MHW Hidden Element Guide – When to Use Free Elem / Ammo Up

Hello there, hunters. If Monster Hunter World is your first game in the series, you may be very, very confused by this whole hidden element system. I’m over 100 hours into the game myself, and still grappling with how the grayed our numbers work (not to mention when I should and shouldn’t use them). So sit back, relax, and let daddy Fanbyte explain the MHW hidden element system.

More MHW Iceborne:

What is a Hidden Element?

When playing MHW, you may notice some of your weapons have their elemental effects grayed out and inside parentheses. It’ll look a bit like this: “Sleep (180).” They don’t appear white like Ice, Fire, and Thunder weapons normally do. This usually affects statuses such as Sleep, Poison, and Blast. The gist is that these hidden elements only activate with a Free Elem / Ammo Up Decoration, armor trait, or charm.  Otherwise they do no additional damage or status effects!

Oh, and Namielle armor from the Iceborne expansion will also awaken these hidden elements with Element Acceleration or True Element Acceleration — assuming you equip three or five pieces. This has the added benefit of boosting elemental damage. Though it doesn’t work on status effects at all.

As a whole, this means weapons without these effects are better for new players. Having all of the right armor, charms, or gems can be very difficult with limited sources. There are three levels to the skill needed to draw out a hidden element, so you’ll need multiple sources — or one very powerful one like the fully leveled charm.

  • Level 1: Draws out 33 percent of hidden element and expands magazine size for some ammo
  • Level 2: Draws out 66 percent of hidden element and expands magazine size for more ammo
  • Level 3: Draws out 100 percent of hidden element and expands magazine size for most ammo

When Should I Use a Hidden Element?

Understanding the Hidden Element system is easy. Knowing when to use weapons with hidden elements over their non-hidden counterparts is hard. Some weapons, even having been fully activated, just aren’t strong enough to justify using up that many gem slots. Others are strong, but better off being left inactive while you focus your gem slots on other buffs.

This is particularly difficult for anyone playing catch-up because of Iceborne. Capcom added new Defender sets somewhat recently — which help you power through the original MHW experience and get to the new content. These weapons are understandably stronger than most of the game’s original weapons for when they unlock in the campaign. They even beat out some of the low-level Master Rank gear while you’re getting through the first few monsters.

My recommendation? For a quick check, just add up all of the damage stats. Take the base damage and elemental damage sources; then add them together. That’s a great baseline. Of course, things aren’t that straightforward. Some weapons provide a defense boost, while others have multiple elements (excellent for monsters with multiple weaknesses).

Then there’s the whole Affinity system. For the record, Affinity is your weapon’s chance at landing a critical hit. Not to mention weapons with a hidden element can use the Non-Elemental Boost skill for a five percent increase to raw damage — ignoring the hidden element altogether.

When in doubt, just take your loadouts  to the training area and let a few combos loose! Watch the total damage number and see how well they damage the dummies there. Then pick accordingly.

Free Elem / Ammo Up Sources

So you want to power up your hidden element weapons. There are a few ways to do it: craft armor that already has the trait, build and equip the charm, or add Decorations to your armor. The easiest method for beginners is to craft the armor which already has the traits.

Charms can be extremely hard to upgrade and, while you can get Awakening Charm 1 relatively easy, it only provides the 33 percent activation by itself. I personally don’t think that’s worth sacrificing the plethora of other charms you could be using. In my game, I’d have to sacrifice a Defense Charm 3 which provides the Level 3 Defense Boost effect, giving me five percent Defense and 10 bonus Defense. More importantly, it makes it so that I can more easily get to the higher levels of the buff.

You probably also don’t have the right or enough Decorations to charge up the buff so the armor sets are almost the necessary choice.

Namielle Divinity (Element Acceleration) Bonus

Besides buffing elemental damage in general, the release of Iceborne included a special new skill that can also draw out hidden elements without using the normal Free Elem / Ammo Up skill. This is Namielle Divinity. By equipping any two or any four pieces of the Elder Dragon’s armor, you get access to a special armor skill that essentially triggers Free Elem / Ammo Up just by repeatedly attacking a monster.

Otherwise known as Element Acceleration and True Element Acceleration, these set bonuses can also increase elemental damage in general — even if you aren’t using a weapon with a hidden element. The bonus for using a weapon that does have a hidden element, however, is equivalent to level two Free Elem / Ammo Up (66 percent of the grayed out damage) or level three (100 percent of the grayed out damage). Two pieces of Namielle gear will get you the former bonus, while four pieces will get you the latter. Though it’s hard to recommend the full, four-piece set. Standard Namielle armor is simply weaker than most other endgame options.

Once you trigger the Namielle Divinity bonus, you only have a few seconds to take advantage of the effect. After which the bonus will wear off, and you’ll need to repeatedly attack a monster again to restart the bonus. The bonus will also negate any extra damage you get from a Non-Elemental Boost skill. Build your armor set accordingly!

High Rank Armor With Free Element

  • Kirin Alpha: Waist, Legs
  • Kirin Beta: Legs
  • Kirin Gamma: Chest, Gloves
  • Kulve Taroth Alpha: Chest, Gloves, Waist
  • Kulve Taroth Beta: Gloves, Waist
  • Zorah Alpha: Gloves
  • Zorah Beta: Gloves
  • Rath Soul Alpha: Chest
  • Rath Soul Beta: Chest
  • Dober Alpha: Head
  • Dober Beta: Head
  • Death Stench Alpha: Chest

Master Rank Armor with Free Element

  • Artian Alpha: Head, Gloves
  • Artian Beta: Head, Gloves
  • Kirin Alpha +: Waist, Legs
  • Kirin Beta +: Legs
  • Girros Alpha +: Chest, Gloves, Legs
  • Girroa Beta +: Gloves
  • Ingot Alpha +: Chest, Waist, Legs
  • Ingot Beta +: Chest, Waist, Legs
  • Dober Alpha +: Head
  • Dober Beta +: Head
  • Tzitzi Alpha +: Head
  • Tzitzi Beta +: Head
  • Rath Soul Alpha +: Chest
  • Rath Beta +: Chest


  • Awakening Charm I – 1 Zorah Magdaros Gem, 5 Zorah Magdaros Magma, 4 Dragonvein Crystal, 1 Aquacore Ore
  • Awakening Charm 2 – 1 Kirin Azure Horn, 1 Kirin Thundertail, 1 Novacrystal, 1 Dreamcore Ore
  • Awakening Charm 3 – 3 Tempered Kirin Horn, 1 Guiding Coral Dragonbone, 1 Great Spiritvein Gem, 1 Shadowcore Ore

Free Elem / Ammo Up Decorations

These Decorations are randomly dropped from quests, some special events, and the Elder Melder. What you’re looking for is the “Release” moniker in any gem name. These include:

  • Release Jewel 3
  • Release/Evasion Jewel 4
  • Release/Maintenance Jewel 4
  • Release/Medicine Jewel 4
  • Release/Physique Jewel 4
  • Release/Protection Jewel 4
  • Release/Vitality Jewel 4
  • Bomber/Release Jewel 4
  • Crisis/Release Jewel 4
  • Drain/Release Jewel 4
  • Flight/Release Jewel 4
  • Fortitude/Release Jewel 4
  • Friendship/Release Jewel 4
  • Fungiform/Release Jewel 4
  • Gobbler/Release Jewel 4
  • Grinder/Release Jewel 4
  • Guardian/Release Jewel 4
  • Ironwall/Release Jewel 4
  • Jumping/Release Jewel 4
  • Refresh/Release Jewel 4
  • Resistor/Release Jewel 4
  • Satiated/Release Jewel 4
  • Sheath/Release Jewel 4
  • Slider/Release Jewel 4
  • Sprinter/Release Jewel 4
  • Stonethrower/Release Jewel 4

And that’s it! Hopefully this helps you figure out the system. If you have any remaining questions, do leave them in the comments below!