Now that we've mostly finished with Sisters of Parvos content, this guide is going back to being a generic DPS build -- which means that it outputs massive damage in the most widely applicable way. This is intended for lategame content, but this guide will go over principles of melee build design that can help you even if you don't own all these mods and forma. For those of you reading this guide who don't quite know the ins and outs of modding Warframe melee weapons or the reasons why this style of build is meta, I'll break down the reasoning for the mods used here, starting with the most essential.
Blood Rush: The Critical Chance combo mod. "40% critical chance per combo multiplier" remains the most influential mod in the melee game since it was released. Even in its currently nerfed state, it's a must have in literally any non-heavy attack build. At 12x combo, the Nikana Prime's 28% critical chances gets boosted to 150.2%, meaning that we will have guaranteed yellow crits and 50% chance of orange crits, which is going to get boosted even further by Organ Shatter. This is a must have mod, buy it if you don't have it, selling for about 12-15p on market at the time of writing.
Of course, there is combo decay, which occurs when the player doesn't hit enough enemies in the combo timer window to keep the combo going, which is why I am recommending lenses for Naramon school for the Power Spike ability. Power Spike will cause combo decay to lose only 5 combo points per decay instead of the whole combo counter. If you don't know what an operator is, then drop CO for Body Count.
Weeping Wounds: The Status Chance combo mod. Similar to Blood Rush, but it gives 40% status chance per combo multiplier. Same concept, although there's no benefit for reaching above 100% status chance -- you have only 1 status effect that can be applied per swing. However, we take this because it inflicts two highly effective status effects with our build: Viral and Slash. Viral will increase the enemy's vulnerability to damage, and can be applied up to 10 times with increasing effect. Slash status effects will inflict true damage, which bypasses armor and is considered the best possible damage-over-time effect in the game. Maxing our status chance is also important for the viability of Condition Overload, a mod that multiplies our damage output depending on the number of different statuses inflicted on the target. It's a great mod, but it's a bit more expensive, 25-30p on market at the moment.
Condition Overload and Primed Pressure Point: The Damage mods. It's off-meta to go for both mods at once, but the case for going for both is strong. First, let's explain what they each do. Condition Overload increases your damage output by +80% for every status effect on the target: this build has a very high status chance, so expect to inflict a new status with every swing -- with 2 status effects that's a total of +160%. Primed Pressure Point is a simpler mod, it just increases damage by +165%.
We go for both PPP and CO to maximize damage, using a 2 elemental build. While it's true that a 3 element CO build could get a conditional improvement over our 2 elemental PPP/CO build, the increase from the extra elemental mod and extra 80% would only turn out to be around a 0.3% increase over our build at 2 status effects, due to the outsized effect of PPP. However, a three elemental build would water down the viral procs, which reduces the overall effectiveness of the weapon. Due to the effect of viral procs on damage output, our 2-ele PPP/CO build would outdamage the 3-ele CO build when the third element is applied (each viral stack increases damage dealt by 25%, and even on the last stack, the additional value is more than 8%, outweighing the 0.3% effect of the third element), and PPP would outdamage when it has not been applied -- in other words, the build that goes viral CO/PPP deals the best damage in all situations.
Of course, replacing CO with Primed Smite Grineer or a similar primed faction mod would slightly increase damage output and massively increase slash proc damage, but this is intended to be a generic build, rather than a faction-specific build. Swap CO for a faction mod for maximized damage if you're only targeting a specific faction.
Organ Shatter: The Critical Damage mod. Based on our yellow and orange crits from Blood Rush, we get an average of 6.38x multiplier on any maximum combo swing from this sword. Extremely effective bronze mod that is going to be in virtually every melee build in the game.
Stance and Attack Speed
Primed Fury: The Attack Speed mod. Attacking faster is a way of increasing damage, and any build worth its salt is going to have an attack speed increasing mod in it. Primed Fury is the most consistent in my opinion, and it allows for the player to make use of the Blind Justice dash move (gif and more info below) that essentially serves as both an attack with multiple strikes and a stylish traversal technique. This dash move is also why we use Blind Justice -- nothing against the other movesets, but the Blind Justice dash is simply the best melee attack in the game. The dash move is a forward slash that comes with around 15-20 feet of forward movement -- and the faster your attack speed is, the faster you travel that distance. The +55% attack speed from P. Fury makes it from a simple lunging attack into a cracked bolt of bladed lightning that cuts enemies apart as you pass through them. If you don't have Primed Fury, then just use Berserker Fury or Quickening.
Dash move at 40% speed, following a bullet jump.
Primed Fever Strike: Toxin elemental mod. This is the only primed elemental mod for melee weapons, but even if you only have the regular version, you should be going for Fever Strike due to the effectiveness of viral damage. The Primed version has +165% elemental damage in a single slot, which serves as a multiplier against both critical and damage mods, and is nearly double the effect of regular elemental mods. If you've got 1.5 million credits, 40k endo and 100 platinum to spend, buy up this mod on the market.
North Wind: Cold elemental mod. Necessary to combine with Fever Strike's toxin to make viral. Neatly fits into the Vazarin polarity slot of the Nikana Prime, like it was built for it.
So that's a bunch of mods with a bunch of numbers, but how much damage does it actually do? Here's a conservative estimate of the damage output, to show how all the pieces work together.
- Nikana Prime base damage is 198 per swing.
- The two elemental mods that we use increase our flat damage per swing by +255%, turning our flat damage into 702.9
- Assuming that both statuses are inflicted, the combination of CO and PPP will give us a +325% damage multiplier
- Assuming that we are at 12x combo, our average critical multiplier will be 6.38x, or a +538% damage multiplier
These combine to give us a modded base damage of 702.9 x (1 + 3.25) x (1 + 5.38) = 19,059 damage per swing, nearly 100 times the original damage
For comparison, a 3 ele CO build would arrive at 19,112 damage, an increase of less than 0.3%. Our build has better viral application and damage consistency, more than making up for such a small gap.
The viral status effects that are inflicted on the enemy, but even one proc will increase damage vulnerability by 100%, bringing us to 38,118 damage
Slash procs will apply an additional damage-over-time effect equal to 35% of the damage so far. It also acts as True Damage, bypassing armor, which is a tactical advantage that is harder to quantify. For the sake of this calculation, we'll treat True Damage as a damage increasing effect, using the bypassed damage reduction as the multiplier. Assuming that enemies have around 90% damage reduction from armor, this bypassing effect on the slash DoT would be equivalent to a 1000% damage multiplier on the slash procs, equivalent to 133k damage
- At 25% chance to inflict a slash proc, this means that every 4 swings, the proc would come out, averaging to around 71k damage per swing
Viral-type damage is further multiplied against flesh-type enemies (+75% of our viral damage), giving around 112k damage vs grineer.
- Last, we factor in our attack speed, at 1.68 attacks per second, bringing us to an average of 187,612 damage per second against cloned flesh grineer targets.
Consider this estimate significantly lowballed.
For reasons that are more involved than this napkin math, true damage and viral status effect are going to have larger effect in the game than in this calculation, especially at higher levels and Steel Path. At those levels, you can just feel the difference between builds that have high viral and slash procs, and those that don't, like cutting wood vs cutting butter. This build's effectiveness in those two areas is what makes it so cracked in lategame, bosses and Steel Path.
This calculation was put here to show how the largely opaque system of damage in warframe actually works, and to give people an idea of how to make their own builds, or adjustments to my build. There's a pretty big mismatch between damage calculations and the actual damage number popups in-game, as well as between those two and the actual damage calculations against enemy health bars, so a lot of warframe builds are just flying based on how it feels. I wanted to show how all the pieces of the system work together, what has the most effect on actual damage, and maybe share some understanding from it.
And just for giggles, if we threw out a heavy attack at max combo, the 12x multiplier and the 5x heavy multiplier would put us at around 2.2 million flat damage against any target, plus an 800k true damage slash proc which is guaranteed by any Nikana heavy attack. Heck, that's probably lowballed too.
Examples of how this build performs:
Steel Path -- Level 125 Grineer enemies plus Acolyte. Time to kill: ~6 seconds. Viral/Heat/WW build
Solo with Steel Charge and Shooting Gallery, no other buffs or arcanes. Even when you are not specifically buffing the build to get extra damage, it still destroys Steel Path missions and acolytes very nicely.
Steel Path -- Level 135 Disruption Grineer enemies. Time to kill: ~2-3 seconds per target.
This is more juiced than simulacrum tests or the previous video, but it's closer to actual conditions of endgame Warframe. Uses roar, steel charge, arcanes and extra CO procs from companions/clone. This video uses the main build, but dropping Molten for Might would probably improve performance in this particular mission. These are probably the toughest normal enemies in the game right now, and we go through them very quickly.
Max Level Kuva Lich. Time to kill: ~14 seconds. Using Corrosive/Smite variant of build.
Solo with Steel Charge and Shooting Gallery, no other buffs or arcanes. For liches, corrosive is ideal because of their armor type.
Below this line, the guide may be outdated. Left in to explain the thinking behind the guide and most of it still applies, but likely only refers to an older version of the build with different mod choices. May someday go through and polish it, but for now it's left for anyone curious about melee building.
The most expendable mod in this build is Condition Overload or PPP -- I think CO is more removable, but it depends on whether you want to diminish your damage against single tanky enemies or large swarms of smaller enemies. I'd remove one of the two for Primed Reach for QOL, and then swap it back in if you start needing max dps again.
This build also works great on other Nikanas, although Nikana Prime has the best stats. Zaws can minmax, but since we want both status and crit, the Prime version is the best option. I personally run a Sepfahn Zaw heavy attack build with Exodia Brave to recover energy, but that's a more serious departure from this hybrid light attack build.
Also, remember about Amalgam Daikyu Target Acquired! Lifesteal is massively helpful, and 3% of damage with this weapon turns into a LOT of healing.
FOR SISTERS: Swap WW and CO for Smite Corpus and Gladiator Might.
FOR LICHES: Swap CO for Smite Grineer while grinding high-level grineer mobs. For fighting the liches themselves, drop WW for Gladiator Might. (Warframe bosses always get the old smite and might.)
FOR ACOLYTES: Default guide is optimized for high generic damage, and there is no faction mod for acolytes -- we want WW for the Steel Path missions, and for the slash procs on the acolytes.
Dash Attack (w, m2, e)
New Nikana move as of Update 26.0!
A huge reason I enjoy this build and want to share it is because of the dash attack in Blind Justice. The dash is perfection. Charge forward 10m with the sword extended, striking anyone you reach. The important part here is that when your attack speed increases, so does your warframe's travel speed during the dash.
STANCE COMBO Usage:
The basic idea is to constantly be spamming melee, but switch between different types of combos. Switch between combos using W and Mouse2 as a combo selector. Use heavy attacks on heavy enemies to kill them in one hit. Also, this build is really spammy because of the high attack speed, so I recommend using mousewheel as a melee bind. I use scroll down for light attacks, scroll up for heavy attacks.
- Blind Justice combos:
Use all your combos. It looks cooler that way, and all of them are useful. Add some slide attacks and dash attacks to get mobility, and use aerial heavy slams for crowd control.
Standing combo (melee -- no movement)
Low damage, but it builds combo fast. It's also got a lot of horizontal range, so use this if you're getting swarmed from all sides by light enemies (ie, infested levels).
Walking combo (melee -- while moving)
Ok damage, good range, good movement. Compared to the blocking combo, this has less damage, but more range. Use when you need more aoe. Fast and fluid. Great room-clearer for maps where you're going to one-shot everything.
Blocking combo (aim + melee -- no movement)
Main damage dealer. Does a lot of swings fast, has guaranteed slash procs, this is your DPS combo. Best on single targets, or on tightly clustered groups. Also has guaranteed knockdown procs, which can sometimes ragdoll your target away.
Dashing combo (aim + melee -- while moving)
While the dash is amazingly good, the rest of the dashing combo isn't great. The overhead slam in this move has good damage, but it's got a tiny hitbox that can't be used reliably on more than one enemy. The radial attack has a bigger hitbox, but it's weak. If you just want to zip in and hit one enemy, it's an ok move, but you'd be better off dashing in and then switching to a blocking/walking combo. For style points though, this combo lets you kick enemies in the face.
Nikana's heavy attack is very good. Although we don't use heavy attacks in this build, they will always inflict a slash proc and a knockdown proc, on every enemy hit by the attack. On top of that, the bleed damage scales with the attack that inflicted it, meaning that this bleed proc will benefit from your combo multiplier, and the 5x heavy attack multiplier, and your red/orange crit multiplier. As an alternative to this build, a heavy attack build is very viable with the Nikana.
HEART OF DEIMOS UPDATE:
Dash-rolling is dead, but firedashing is here. If you use Nezha's Firewalker during the Blind Justice dash, you'll do a firedash. Firedashing is a long horizontal leap that uses FW's jumping animation to maintain momentum. Works with Blind Justice, but also works with Daggers and Dual Swords, anything with a high speed dash really.