Exotic Basics

Exotic Builds

Last Modified: 9 November 2023

The power of weaponized science (aka "scitorp," "scihax," "exotic," "space magic" or "EPG") is truly incredible when unlocked to its maximum potential. Science builds are much less flexible, requiring a science ship and specific weapons/bridge officer abilities for optimal play, even at lower budgets. And while the deflector array is the ultimate McGuffin in many episodes of Star Trek, rarely was it used to generate a pile of fleet-destroying anomalies unlike how it can be used in STO. Exotic builds tend to be less popular for these reasons, but make no mistake, this is an incredibly powerful way to build ships, with much higher ceiling than energy weapons. 

Your main goals on any Exotic build are:

If you'd like a practical example of a build that follows these guidelines at a very basic budget, please check out our Starter Tier exotic build: a T5 Intrepid. It'll be linked again at the bottom of the guide. 

Career and Species

Doesn't matter. Okay, there are small differences as you min-max more, but unless your goal is to chase the very top of the DPS leaderboards, any captain career, faction, or species can fly any type of ship and any type of build and do very, very well in any map in the game. 

Ship Basics (Exotics)

There's a large combination of things that interact to evaluate a ship's suitability for exotic builds. Before we begin, though, we need to discuss the 4ish different leans of an exotic build. When we're talking about exotic builds, we're talking about using items that scale with the Exotic Particle Generator (EPG) skill stat, which are typically console actives, bridge officer abilities, certain torpedoes, and the secondary deflector. While we do want a lot of EPG, stacking it at the expense of other offensive stats like Critical Hit Chance/Severity is inefficient

Deflector lean is the most basic and emphasizes the Deteriorating Secondary Deflector. While most any high-end sci boat will be running Structural Analysis and DRB, this lean goes beyond that. This means you'll see powers like Tyken's Rift or Charged Particle Burst as these four powers apply the secondary deflector to multiple targets. This is the cheapest to acquire/build and is the focus of this guide. 

Tactical lean uses the Entwined Tactical Matrices trait (T6 C-store ship) and the Morphogenic Armaments 3-piece to boost and hurl extra torpedo spreads of the Gravimetric and Particle Emission Plasma torpedoes. This requires a cannon, a beam, and a torpedo bridge officer power to be slotted (at least 3 tactical seats). Since that requires a C-store ship, we won't cover this type thoroughly here, but you can find a high-end example (with budget options) on this Damar

Console lean focuses on consoles with powerful actives, potentially the Cutting Tractor Beam console (Lockbox/Exchange) to boost their damage, and the Unconventional Systems (Lockbox?Exchange) trait to reduce their cooldowns. This forces a low-cooldown "Control" bridge officer power alongside Gravity Well like Tractor Beam or Tractor Beam Repulsors. While we won't cover this much in this guide due to expense, it is the highest ceiling of the leans. The most expensive type and most high-end exotic builds will at least partially hybridize into this, including our Dranuur

Anomaly lean focuses on the Spore-Infused Anomalies (SIA) trait, (T6 C-store ship) which causes lingering hazards like Gravity Well to explode in AOE damage every time a science ability is used. This has some conflict with the tactical lean as 2-3 boff powers are then not available for anomalies or triggers for SIA. It also has some conflict with the console lean because SIA doesn't scale with the passives from certain prominent damage consoles like Delphic Tear, Constriction Anchor, Temporal Vortex Probe. Again since there's a cost requirement to start with this, we'll not be going too far in-depth with this build lean here, but a good example of heavy SIA focus can be found at Jay's Annorax

Out of these four leans, the anomaly, tactical, and console leans all require C-store or lockbox purchases to really make them go, so for the purposes of this tutorial, we're going to leave the links to the fancy items but not build around them. Instead, we're going to focus on the Deteriorating Secondary Deflector. 

Bridge Officers

Rather than walking through every possible combination of bridge officer skills, let's prioritize what we need:

These are the important ones. Now we fill in the gaps. The priority will depend on what the emphasis of your build is and your available seats:

Thus our decent exotic ships have a secondary deflector, seating for at least 7 science powers including Cmdr rank. As we optimize further, more tactical seating is preferred in some leans, while others prefer maximum science. At the highest level, maximum science is stronger, but the difference is not huge at the lower budget levels. There are example builds of higher-end tactical leans and science leans on this site. We'll discuss specialization seating below. Here are some ships available for fleet credits/fleet ship modules or Dilithium that have 7 science seats and a secondary deflector:

Specialization Bridge Officer Seats

In general, Temporal > Cmdr Command > Intel > Miracle Worker > Command (LtCmdr-) = Pilot in terms of seating at this budget level. Pilot Team can be a really good trigger for Cold-hearted/Synthetic Good Fortune though, so if those are available, Pilot's up there with Miracle Worker.

Do I need other cooldown help?

Three other easy methods of help with cooldowns are the Readiness skills, and the reputation traits Chrono-Capacitor Array and Torpedo Astrometric Synergy or the Bio-Neural Gel Pack (BNGP) universal console from the Delta reputation. Do you need them?

The answer is it depends and the best way to find out is to take your chosen cooldown scheme and bridge officer powers from above and put it into the cooldown reduction calculator (make a copy) and see what you need. Here's our cheatsheet for general use:

These will get you to global (minimum) cooldown or very close to it on all of your science abilities. 

Advanced reading on cooldown mechanics


While the full implementation of keybinding is outside the scope of this guide (and not applicable to console players anyway), PC players should consider using a keybind file or an app like the STO keybind for more efficient usage of abilities. Further discussion and links to the app can be found here

The above is an example bridge officer layout on a T5 Long Range Science Vessel. Due to lack of seating, Charged Particle Burst and Attack Pattern Beta are not available as options, but it'll suffice to get started in Advanced TFOs. If I didn't have access to Very Cold in Space (the Ensign power), I'd slot Tachyon Beam. 


There are a wide variety of skill trees out there depending on how general or hybridized your build is, but here's the important ones:


Engineering - Impulse Expertise (x2), Hull Plating (x1), Hull Capacity (x1)

Science: Exotic Particle Generators (x3), Shield Regeneration (x1), Control Expertise (x2), Drain Expertise (x1), Drain Infection (x1), Control Amplification (x1)

Tactical: Projectile Weapon Training (x3), Weapon Specialization (x3), Targeting Expertise (x1 or x2), Weapon Amplification (x3), Hull Penetration (x2), Shield Penetration (x2), Coordination Protocols/Offensive Protocols/Defensive Protocols (x2 or x3, possible to skip Defensive)

If you fill these in, you'll have 4 Engineering, 9 points in Science, and 14 in Tactical, leaving you 19 points that can be flexed depending on your build and needs (but don't forget about the Readiness skills per the previous section and Power skills--keep reading). Unlike in weapon builds, taking extra points to pick up the Tactical ultimate is not highly-valued as that only benefits weapon damage and weapon damage will end up being less than 10% of our overall build's damage output. Instead, considering taking power skills in Engineering that combine with your gear to max out Auxiliary power without Emergency Power to Auxiliary.

Secondary/Build Dependent

Engineering - Hull Restoration, Hull Capacity, Warp Core Potential/Warp Core Efficiency, Defensive Subsystem Potential, Auxiliary Subsystem Performance, Electro-Plasma Flow

Science - Shield Restoration, Shield Capacity, Long-Range Targeting Systems if using 2 or more energy weapons that fire in the fore arc.

Tactical - Defensive Maneuvering and Targeting Expertise are low priorities. Energy Weapon Training if using 2 or more energy weapons that fire in the fore arc and are boosted by a firing mode. Energy Weapon Training is important if you're actively building around energy weapon damage, but for pure exotics is fairly skippable.

Skill Unlocks

Battery Expertise and Threat Control are the two most important. Between CrtH and CrtD in tactical, choose CrtH. Our builds section has many full examples to look at.

Example: This skill build from Eph289's exotic builds uses all of the essentials as well as extra points in power and readiness to avoid using Emergency Power to Auxiliary while still maxing Aux. Extra points in DrainX are taken because it uses Tyken's Rift, which has a drain effect scaling off the stat. 

Power levels are a basic but very important way to boost your ship's effectiveness. If you want to know the why behind the power level suggestions, check out our advanced reading on this topic.

Now, how to get aux power to 130? Let's revisit that again in-depth. Let's say we're using a science vessel with only +10 innate power. We need 20 more.

This gets us to +19.7 which is close enough for a budget build. If we had a +15 aux science ship, we wouldn't need Warp Theorist or some of the skill nodes. The Neutronic Eddy Generator console also provides plenty of aux power on its own (+7.5), further reducing our dependency on the items above, but requires an event ship and is not great overall. If you don't want to slot those specific items/have better options and have excess Engineering seating, that's when Emergency Power to Auxiliary comes in, but it's not needed for exotic builds unless you're trying to take advantage of an expensive trait.


Our intent with this suggestion is to offer a number of viable gear choices, not to dictate cookie-cutter builds. If you want to use something else, be our guest. For those of you who want a narrowed-down menu from the dizzying array of choices out there, this one's for you. Most of the gear options here, save for non-tactical consoles, are the same ones being used or considered at the high end.

Ground rules: only fleet, reputation, easily-crafted, or mission reward items will be considered along with low-tier Phoenix Box rewards. Finishing out reputations is essential to completing an endgame ship. A quick refresher on what those are:

Fleets: Fleets are player groups that allow players to contribute resources (fleet marks, energy credits, refined dilithium, common duty officers, etc.) to various holdings, which unlock a variety of stores carrying fleet-specific items. Fleet holdings with more tiers and unlocks open up more items. Joining a fleet is not essential to succeeding in Star Trek Online, but it can be highly valuable to join a fleet at least temporarily to go shopping even if you don't intend to stay long term. 

Reputations:  There are 13 reputations that reward players for playing specific pieces of content, either battle zones/adventure zones, or task force operations. Fighting against certain enemies will improve a player's efforts with the associated organization devoted to countering them. Reputations must be advanced, typically through daily projects, and takes 70 days of daily projects to fully level to the highest tier (tier 6) for the first time on an account. Starting the reputation climb and advancing through the ranks is a top priority upon reaching level 50. Reputations have both a series of items that combine into sets with bonuses for multiple pieces as well as reputation stores that sell Mk XII items for dilithium. 

Mission Rewards: Come from playing particular missions. It may be desirable (if grindy) to replay a certain mission multiple times. We'll only be recommending items at Mk XI Rare or better because Mk XII Rare should be pretty cheap on the Exchange. 

Phoenix Boxes: Are available from the dilithium store and should generally be purchased in lots of 10 for 40,000 refined dilithium. While some consoles and duty officers are useful and easily available from a rare or very rare token, ship rewards at the Ultra Rare and Epic level are exceedingly unlikely and restricted to a single character. The most frequent choice from the Phoenix Box is the Phoenix Upgrade, which helps upgrade gear items. Phoenix Upgrades are best applied on special upgrade weekends to double their efficiency; it takes about 200 Phoenix Upgrades on an upgrade weekend to take a ship with gear at Mk XII-XIII to Epic Mk XV. 

The Exchange: Allows players to buy and sell a variety of items. Many items are enormously expensive due to their rarity and are thus priced out of the reach of a new or semi-casual free-to-play player; however, they are not needed for this guide. Some items, if cheap on the exchange, may be accessible, so their use may be recommended sparingly.

Crafting: Allows players to create items through leveling their research & development schools (typically via another series of daily projects). R&D unlocks personal traits at level 15, which are particularly valuable in the Beams, Engineering, Projectiles, Science, Ground Gear, and Kits and Modules. Crafting items below level 15 is not efficient as higher crafting skill will lead to greater rarity on first result. 

Picking Weapons and Weapon Types

Very few weapons scale with Exotic Particle Generators, so we're going to slot those as available and then fill in the rest with weapons that grant set bonuses;

Other Gear for F2P/New players

Upgrading and Rarity

For the majority of items in the game, a build filled with Mk XII+ gear at Rare+ rarity and flown well is capable of tackling Advanced content reasonably well. Some maps are harder than others and some builds will do better at certain maps than others, but it's certainly possible to quite well with Mk XII and Mk XIII on a F2P/new player build. I've done it twice while building up my builds. 

If you want to fly Elite, you will need to strongly consider Mk XV gear as the difference between Mk XII and Mk XV is about as big as the one between Mk I and Mk XII. Enemies are much harder to kill; while there are a few maps that are relatively easy on Elite that could be completed with Mk XII gear, it would be a slog. 

Epic'd and re-engineered gear is never "necessary" and is only for optimizing builds and/or DPS-chasing. 

Lastly, let's go over things we aren't going to worry about.

Things That Do Not Matter Much

Traits for F2P/New players

See our tier list for starship and personal traits and look for the ones that are free, a mission reward, or from R&D schools. Some traits can be enhanced at the Fleet K-13 holding for marginal gains; those are options as well. 

If you're looking to exit the F2P world and pick up your first C-store (Zen) ship, the one you want is the Somerville or its cross-faction equivalent. The Spore-Infused Anomalies starship trait is a significant DPS boost on exotic builds even if you don't end up flying it longterm. If you're on a science ship that has at least 3 forced tactical seats or just prefer a more tactical-focused build, also consider the Gagarin or its cross-faction equivalents. Its Entwined Tactical Matrices starship trait is a significant DPS boost on exotic builds due to granting free torpedo spreads from energy firing modes. Other powerful traits tend to be expensive, but here are a few highlights that apply to virtually all exotic builds. 

Other generically useful things to look for in a starship trait or personal trait are critical chance, critical severity, EPG, damage, exotic damage, and ControlX but there are many variables that play into evaluating a trait's strength, including magnitude, conditionality, and stacking. Please see the Progression Guide, the Tier List, or our various Builds for more information and examples. 

Reputation traits:

List is sorted top to bottom in terms of priority:

Example: This sample setup doesn't need cooldown help and it's on a fragile ship with 3 fore torpedoes, so Omega Kinetic Shearing is the last trait. 

Active Reputation Traits:

These all have 5 minute cooldowns and most of them don't matter much.

Duty Officers for F2P/New players

See our tier list for duty officers and look for the ones that are free, from mission rewards, from the fleet holdings, or from colonization chains.


An overview of piloting and ship handling is covered in our Mechanics slides. 

External Resources

If you'd like some other resources, check out: