I’ve been playing both a lot of Index and a lot of Steel Path lately. When I play the same things over and over, I tend to not want to constantly change my Warframe a lot. I also don’t often use specific Warframes for specific tasks, I tend to prefer a generalist Warframe over a specific one. After all, Volt and Saryn are both nuke frames, but I prefer Volt due to his versatility. And while both Loki and Ivara are higher on my most-played list of Warframes, Ash has always been my invisibility frame of choice.
Ash is a great frame, but he kinda needs some help.
Honestly, he’s not that bad.
When it comes to playable frames, Ash is… alright. He’s good enough. Most frames, even hotly disliked ones like Nyx, are usable. Ash is probably just above Nyx when it comes to usability, as he does his job fine enough and he has a strong, coherent theme: that of an actual ninja. You got your shurikens, your invisibility, your teleporting and your mass murder clones. If you started off the game with Ash, you’d actually be able to most of the star chart pretty easily, aside from missions that require crowd control over death.
Ash also has some really good augments. Team invisibility, armour strip, melee combos and insta-finishers are all really good, but you could argue that maybe they should be part of his default kit.
That’s not really good enough.
In the flashy world of Warframe though, Ash doesn’t quite cut it these days. Everyone does something that Ash does, except slightly better. That’s often the case when it comes to jack-of-all-trades Warframes. As mentioned above, Volt can nuke things, but Saryn is better. Mostly due to her Toxin/Corrosive/Viral compared to Volt’s Electric damage. Volt’s versatility comes from his speed buffs, crowd control and unique shields. Ash on the other hand, his main gimmick is mostly killing, mass killing and being invisible, and two of those things are done much better by other frames. Why use Ash when you can use Octavia and do literally everything Ash does but better?
Augments and mods are Ash’s bandaids.
In the past, Ash used to be strong because of his Blade Storm, which did just murder everyone around him, no real aim needed, while Ash became invulnerable. Over time though, Ash’s Blade Storm was reworked into having to highlight enemies, before being reworked again so that Ash just watched his shadow clones do the work and he could just stand around as he pleased. Each time though, some of Ash’s power was taken away.
These days, however, whenever Ash has been at his most powerful, it’s been because of, well, not Ash himself. Ash used to also be insanely strong because of the Fatal Teleport augment. Combined with Covert Lethality, Ash could kill literally anything. Often while being invisible. But Covert Lethality was nerfed to the point of uselessness, so there went Ash’s other strong ability. Fatal Teleport is still good (and better than the base skill) but the instakills are gone forever.
All Ash is really left with is Seeking Shuriken, which works like an armour stripping ability. It’s good but not amazing, since you can only ever throw two shurikens at a time. A very slow way to armour-strip enemies.
Marked For Death could have saved Ash
When the Helminth ability Marked for Death came out, Ash very briefly got to be strong. Marked for Death is an ability that marks a target then damages enemies near the target based on what you do to the target. It doesn’t have great range or base strength. But if you combine it with something like Ash’s Fatal Teleport, then you have a pretty nice mini-nuke. It’s not as effective as things like Saryn, but Marked for Death not only works well with Ash’s kit. And, as a plus, it actually fits well with Ash’s ninja theme!
Except Marked for Death, just like Covert Lethality, got nerfed into the ground. It now has a damage cap and has lost all the little bonuses it had, like a critical chance. I understand fixing Arcane Trickery, which was bugged with Marked for Death, but now Marked for Death deals a percentage of damage to nearby enemies. Which means it can’t really kill very well at all, because enemies only take a percentage of damage.
And we all know that, if you keep on doing 90% of an enemies health as damage, you’re never actually gonna kill them. It’ll be the number rounding that actually finishes them.
So for now, Ash just has to go back to being basic.
It’s a shame, really. Some frames go for years being insanely strong. Meanwhile, frames like Ash just have to sit on the sidelines and hope the few nice things they have don’t get taken away from them.