Corrosive and Viral are two of the deadliest secondary elemental damage types in Warframe. Which one would you choose to get the Grineer (and others) reeling in pain?
With all the complexities of Warframe, there is no universal answer. It depends on the flesh type, the armor type, and also the special powers of some units. Let us look in detail if we can come up with a basic rule of thumb.
Corrosive damage has the Corrosion status effect that reduces armor temporarily by 26% and stacks up to 10 times with a maximum armor reduction of 80%. Viral damage comes with the Virus status effect that amplifies damage by 100% the first time and 25% for every additional hit, stacking up to 10 times for a total maximum damage amplification of 425%.
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Let us, for a moment, recall how armor affects damage in Warframe. Effective damage due to Net Armor x is 300/ (300 + x).
With Corrosive and Corrosion status effect, x reduces by 80%, so net x becomes 0.20x. So effective damage is 300/ (300 + 0.20x)
With the Viral and Virus status effect, the damage is increased to 425%. So effective damage is 300/ (300 + x) * 4.25.
Equating and solving gives us x =6500. We could say that in the Warframe Viral vs Corrosive debate that Corrosive works better at armor greater than 6500! But, wait, can we?
Let’s not forget the fact that in Warframe, damage types have different effects depending on armor types and flesh types. Let’s look a bit closer.
For Cloned Flesh/ Ferrite Armor Grineer, Corrosive amplifies damage by 75% while further reducing armor to 25%, so the net damage is 300/ (300 + 0.25 * 0.20x) * 1.75.
For the same, Viral amplifies damage by 75%. The net damage here is 300/(300+x) *1.75. Plugging and solving, we get x as 1238. Beyond this, Corrosive damage inflicts more damage than Viral. 1238 is not a very high armor value. So essentially, with Grineer Cloned Flesh/ Ferrite Armor, it makes more sense to hit Corrosive generally.
Now let’s attack the heavy armament Grineer with Alloy armor. With Alloy armor, Corrosive attack does not reduce armor to 25% and does not amplify damage by 75%. However, viral still attacks the cloned flesh with alloy armor the same way.
Essentially, Corrosive Damage in this case = 300/ (300 +0.20x)
Viral Damage = 300/ (300 + x) * 1.75* 4.25
If you plot these, the interception can only be found by extrapolation, and it lies at around the 100K armor value mark! So clearly, it’s a waste attacking heavy armament Grineer with Corrosive attacks.
Now let us continue the Warframe Corrosive vs. Viral battle for our Corpus units with Flesh health type.
With Ferrite Armor, Corrosive does a 75% damage increase and reduces armor to 25%. So
Corrosive Damage = 300/ (300 + 0.25 * 0.20x) * 1.75
However, with Flesh, Viral only amplifies damage by 50%. Of course, status effects still stack.
Viral damage = 300/ (300 + x) * 1.50 * 4.25
Plugging, we get x = 960! Too low, if you ask me. The rule of thumb is to attack Ferrite Armor / Flesh Corpus units with Corrosive.
With the stronger Alloy Armor, Corrosive again falls flat on its face. It does not reduce Alloy Armor to 25%!
Corrosive Damage in this case = 300/ (300 + 0.20x)
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Viral Damage = 300/ (300 + x) * 1.50 * 4.25
Again, if we plot, the curves do not even meet! Only extrapolating gives us a crazy high value of armor above 80k!
Clearly, Corrosive is no good against strong Alloy Armor/ Flesh units.
Where does all this lead us? Essentially, it clearly shows there is no point hitting Alloy Armor units with Corrosive attacks. For both Cloned Flesh/ Flesh units with Ferrite Armor, both Viral and Corrosive work. Though, Corrosive attacks will work much better with these units at higher armor values, generally above the 1000-1200 range.
With all the complex game mechanics in Warframe, every strategy is always contextual. Whether you choose to hit Corrosive or Viral, you need to look at the specifics of the situation. If you go by broad guidelines like Corrosive is better than Viral at armor above 6500, you are only hurting your gameplay!
Plus, if you want a cheeky pro tip at the end, make your attacks deadly by combining the Viral and the Corrosive damage types! Just go on a killing spree with Viral’s damage amplification at armor reduced to shreds by Corrosive’s armor drops! But before you go about entering your newfound knowledge in the Codex, be sure to test it in the simulacrum!