use your melee equipped, and while Quick build is not punishing when you do this, Specialized build is a strumpet if you don't. The main reason for this is the Rebound mod I made you equip.
If you quick-throw, the weapon will keep bouncing here and there and here, and a wild Butcher will appear, slashing you up. Your reflex has you slash back, but hey... Melee button don't do nothing.
You might think the situation is the same when you equip the weapon. It is. But there is a failsafe. If you use channeling while your weapon is in flight, it explodes, dealing channeling damage without using energy, and starts flying straight to you, ignoring the amount of bounces it has to do and even pierces enemies and objects regardless of Power Throw being on or not.
I'm not telling you you can't quick-throw a Specialized-built melee. It's good for playing with your gun while a flying blade murders enemies in tight spaces. But you really need to be careful with it because it will likely occur that you will need the melee in your hand where it's not.
Apply the procedure according to what build is the Channeling build enhancing. Just be considerate about if you really need that extra ooomph to your weapon right now. If you want to playfully slaughter a few Prod Crewmen, it's a waste of energy. If you see a horde of Chargers heading to you, you will need every bit of attack speed Quickening can give you. If you meet a party of Ancients, make it glow. If you see one heavy, maybe you should consider taking him down normally or another way.
Abide by the build, buddy.
This weapon is extensively reliant on your situational awareness to make every hit count. The charged shot is pretty slow and the quicker combo shots only come at a certain time, never later, never sooner. If you hold on to your Redeemer and meet a single enemy or maybe two afar, go ahead and snipe them. If you see more of them, stop fooling around and use your actual gun or get close and personal.
If you are close and personal, you need to look around for enemies that are close enough for usual melee combat and those who are farther. Then memorize the timing of the combos, know when you will be about to shoot. Until the time comes, slash the close-by enemies. When you're about to shoot, turn to a farther enemy and bludgeon his face with shotgun slugs. Then go back to the melee mayhem.
If you're uncomfortable with this, you can just use the shots close-up too, but personally, the weapon loses the fun and efficiency factor, and I'd stick to pure/throwing melee in this case.
If you read this guide properly, you should be able to mod any melee weapon you come across to its best potential. If a weapon that doesn't fall into any of the builds appears and you'd like to let me know, I'll do my best to amend this guide accordingly.
Frankly, I hope this guide will be noticed among less experienced players and that more experienced players will direct them here since my primary notion of writing this guide was' mild 'annoyance over newbies asking for builds for weapons that are modded the same bloody way.
If you want to see how will the weapon turn out stat-wise without buying it, I highly recommend Warframe Builder, which allows you to punch in the mods of a given rank for a weapon or frame and it tells you what stats will the item have for that particular configuration. It even allows you to share the build with other players so that they may see what stats your current/dream weapon has. You can also check out builds posted by other users and before you ask questions about a certain build here, you better check out the WF Builder entries first. You might find what you seek.
Lastly, I'd like to sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this guide. Hopefully, it will take the occasionally nauseating burden of noob questions off my and my friends' shoulders to some extent.