The best Aetherium Crystals upgrades in Black Ops Cold War zombies

Here's how to get those precious crystals, and where you should invest them

Keep getting clobbered by zombies even when you’ve chugged down a Juggernog? Want to make your best zombies loadout even stronger? Need to keep reviving your puny teammate? Well Aetherium Crystals may be the solution all of the above in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War zombies.

Aetherium Crystals are a new currency in the Call of Duty zombies mode and give players a chance to upgrade their weapons, ammo mods, perks, and field upgrades to give them more of an advantage against the hordes. Thanks to an update to the upgrade system in Season Two, each class of weapon, ammo mag, perk, and field upgrade has five stages to upgrade to.

Season Two also introduced two new types of Aetherium Crystals – Refined and Flawless – which are used to upgrade your gear to tiers four and five, respectively. To fully max everything you possibly can out right now in Black Ops Cold War zombies, you will need 168 Raw Aetherium Crystals, 112 Refined Aetherium Crystals, and 140 Flawless Crystals. This is the maximum amount you can earn of each type, so once you hit that limit, you’ll stop earning them in-game.

Aetherium Crystals aren’t easy to come by though, and getting them – particularly the new high-rarity ones – can be tough. So how do you earn them, what upgrades are there, and if you haven’t got the time to grind and earn all of them, where should you invest your Aetherium Crystals?

How to get Aetherium Crystals in Black Ops Cold War Zombies

Here we’re going to go through how to earn each type of Aetherium Crystal, and how they’re used to upgrade your loadout.

Raw Aetherium Crystals

There are currently three ways to earn regular Aetherium Crystals in Black Ops Cold War zombies.

The first is to complete milestone rounds during a zombies run on Die Maschine and Firebase Z. These milestone rounds are every five rounds from round ten onwards. The amount of crystals you earn for each milestone round does vary, so here’s a chart showing you how many you’re expected to get at the end of each milestone round.

Aetherium Crystals Completed milestone rounds
1 10, 15, 20, 25
2 30, 35
3 40, 45
4 50, 55
5 60, 65
6 70, 75
7 80, 85
8 90, 95
9 100, then every five rounds after

Note that the amount can sometimes fluctuate from the figures shown in the chart above and there are instances of players getting one extra or one less crystal than expected when completing a milestone round. It is not currently clear why these discrepancies happen.

The crystals also stack as you go through a zombies run, so if you reach round 21 for example, you would have earned three crystals in total for hitting milestones at 10, 15, and 20.

The second method is through exfils, which allow you to end your zombies run by jumping aboard a chopper and leaving the undead behind.

Similarly to milestone rounds, you will be awarded a certain amount of crystals depending on which round you exfil on. For example, a round 31 exfil should award you two crystals, as you have passed the round 30 milestone. However, exfil crystal drop rates have been found to be a bit more random and can sometimes drop far below what you expect.

Related: Black Ops Cold War split-screen setup guide

Another method to earn crystals is through completing the Die Maschine easter egg. However, this is very time consuming, so isn’t an efficient way to grind for crystals.

Finally, raw Aetherium Crystals will also drop for each round you complete in the new Outbreak zombies mode, which was added in Season Two. We have more on how many you can earn further down this guide.

Refined Aetherium Crystals and Flawless Aetherium Crystals

Upgrading a piece of gear in Black Ops Cold War zombies to Tier 4 will set you back four Refined crystals, and upgrading to Tier 5 will cost five Flawless crystals. So how do you get them?

Refined and Flawless crystals can drop at high rounds in existing zombies maps Die Maschine and Firebase Z, but we’re yet to get the official drop rates just yet.

However, along with the Raw crystals, Refined and Flawless Aetherium Crystals will also drop at the end of high rounds of Outbreak. We’re seeing slight variations in drop rates from our playthroughs, but you can see our findings below.

Outbreak Aetherium Crystal Rewards

At the end of each completed round of Outbreak, you will receive some Aetherium Crystals. The higher the round, the more of each type you will get.

This isn’t an exact science, and after comparing our drop rates with that of zombies streamers, the amount of crystals you get can vary. However, below is a table showing the rough formula, based on gameplay from ‘NoahJ456’.

Outbreak round completed Raw Refined Flawless
Round 1 1
Round 2 1 1
Round 3 1 1 1
Round 4 1 1 1
Round 5 2 1 1
Round 6 2 2 1
Round 7 2 2 2
Round 8 3 2 2
Round 9 4 3 2
Round 10 (and each round after) 4 3 2

How do I spend Aetherium Crystals in Black Ops Cold War zombies?

Aetherium Crystals can be used to upgrade everything in your best zombies loadout in Cold War. To see what upgrades you can spend your crystals on, go to the loadout tab in the zombies lobby menu, then to skills, and then to one of the four categories of upgrades: weapon classes, field upgrades, perks, or ammo mods.

Each upgradeable item or class has five upgrade tiers. The below table shows how many of each crystal you need to upgrade a piece of gear to each tier.

Tier Aetherium Crystals needed
1 1 Raw Aetherium Crystal
2 2 Raw Aetherium Crystals
3 3 Raw Aetherium Crystals
4 4 Refined Aetherium Crystals
5 5 Flawless Aetherium Crystals

To fully upgrade everything in Black Ops Cold War Zombies right now, you will need 168 Raw, 112 Refined, and 140 Flawless crystals.

Best Aetherium Crystals weapon class upgrades

Each class of weapon in Black Ops Cold War can be upgraded using Aetherium Crystals to help you in zombies runs.

Most of the upgrades are quite similar, ranging from damage increases to unlocking extra attachment slots for some classes of weapon. If you’re looking to make the best Cold War zombies weapons even better, we recommend investing crystals into the shotgun, melee, and assault rifle classes first.

Note that like in multiplayer, weapon classes will unlock and be available for upgrades at certain player levels. The final weapon class, melee, is unlocked at level 50.

Best Aetherium Crystals field upgrade upgrades

As well as tweaking your guns, you can also upgrade the six zombies-specific field upgrades in Black Ops Cold War: Frenzied Guard, Frost Blast, Energy Mine, Aether Shroud, Healing Aura, and Ring of Fire.

While many of the weapon class upgrades were quite similar across the board, Aetherium Crystals can be used to radically change your field upgrades in a number of ways. For those looking to go on long, high-round runs, we recommend maxing out either Aether Shroud for getting out of tricky spots, or Ring of Fire to help take down the tanky bosses.

Best Aetherium Crystals perk upgrades

The seven currently available perks in Black Ops Cold War zombies can all be upgraded to be even more useful with your Aetherium Crystals.

While every perk has its uses, the upgrades on offer for Juggernog and Stamin-Up are ones you should definitely pay close attention to.

A fully upgraded Juggernog will see your max health increase by 100 and will allow you to pick up more armour when you find it as ground loot. Meanwhile, a maxed out Stamin-Up can allow you to sprint for a pretty much unlimited time, all while using your weapons or field upgrades.

Aetherium Crystals ammo mod upgrades

Ammo mods can be super useful in Black Ops Cold War zombies to give your favourite weapon an extra kick. Using Aetherium Crystals, you can make their effects even more powerful by upgrading them.

The specific upgrades are fairly self-explanatory – they essentially make the benefit of having the ammo mod far stronger or last for a longer period of time.

If you have a favourite go-to ammo mod, you should definitely spend some crystals in making it much stronger. However, if you’re low on crystals, you should definitely invest them in upgrading weapon classes, perks, and field upgrades first in our humble opinion.

That’s all on Aetherium Crystals for now. While they can be hard to come by, grinding Outbreak in Season Two is definitely the way forward to give your gear a real boost.