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Dark's Guide to Cruisers - DPS and You!

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Dark, Tue 05 Feb, 2013 9:31 PM
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    #1
     –  Last edited by Dark; Wed 02 Oct, 2013 3:57 PM.
    Warning
    Note that this was written prior to the release of Legacy of Romulus, and does not account for any new gear that may have been released since. The numbers and general information will be correct, but the equipment suggestions may be outdated.

    DPS? Don't Cruisers Tank?

    Yes, and yes. Tanking involves holding aggro and surviving it. Holding aggro requires dealing sufficient threat, which involves your DPS modified by threat modifiers. Without applying enough threat, you'll be missing half of the equation. Survival is simply a matter of being able to weather attacks - a cruiser does this by being just plain tough.

    Cruisers aren't supposed to be healboats. Or rather, that shouldn't be your primary role because everybody should heal. Most will have Transfer Shield Strength and Hazard Emitters anyway, and they should be distributed towards the victim currently tanking for you. The only real advantage cruisers have with this regard is Extend Shields and Engineering Team. So don't forget to heal your buddies, but build for DPS and durability.

    Note that the following will apply to most cruisers, but there are exceptions such as the Advanced Heavy Cruiser Retrofit which has enough of a turn rate to keep STF targets in a fore 180 firing arc.

    Finally, I won't be dictating a particular build but offering things for your consideration. Consequently, there may be some contradictory suggestions (such as for your Science console slots) and it's up to you to decide what works better for you. The guide should help you understand the basics, after which you can modify based on your experiences.

    Hurting Things

    So now that we've established you need to deal damage if you want to tank, how do we do that?

    Weapon Type

    First of all, the most basic thing people know about T5 cruisers is that most turn slowly. Very slowly. This is why cruisers mount Beam Arrays. With a firing arc of 250 degrees, fore and aft beam arrays will have a 70 degree overlap on both sides of the ship, allowing for a broadside that brings all your weapons to bear.

    Most cruisers will allow you to have a Lt Tactical officer. It is recommended that you get Beam Array: Fire At Will 2, which will help gather aggro, clear swarms (like those annoying web nodes from the Tholians, or a dangerous plasma ball from the Borg), and increase your DPS against a single target.

    There are only a few weapons other than Beam Arrays that can be used on your broadsides:

    Rapid Fire Missile Launcher
    The Rapid Fire Missile Launcher is purchased from the Lobi Crystal Consortium for 200 Lobi Crystals, which are obtained from Lockboxes and featured episodes during reruns. This has a 180 degree firing arc, and fires every 2 seconds. It can be affected by Torpedo Spread and High Yield Torpedo, which causes it to fire a salvo of missiles. You can also take advantage of the firing speed to proc Projectile Weapon Officer DOffs to boost the fire rate of the following weapon. Just make sure to put the missile launcher in the right-most spot so it has lower firing priority.

    Note: In most cruisers you won't have the Tactical Bridge Officer slots to really use torpedo abilities.

    Wide Angle Quantum Torpedo Launcher
    This torpedo launcher has a 180 degree firing angle, dealing slightly less damage than a normal Quantum torpedo launcher. It is otherwise identical to it, letting you fire torpedo spreads and salvos at your broadside. Combined with the preceding item, you can significantly increase your kinetic damage, but it is only obtainable by purchasing the Assault Cruiser Refit from the C-Store for 2500 Zen.

    Note: In most cruisers you won't have the Tactical Bridge Officer slots to really use torpedo abilities.

    Kinetic Cutting Beam
    The Kinetic Cutting Beam is a part of the Omega Adapted Borg Technology Set, and it is highly recommended. It is obtained from the Reputation System, and has a 360 degree firing arc. It deals kinetic damage with a low cooldown and no travel time and should definitely be obtained as soon as possible, even if no abilities will affect it.

    Energy Type

    As I mentioned in my Guide to Weapons, in general Anti-Protons and Disruptors deal the most damage. Tactical captains should use Anti-Protons because they get the most out of Attack Pattern: Alpha with it, while others should use Disruptors. However, taking current console availability into account, the very best weapon choice for a cruiser using beams is Plasma.

    Regardless of what energy type you select, use the energy specific console in all your Tactical console slots to maximize damage, and thus threat. If you are using Plasma as I recommended, you can also use Threat-Scaling Science Consoles from our Embassy's shuttle bay to increase both damage and threat.

    Weapon Power

    Unfortunately, firing 8 Beam Arrays at once tends to result in a massive drain to your Weapon Power and lack of damage due to said drain. The way it works is that when a firing cycle starts, the drain is instantly subtracted from your current Weapon Power, and once the firing cycle ends the drain is instantly refunded. As such, EPS Flow Regulators will do nothing to offset this drain. (It used to when STO first launched.) What Power Transfer rate does is help your power recover to equilibrium levels faster when using abilities that cause extra drain, such as Fire At Will or Beam Overload.

    The most basic thing you have to do is set your power levels to 100/50/25/25, and put 6 ranks in Warp Core Potential and Starship Weapon Performance. More than 6 ranks isn't really recommended unless you really have nothing better to do with your skills, because you don't get much out of it. (See: Reference)

    Almost all Cruisers will have two Ens Engineering slots so you should have two copies of Emergency Power to Weapons 1. Just 1 is sufficient, and with a run time of 30s equal to the duplicate cooldown of 30s you'll constantly have it running. With 6 ranks of Starship Electro-Plasma System you'll have an extra 21 Weapon Power to help fight drain. Higher levels of EPtW is not recommended because there are far better things for your abilities (and not a lot of stuff for Ensign abilities).

    An Engineering Captain will notice improvements in DPS from Nadion Inversion and EPS Power Transfer, which respectively resist drain and gives extra power. Captains with the Efficient Captain, Joined Symbiote, or Warp Theorist traits will have an easier time as well. These aren't really options you can pick after you've already created your captain, but Bridge Officers with the Efficient trait will also help.

    Kinetic weapons like the aforementioned Rapid Fire Missile Launcher also have no drain, nor does the Experimental Romulan Plasma Beam Array. The latter weapon is one of the reasons I recommend using Plasma.

    Surviving

    There are primarily two components to survival for a cruiser, your shields and hull, and how to heal them. Luckily most cruisers are very good at all those things.

    Shields

    Cruisers get a slight bonus to shield strength, which is good. Notably you don't have too much to fear from shield facings dropping because you should have the hull to tough through it until you can get your shields back up.

    Shield choice is up to you, and I personally recommend the Borg set for its various benefits. It is flat out the most survivable set I've found so far. comparing a full Mk XI Borg set with Mk XII Borg Engine/Deflectors and a Mk XII MACO Shield, I feel the full set did better. The MACO shield looks a lot cooler in my opinion, though. Tongue Out

    Cruisers tend to have both a Cdr and a Lt Cdr Engineering BOff station. This allows you to cycle two copies of Emergency Power to Shields 3 alongside the EPtW1 I mentioned in the weapons section. This is because they have durations of 30s, a shared cooldown of 15s, and a duplicate ability cooldown of 30s. Barring your own activation delay, you'll have both EPtS3 and EPtW1 active constantly. EPtS3 is important because it gives significant shield resistance as well as recovery. Additionally you should have Reverse Shield Polarity 1, which will allow you to almost instantly recover your shields from nothing while you're under fire. Higher levels of RSP are unnecessary. You should also have a Lt Sci BOff station, and thus should carry Transfer Shield Strength 2. Combined, your shields should almost never completely drop, and even if they do you can recover them very, very quickly.

    The Field Generator Science Console gives a flat % bonus to your shields, and is linearly additive. Having 5 generators with covariant shields can result in ridiculously high numbers. Alternatively, there exists Threat-Scaling Science Consoles from our Embassy's shuttle bay that gives a chance of recovering shields whenever you're hit as well as increasing your threat. The 3-piece set bonus from the Borg set often triggers and will help recover shields.

    Make sure you have Tactical Team 1 on your Tactical BOff, for instant redistribution of shields as well as neutralizing boarding parties.

    (More details and explanations for can be found in my guide to shields and armor.)

    Armor (Damage Resistance)

    First and foremost you should put at least one Neutronium Alloy console in your Engineering Console slots. An explanation as well as alternatives are explored in my guide to shields and armor.

    Other than that, there are Threat-Scaling Science Consoles from our Embassy's shuttle bay that gives a chance of recovering hull whenever you're hit as well as increasing your threat. The 2-piece set bonus from the Borg set often triggers and will help keep your hull topped up, though it shouldn't be necessary.

    With your Cdr Engineer BOff station, you should take Auxiliary to Structural 3 and use it every time you're even slightly damaged at 99%. It'll keep your hull topped up and more importantly give damage resistance equal to 1.8 Neutronium Alloy consoles for 10s. It only has a cooldown of 15s, so use it early and often. With your Ens Science BOff station, you should take Hazard Emitters 1 like 99% of players. It'll repair your hull, but more importantly remove certain debuffs (like Borg Shield Neutralizer or plasma DoT) for 10s. Polarize Hull can be useful as it'll break free of Borg tractor beams as well as give notable Damage Resistance, but you may well prefer another copy of HE1 instead.

    Take 6 ranks in Starship Threat Control which will give you more Damage Resistance as well as help you hold aggro, in addition to the normal Damage Resistance skills.

    With the above, you should have little to no trouble keeping yourself alive. My Sci Oddy was even able to shrug off a lance from the Borg Queen's unimatrix escorts!

    Other Things

    With what I've mentioned above, your BOff layout should be almost decided, leaving your 5 Active Space DOffs and 2-3 Engineering Consoles. There's one Lt Engineering ability I haven't commented on - for that I recommend Engineering Team for a nice instant heal you can use on yourself or others, or Extend Shields which is an excellent buff/regen you should apply to whoever manages to pull aggro off you. It only works on other people, however.

    I feel that the Engineering Console slots are where you have the flexibility to use Universal Consoles, since your Science consoles should consist of Field Gens or Embassy consoles, and your Tactical consoles should be full of the relevant energy booster.

    Universal consoles you should consider include:

    Zero-Point Energy Conduit
    A part of the Romulan Singularity Harness set, it will boost Plasma damage combined with the Experimental Romulan Plasma Beam Array. Even if you don't use Plasma it's worth considering however, as it will not only give a notable boost to Critical Chance, it will boost power to all subsystems, which help with managing your weapon power drain. Coming from the Reputation System, this is highly recommended.

    Tachyokinetic Converter
    Less important but still very good, this console gives a minor boost to your turn rate and Critical Chance while giving a very large boost to Critical Severity. Good for everybody, but very good if you're running Anti-Protons. It does cost 200 Lobi however, and the set is irrelevant.

    Assimilated Module
    A staple of everyone's loadout, you should definetely carry this part of the Omega Adapted Borg Technology Set. It offers an even larger boost to Critical Chance and Critical Severity then the previous item. More importantly is the +5 bonus to Weapon Power setting, which definetely helps resist the drain from your beams. The Kinetic Cutting Beam is also a part of the set, which will give you a chance for signifigant drain resistance and extra Weapon Power, which will only serve to help your DPS. Also from the Reputation System, this is practically mandatory.

    A few DOffs I suggest you consider:

    Shield Distribution Officer
    Contrary to the outdated Wiki entry, you have a % chance of a flat shield heal to all facings when you take damage while using Brace for Impact. This is highly recommended as it is fairly reliable, and you should slot 3 if you have room for it. It's my only shield heal other than Rotate Shield Frequency for me in my JHEC.

    Conn Officer (Tactical Team)
    Having two Very Rare Conn Officers will allow you to have TT1 ready every time it's off cooldown. I don't really recommend it for cruisers because you're tough enough to need constant uptime, and it'll conflict with Engineering Team. Use 2 if you have Extend Shields instead of Engineering Team. I actually recommend not using these and having an Engineer Team available, which can help others recover and repairs disabled systems. With Fire At Will, Threat consoles, and Threat Control, nobody should be able to steal aggro from you for long. There's no real real reason you can't take one of these though, since you're unlikely to need to constantly use Engineering Team and it'll help if you're coming under heavy fire and need to redistribute shields often.

    Warp Core Engineer
    This DOff gives you a chance of getting +25 to all power when you use an EPtX ability. This is obviously awesome since you'll be constantly firing off EPtX every 15 seconds. Ups your DPS, your shields - everything. Great if you have the room, which you should if you aren't using Conn Officers and have Engineering Team.

    To be honest, I don't actually have much thoughts on other DOffs. Don't take a Damage Control Engineer because you're already using EPtX abilities at their minimum possible cooldown with 100% uptime.

    Shield/Deflector/Engines

    I leave the choice of Shield/Deflector/Engines to you, because I have trouble deciding myself. I have found that the 3-piece Borg set is better than 2-piece Borg with MACO shield if your hull isn't melting under your shields, though. I'm not sure about the more offensive sets, and you don't get much from the Adapted MACO/KHG set bonuses if you're not using torps. The MACO deflector is the best for survival while the Omega is best for offense, but in general most people choose based on set bonuses. Fleet Advanced/Elite gear are strong contenders, with the Advanced Fleet Hyper-Impulse Engines [Turn]x3 widely regarded as being the best engine in the game. As I said though, I prefer the full Borg set. It's also highly amusing if pretend to be Bord by enabling all the visuals, including the Assimilated Module, and then using plasma and cutting beams. Big Grin

    Conclusion

    You should well understand why I recommend using Plasma - not only do you deal higher base damage, you also get better energy management from the Experimental Romulan Plasma Beam Array. This also allows you to ignore the projectile skills, letting you put more points into energy weapon and survival skills.

    There's a lot of customization that can be done but this is the basic framework almost every cruiser should start with. The first step towards greatness. Wink

    In terms of keeping your EPtW1/EPtS3 cycle going, please check my guide to keybinds for an easy way to do this (and to constantly redistribute shields).

    I hope this helps! Remember, I'm pulling for ya, we're in this together.
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    #2
     –  Last edited by Dark; Wed 06 Feb, 2013 4:58 PM.
    Addendum:

    Actually, in place of either Extend Shields or Engineering Team you can use Directed Energy Modulation, alongside the Very Rare (or is it Ultra Rare?) DOff that grants it drain resistance. That will obviously assist with keeping weapon power high, and increase your damage.

    Addendum to Addendum: The System Engineer in question is Marion Frances Dulmur, not sure if there are others.
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    #3
    Truly wonderful guide, Dark. You sir, are the Socrates of STO. Smile

    I'd give you more Respect Points, but the system is telling me to spread them around to other people before I can give some more to you. heh. Wink
    Silynn
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    #4
    Fantastic guide, Dark! I have the same issue that Silynn does - I need to spread the love around before giving you more.
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    #5
    Fantastic guide Dark, quick questions though: generally I have run with EPTW1 and 2 and the EPTS 1 or 2 so that I'm feeding the weps every 15 secs and then hitting shield when I need it, is this not advisable?
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    #6
    Its normally suggested to run 2 copies of EptW 1. The bonus for the higher levels isn't really worth it. Then run 2 EptS and cycle them with the EptW. It won't give you the instant shield heal that way, but the heal isn't that impressive anyway. What it does is just maintain your power levels, DPS and damage resistance.
    JamesRean
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    #7
    James is right, the heal component of EPtS is just a bonus, having a constant Shield Resistance boost will help keep it from dropping quickly in the first place, and is why we try to go for EPtS3 whenever possible.

    Note that shield resistance is multiplicative, which is something I suppose I should add to my guide about that.
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    #8
    Top tips guys, thanks
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    #9
    Well thanks to a little Boff training from Dark last night I was finally able to test out this build properly in my Oddy, and what a build it is! Packing a lot of damage while still being able to survive quite an onslaught at various occasions, a real joy to fly especially as a tactical officer. All I need to get now is the Romulan console which I'm slowly working towards and when it is available the Fleet Assault Cruiser.

    Again thanks to everyone who's provided handy tips, not just here but on the chat channel as well.
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    #10
    Thanks for the guide, explains things well.
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    #11
    Thank you very much for the guide, Dark! I am working on an Engineer at the moment and your guide will definitely influence my decisions when I plan my cruiser loadout. I'm reading through your Guide to Weapons, as well!
    Mattix
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    #12
    Have already used these ideas for my cruisers. They've worked well; thanks for the tips.
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    #13
    BTW, Dark, I asked for a similar guide for carriers in another thread but didn't get much interest. I've also searched Google to find a solid, well-rounded guide on carrier use, tactics and loadout, to no avail. So, it's obvious that STO needs a good, no.., GREAT guide to carrier ops and loadout. I think you're just the officer to put one together!
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    #14
    I've pondered carriers, but they're really more a KDF thing - more varieties and such. My only experience has been a Recluse, and I'm not entirely sure I did the best I could with it. It feels like a cross between a cruiser and a science ship, but where you want Grav Well 3 (pointed in front) you do best with cruiser-style broadsides so you don't send your fighters right into the crossfire. So I kind of ended up playing it as a support ship with Extend Shields and TSS such... I dunno. Neutral
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    #15
     –  Last edited by Curzon Peers; Mon 01 Apr, 2013 8:07 AM.
    The only real similarity between the two will be the weaponry. Carriers have a lower turn rate than even an Odyssey, so you are going to want to go through the same precess when picking weaponry. The fighters will constitute a large amount of your DPS however.

    The flight deck cruisers on the KDF are the only vessels with a cruiser style layout (well Recluse can have a very similar boff layout depending on the universal) and a fighter bay, but those are still going to operate primarily as any other cruiser much as an Armitage is just an escort with fighters. There are, as of yet, no full carriers with a fixed engineering heavy layout.
    CurzonPeers