Build Costs

STO's overlapping economic systems often obfuscate the costs of replicating a high-end build. The STOBETTER team is committed to build cost transparency with the costs of our builds, specifically identifying the expensive parts of a build, which ones are truly critical and what parts are incidental. Some players will have that kind of budget. Some will not. Some people would prefer we add even MORE expensive things, best-in-slot everything. That said, there's no point in dodging around the expense of high-end builds including the ones on this site. There are a few practices that we think are helpful when understanding and communicating builds, their costs, and their performance, so this page is really more for shipbuilders looking to share their builds rather than those looking to make a ship of their own.

Transparency in Cost

We think the best way to communicate cost is to communicate a reasonable value for what it would take someone else to replicate the build, not necessarily what you paid for it. If your build costs 1000 USD to replicate, it's better to say so upfront. If the build didn't cost you anything because you earned the rewards through gameplay, but it would cost a new player significant financial cost, we think that should be described. We have a formula for doing that which we'll cover below. Just because someone has the DOMINO console account-wide for free doesn't mean that console is equally available to all players. Similarly, we've received expensive items as gifts. Jay was gifted an Inquiry and Eph289 was gifted two expensive Liberated Borg doffs for his Dranuur. That's how Tilor got his Superior Area Denial. That doesn't mean that there wouldn't be significant costs involved for most players to replicate those builds. All three of us have put far less money into STO than raw build costs to replicate would indicate, especially if you summed them up across builds. Much of that has to do with earning rewards through gameplay, smart use of account unlocks, and a handful of gifts. 

Performance Context

The standard measuring stick that people tend to use when evaluating high-end ship performance is damage per second (DPS) on a handful of testing maps which we describe more thoroughly in an overview of the metagame in the FAQ. Whether you're looking on Reddit, Discord, another website, or YouTube as your source of build guides, the quick-and-dirty measurement is DPS for most builds, with some specialized metrics for tanks and supports. 

We think it's helpful to note whether or not a build is suitable for coordinated play on DPS maps only, how a record was set (premade vs coordinated), and maybe even a note on what team composition was used to achieve the record. 

There have been builds that achieved over 1 million DPS . . . with 3 hugely-expensive supports "nannying" them through the run and numerous practice runs. That's not to take away from the accomplishment, but for maximum clarity, that result is not achievable just by replicating the build. What most high-end builds and guides (and all credit to Spencer, who does draw attention to this) don't talk about is the importance of team composition, which really doesn't come into play until above 300K but is a key factor above 500k. Sure, there are builds designed for solo play and those don't care about team composition, but most generic ISE / HSE builds with eye-popping numbers are results achieved as part of a coordinated team, even if it's just minimal coordination like having a tank. To an extent, all ISE/HSE records that are coordinated in any way are supported. 

Many keystrokes have been spent trying to define what's a coordinated run or not but for all practical purposes, if you had a tank, it was a coordinated run. The amount of ally buffs and enemy debuffs that the team brings plays a role in achieving most high-end records. At the very high end of the DPS meta, the most specialized builds become increasingly specialized to a few maps and team compositions. For example, at the very top of coordinated ISA runs, the record-holding Thalaron build requires a specific composition of other high-end ships to work, and is largely useless on other maps. For instance, survivability and even things like cooldown reduction can be outsourced to an extent if your team is set up for it, or if you're defeating the map fast enough.  That's why we think providing context on team composition and map suitability is helpful.

All STOBETTER builds that are not starter builds or dedicated supports are suitable for general Elite TFO and mission play (some more so than others). Even the supports and starter builds would do excellently on Advanced TFOs, patrols, and missions, which is how we believe most dedicated endgame players who care about ship performance interact with the game.

Provide Budget Alternatives

One of the best ways to bridge the gap between a high-end build and a new-to-endgame player is to use all the fun high-end toys, but provide budget alternatives for non-crucial expensive parts. Are you using the Tachyokinetic Converter, an expensive Lobi console? Well, then consider listing the Assimilated Module, the easiest-to-acquire endgame console in the game, as an alternative. The stat difference between them is fairly small and the Tachyokinetic Converter, while better in terms of also providing turn rate, has very comparable stats to the Assimilated Module. 

There may be pieces of the build that are expensive and irreplaceable. For example, if a key part of the build is having the Vanguard Specialists trait to extend Surgical Strikes, Reroute Reserves to Weapons, or Exceed Rated Limits, then it is what it is. Identify it as crucial and be upfront about what's essential and what's a nice-to-have.

Price Tiers

After giving the matter much thought, we've divided STO ship builds into roughly four pricing tiers that we'll use to classify our builds here even if the wider community doesn't adopt the standard, just like we did with ship build types based on purpose and gearing. Not all builds will fall neatly into the tiers, but there are some clear breakpoints between cost that can help guide conversations. It's always possible to pull from builds that are more expensive on an otherwise cheaper build, and not all resource costs are equally applicable, but we think these delineations make sense. We'll add budget options on our more expensive builds and point to some beneficial purchases the next tier up as well. 

Starter Tier

This tier encompasses everything for completely free-to-play and starter builds for players reaching level 50. For the purposes of our site, this will not include leveling builds as we're focused squarely on the endgame. While this tier could include Day-1-at-Level 50 builds, our site tends to focus more on F2P builds that you grow into starting at level 50. This tier is extremely low-cost and choices made here will only utilize free or very cheap items. Some time investment, particularly through filling reputations or R&D schools might be required. Most dedicated players will soon surpass this tier, but it's for players who are more casual/extreme F2P or just reaching the endgame and will be grinding reputations or fleet gear for a considerable period. Since dilithium is needed for so many other things at this point, all gear is used at the mark at which it is earned. This tier is capable of doing well on Advanced difficulty even with no monetary investment, but there is some grind needed.

Economy Tier

This build tier is for a wide swathe of the playerbase that has some C-store investment and is willing to put some money into the game, but is far from being a big spender. Perhaps they've earned some ships from giveaways or Event campaigns and they've built up their foundation to afford some upgraded gear to where a capable Economy-tier ship can fly Elite TFOs.

Midrange Tier

At this price tier, the builds become more expensive but also more capable. A higher EC limit means Lobi ships enter the conversation and opening the window on C-store bundles allows for a wide swathe of powerful traits and consoles to be applied, as well as Epic gear and all captain unlocks. Many hardcore players have budgets in or near this tier, allowing for extremely capable ships of near or exceeding 1M DPS with the right team composition and build. Since most of the items on these ships will be account unlocked, they'll also be possible to duplicate across multiple characters. 

Premium Tier

This final tier encompasses the most expensive high-end builds in the game, the ones that players are most drawn to for their tremendous potential. Mind  you, there can be plenty of highly-expensive builds that fail to achieve significant DPS either lack of build knowledge or interest in doing so. However, on this site, our premium builds demonstrate mastery of build principles paired with many of the peak offerings the game provides (at great expense) to yield significant performance in the form of DPS, maps tanked/accomplished, DPS records supported, or other metrics. 

Calculating Cost

We came up with a rating called EZRA, or the Equivalent Zen Replication Index, to measure how expensive a build is to replicate, taking all items that come from the C-store, Lobi Store, Mudd's Store/Epic Phoenix Token, or any Lockbox/Promo pack and attempting to quantify how much Zen it would take if purchased completely new in an attempt to replicate the build, then dividing it by the USD to Zen conversion ratio (100). Some guesswork/estimates/simplifying assumptions are necessarily included to create the price equivalences, like odds on Epic Phoenix tokens or the energy credit price of Lockbox ships in keys. 

Premium builds (which most of ours are) are over 350 EZRA, meaning that on paper it would take over 35,000 Zen (350 USD) to replicate one of them for a new player, buying at full price. In practice, we haven't spent nearly the amount of cost that summing the EZRA ratings of our builds would imply. Some items like C-store ships are account-wide and thus re-usable, reducing the cost of making multiple builds. Buying on sale lowers the overall cost (but isn't accounted for in EZRA) as does collecting items from events and giveaways--particularly the annual meta-campaigns. Having a Kobayashi Maru Transponder from its original inception saves 2,000 Zen even if bought at a 75% sale from Mudd's Market. Grinding EC or Dilithium to convert to Zen can defray the cost, etc. We don't expect the greater STO builds community to adopt this, but for full transparency, here's how we calculate EZRA:

As a reminder from above, be careful when applying EZRA or any other cost metric against DPS to gain an idea of ‘build efficiency.’ 1) DPS scores in organized Elite runs are the product of a team effort. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. Elite DPS isn’t completely tied to team comp, but there is a relationship, and we’ve gotten rather good at honing our team comps. A "cheap" build with high DPS might not account, as an example, for 3 Jorogumos loaded with bespoke gear inflating its DPS. 2) Don’t apply DPS efficiency to builds that aren’t minmaxed for DPS, i.e. tanks, supports, carriers, theme builds. 3) Don’t judge people for how they spend their money. What could be a good chunk of a month’s rent for one person is throwaway play money for someone else. 

All that said, here's the breakdown:

Here's a tool where you can price your build with EZRA by using File->Make a Copy.