Modification is one of, if not the most important means of progressing in Warframe. While weapons and the Warframe suits themselves do level up over time, most statistical bonuses to equipment in the game stem from Mods.
It’s odd, then, that such a vital mechanic is also one of the most complicated and confusing things in Warframe. Whether it’s equipping them, upgrading them, or just acquiring them, there is a lot to understand about Mods. With that in mind we’ve compiled a list of some of the most important things you must understand about modding to get the very most out of your machines.
So let's take a look! This guide includes sections to cover Acquiring Different Mods, Applying and Combining Mods, Fusion and Transmutation, plus Catalysts, Reactors, and Forma.
Acquiring Different Mods
Mods make the world of Warframe go ‘round. On a specific in-game suit they affect basic statistics like health, shields, energy pool, and ability cooldowns. On weapons they determine everything from damage types to whether or not you can shoot through walls. They even affect you companions - both A.I. drones and pets as well as human players standing beside you - with bonuses and unique abilities.
Mods, like nearly every basic item in Warframe, drop like candy over the course of regular missions. Killing enemies and destroying containers will drop common ones regularly. Survival, Spy, Excavation, Interception, and Defense missions will also dish them out randomly as rewards for completing objectives. So you should have no trouble finding the most basic necessities.
Not all Mods are created equal, however. Many different classes of Mod exist beyond the basic ones you’ll find on the battlefields of Mars and Ceres. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the broad classes of unique Mods, as well as how to earn them.
Nightmare Mode Mods
Whereas most Mods only provide one bonus - like fire or toxic damage - Nightmare Mods offer two. This makes them incredibly useful and efficient since all equipment can only hold so many Mods at one time.
To earn them, you need to play on “Nightmare Mode” - a higher than normal difficulty setting that’s available for one mission on each planet. To unlock that you first need to beat every single mission on said planet (barring the PVP Dark Sector missions). Then, every eight hours, a mission will be randomly selected for Nightmare Mode.
Besides just being harder, Nightmare missions come with modifiers that make them even trickier. These can include taking away your Warframe’s shields, constantly leeching your health, and a whole lot more. So it’s usually best to play with other human beings to increase your odds of success.
Unfortunately, the Nightmare Mods you earn for completing a mission on Nightmare difficulty are usually random. You won’t know what you worked so hard to earn until you’ve finished it.
The one exception is the slightly rare occurrence of Nightmare Mode Alerts - even more time-limited events that pop up on the star map from time to time. These Alerts tell you which Nightmare Mod you’ll earn for completing the mission. Which makes them a good way to get any such Mods you’re missing. The downside is that these Alerts always have the “No Shields” modifier, plus up to one more.
That makes Warframes that can self-heal, have large pools of hit points, turn invincible incredibly useful for Nightmare Alerts. If you can consider bringing one of the following frames: Nidus, Valkyr, Inaros, or Trinity.
Primed Mods are similar to their Nightmare counterparts in that they provide extra bonuses that normal Mods don’t. Instead of buffing two statistics, however, Primed variants offer extra maximum oomph than more common Mods. For instance, the “Point Blank” Mod is one that increases the overall damage of a shotgun. “Primed Point Blank” does the same thing, except that it gives more damage than the standard version.
What’s irritating is that acquiring Primed Mods is a hefty mix of hard work and dumb luck. They can only be purchased with a unique currency called Ducats. Ducats can only be earned by selling Prime parts (see our crafting guide for details on how to get those) to special kiosks at public player spaces on Mercury, Venus, Earth, Saturn, Europa, Eris, and Pluto. Look for the nodes on these planets called “Relays” and load in. You’ll see the kiosks towards the middle of the main concourse, usually surrounded by other players.
Now here’s the annoying part: you can’t actually spend your Ducats whenever you want. You have to wait for a special NPC called Baro Ki’Teer, the Void Trader, to appear in one of the Relays somewhere in the solar system. This happens only once every two weeks and only for 48 hours. Once Ki’Teer is gone, you’ll have wait another half-month before he returns.
All you Destiny players out there might notice some similarities between Baro Ki’Teer and that game’s limited-time trader, Xur. Also like Xur, the Void Trader’s wares are semi-random. That’s right! Even once you farm your Prime parts, sell them for Ducats, and wait patiently for Ki’Teer’s arrival there’s no guarantee that he’ll have the Primed Mods you need.
If he does, however, you can pick them up for the special currency and a stipend of basic credits. Try to make sure you have plenty of both before the trader arrives. That way you’re not scrambling to farm Ducats and credits during his limited window. To help with that, you can find a real-time clock showing when Baro Ki’Teer is set to arrive here.
Corrupted Mods are the min-maxing evil twins to Nightmare Mods. These suckers still affect multiple elements of Warframes and weapons. But where the hard-won Nightmare Mods provide two benefits, their Corrupted counterparts raise one statistic while lowering another. “Overextended,” for instance, will raise your Warframe’s power range by 90 percent at its maximum level but lower its power strength by 60 percent.
The trade-off is that Corrupted Mods provide much higher bonuses than any other Mods in the game. Not to mention certain Warframes and weapons won’t be as affected by certain downgrades as others. The stealth-focused frame Loki, for example, needs high energy efficiency and power duration to keep his key power, Invisibility, active. So “Narrow Minded” - which raises power duration but lowers power range - will only benefit Invisibility.
Earning these special Mods is slightly complicated - even for Warframe. They’re only found as rewards for special, optional objectives in missions inside a zone called the Orokin Derelict.
You can access the Derelict from the star map like any planet but won’t actually be able to go inside it without single-use Orokin Derelict keys. You can buy blueprints for these keys - which correspond to different mission types on the Derelict - from the marketplace. You can then craft them on your ship’s Foundry using a common resource called Nav Coordinates that drop during regular play.
These aren’t the only keys you’ll need, however. There are four more items called Dragon Keys that must be used to unlock hidden vaults inside Derelict missions. Since there are four keys, and which keys the vaults need are randomized, playing with a full team of four players - each with a different Dragon Key - is practically a must.
You equip Dragon Keys the same way you would health packs, Codex Scanners, and any other consumables. Depending on the Dragon Key you have equipped you’ll also be subject to negative modifiers that reduce your damage, speed, shields, or health. So be careful. Once you expend your Key, however, (assuming you held the correct one) the negative effect dissipates and you’ll receive one random Corrupted Mod upon completing the mission.
Drift Mods are like a special class of Nightmare Mods, in that they provide dual benefits to their users. Only one Drift mod can be equipped to any Warframe at a time, though, and the process for getting them is much more complicated.
After completing the main story quest The Second Dream, players gain access to a new “planet” called Lua. This is actually a modified version of Earth’s moon and a fairly high-level zone in Warframe. More importantly, any mission you partake in on Lua has the chance of housing a “Hall of Ascension.”
These are special rooms with unique puzzles - many of which require (or at least encourage) co-op partners. So it’s often best to go with a group when hunting for Halls of Ascension.
Which of the Halls appear on missions to Lua is random, but the prizes they award are not. There are seven possible puzzles corresponding to seven possible Drift Mods. Depending on which puzzle you complete, you’ll get the Drift Mod that corresponds to that type. You can find a full list of the puzzles here.
Augments are a unique class of Mods that usually don’t just goose a Warframe’s statistics. They add special effects and abilities to specific Warframes and armements that change how that equipment operates. As such, any one Augment can only work with its specifically named weapon or Warframe. “Fatal Teleport” is only available on Ash and Ash Prime, for instance, while “Pilfering Swarm” is exclusive to Hydroid, and so on.
Augment Mods are exclusively purchased with reputation at different Syndicates. To buy them, you’ll need to pledge yourself to a specific Syndicate, rise through its ranks, and earn enough reputation to purchase the desired Mods. Different Syndicates sell different Augments, however, so you won’t be able to earn every Augment by just playing for one faction.
Syndicates can be found at the public player spaces called Relays at Mercury, Venus, Earth, Saturn, Europa, Eris, and Pluto. There you can also speak to the vendor called Teshin, who will sell you PVP-only Augments in exchange for PVP reputation.
Aura Mods are doubly useful items. Not only do they provide benefits to their wearer and that player’s entire team during a mission, they actually increase the number and quality of other Mods you can equip to a Warframe.
Their specific benefits vary, but include things like regenerating energy, regenerating health, or increasing damage with rifles and other weapons. Because Auras affect everyone on the same team in any given mission, these bonuses can actually stack. So if four players have equipped “Corrosive Projection” - which decreases enemy armor throughout an entire mission - it will be four times more effective than just one player equipping the item.
Right now, Aura mods are almost exclusively earned as rewards in time-limited Alert missions.
Riven Mods are unlike anything else in Warframe. Whereas every other Mod, weapon, item, and Warframe in the game comes with predetermined stats and values that are the same for all players, Riven Mods are mostly randomized. Think of them as a more traditional sort of loot - like the kind found in Diablo or World of Warcraft.
Furthermore, Riven Mods can only be obtained after completing the main story quest The War Within. After which you’ll actually get one Riven Mod for free. From there on, however, Riven Mods are mostly acquired by completing extremely high-level daily mission chains called Sorties. You can see each day’s Sortie in the top-right toolbar from the main star map.
Riven Mods don’t actually provide any benefits when you first acquire them. Their descriptions will read as “Veiled” and notify you of a specific challenge or task that you need to complete to unlock their true potential. Unfortunately, you need to have the useless, Veiled Riven Mod equipped while completing the challenge. Once that’s complete, however, the Mods will reveal up to four positive and/or negative effects on whatever piece of equipment they’re meant to be equipped to.