Ground DPS Basics

Last Modified: 31 August 2023


This guide serves to capture our collective knowledge and recommendations for the standard offensive ground builds. We try to provide the why and the math behind our decisions along with some basic advice. Since ground items tend to be much, much cheaper than space builds even at the Elite level, this guide will include items from the Exchange, unlike our Space Basics pages which are entirely focused on F2P/Budget options. A very capable Elite-smashing ground build can be put together for less than 50 million energy credits and some farming of seasonal items. There are also far fewer moving parts to a ground build, so compared to the complexities of space builds, it's a far simpler topic to tackle. 

Guiding Principles

Capable ground builds generally operate under a few maxims that are similar to ones we use in space:


This guide does not cover bridge officers or melee builds. 

Damage Categories 

Full credit should be extended to Markus in the STOBuilds Discord for writing out and explaining the equation, which is similar-but-not-identical to the space one, and originally documented on the STO League website.

Just as in space, there are five broad categories of damage that are separate multipliers that are applied to the base damage of a kit or weapon to increase or amplify its damage. 

The damage equation for ranged ground weapons is thus as follows:

Final damage = Base damage * (1 + Weapon Mark damage increase + 0.75*sum(Damage buffs + 0.25 * Weapon Proficiency Skill) + 0.02 * # of Weapon Mods) * (1 + sum(Bonus damage buffs)) * (Resistance modifiers) * 1.03^(# of [Dmg mods)) * Other final mods

Knowing the equation is not essential to doing well on the ground, but it does help put things in perspective, for example why Cat1 buffs are less valued than Cat2 given that you'll already have a lot of Cat1 from weapon mark, and Cat1 bonuses are only 3/4s as effective as equivalent Cat2.


Ground weapons in Star Trek Online are classified as either Expose or Exploit. Expose attacks (typically a secondary mode) have a chance to make targets vulnerable to Exploit attacks, which by default add 200% Cat2 (Bonus) damage. An Exploit attack consumes the Expose debuff. There are a variety of methods to increase Expose chance or Expose enemies, including (but not limited to)

There are also methods to increase Exploit damage, such as the Covert personal trait (10% exploit increase), or Expose duration (example: Xindi Kits with [ExpDur] mod).

But how do you know when the target is Exposed? It's hard to tell at first, but once you know what to look for, it's fairly obvious. You're looking for a big orange debuff marker on your target and then . . . wham, you hit them with the Exploit attack. By default, the "G" key targets the nearest Exposed enemy.

The orange round symbol, which unfortunately looks like Fire On My Mark's debuff, is the Expose symbol.

Does it matter? In the current state of the game, not much. A good Exploit combo is more of a nice-to-have rather than something to chase. Kit-based damage doesn't care about Expose/Exploit, although many kits have a chance to expose, and not all of the top-tier ground weapons are Exploit. Moreover, swapping weapons mid-fight just to get off a juicy Exploit attack is something that's theoretically possible but rarely done. 


If you want to measure the results of your hard-earned build optimizing, here are the two standard maps accepted by the community for DPS benchmarks:

Complete either map with CombatLog enabled and parse the results, typically with a third-party parsing tool like SCM or CLR to see how you measure up. This site prefers using BHE measurements. In our estimation, 1000K BHE DPS is decent, roughly comparable to 300K ISE DPS in space and capable on any Elite Ground TFO. 1.5K DPS would be considered very capable, approximately equivalent to 500K ISE and capable of carrying ground Elite TFO maps, and 3K would be roughly analogous to 1M DPS ISE (or higher). 

Ground DPS Build Anatomy

Types of Builds

Ground builds, as far as we can tell, don't have easy classifications like space builds do for things like CSV, Exotic, etc. While we're woefully unqualified to do so, we had to come up with some kind of classification page to name our pages so it wasn't just "Tac 1, Tac 2, Eng 1, Eng 2, Eng 3...". 

Most popular meta DPS builds are either Mage builds or Hybrids depending on how you classify certain kits. Remember, the kit is king.


Career tends to matter much more on ground than it does in space due to many kit modules being restricted based on career, though the prevalence of powerful universal kit modules has diluted that somewhat. 

Powerful Mage/Hybrid builds can be made on any career, so if that's your bent, it matters less. Tactical and especially Science have the most powerful damage-dealing kit modules that are career-specific, but Engineers also have one of the single best offensive kit modules in the game (Anchor of Gre'thor) to make up for it somewhat.  Assault (weapon-focused) builds lend themselves much more strongly to Tactical and to a lesser extent Engineers. If you're into Fabrication, there are enough universal kit modules that summon drones, mines, and turrets to make such a build on any career, but Engineers are the best at it. Support builds are best-suited for Tactical or Science due to having +damage to team or -DRR captain abilities. We discuss those more in our Ground Support Basics guide. In terms of which career has the overall highest ceiling, Engineers have the current record on Bug Hunt Elite, but that was with a very specialized build and team composition. For sure, both Tactical and Engineers have parses over 10K DPS, and even just 1.5-2K DPS is enough to handle every Elite Ground TFO if each team member is at that level.


This area can matter, but it also . . . doesn't make a huge difference. Aliens get an extra trait slot, which is always powerful. Bajorans get the Creative trait built in. Andorians get increased damage at lower health. Jem'Hadar Vanguards gain additional damage. There are some other more fun/themed racial traits out there, but they have a small impact overall. 


The standard meta approach would be to take all the points in Weapon Proficiency, Weapon Penetration, Weapon Criticals, Kit Performance, and Kit Efficiency, eschewing all defensive skill points. If you want to take more defensive stats, especially on a mage build, keep Kit Performance Kit Efficiency maxed, and take a point in Endurance Training and Armor Expert or Personal Shields, but I wouldn't drop more than 2 or 3 points at the very maximum on defensive skills. 


If you're doing dedicated ground content like a TFO, Temporal Operative (primary) and Commando (secondary) are the undisputed best. Here's why:

Temporal Operative passively provides up to 50 passive Kit Performance, decreases the defenses of enemies affected by damage-over-time effects, amplifies your damage-over-time effects, lowers your kit cooldowns via 10% recharge haste, adds temporary HP on use of kits, and lowers the cooldown on secondary firing modes.

Commando passively provides up to 20% weapon/melee damage, lowers the cooldown on secondary firing modes, reduces kit cooldowns by 20%, adds 5% CrtH while aiming, gives regeneration while crouching, and adds significant HP/ShieldHP. 

None of the other specs come close to providing that much offensive benefit. 

Primary Weapon

Note: Some testing/results informed by testing done by DrHusten. We have not tested or evaluated all weapons; there are dozens of weapons and most of them are similar.

When it comes to ranged ground weapons, there are broadly-speaking some standout top-tier weapons, several situationally very effective weapons, several classes of highly-effective weapons, and several classes that should largely be avoided. This guide again, does not cover melee, but the Mind Meld Device from the Discovery reputation is reputed to be the best. With kits being so heavily emphasized in current ground content, weapon selection matters much less if you're not focused on weapon damage. In general, you want a weapon that has an AOE effect at least on its secondary and preferably an exploit as well. 


Situationally Very Good

Broadly Decent/Good

These classes of weapons tend to have AOE secondary attacks and while there are some small variations between various types of procs, they're largely the same. Advantages would go to weapons that have useful procs (Example: Krieger Wave have a chance to increase KPerf, Ba'ul Antiproton gain additional AOE), or contribute to meaningful set bonuses which we'll discuss below.

Broadly Bad Unless Specific Variant Listed Above

There are other lesser-known, one-off weapons as well that we haven't tested or seen tested.

Ground Sets: Armor, Shield, Secondary Weapons, Etc.

When considering your armor and personal shield, in keeping with principle #1 (Damage gets the job done), consider what offensive benefits the gear item brings, as well as how effective it is at keeping you alive. To a lesser extent, this applies to your secondary weapon as well. For the most part, secondary weapons serve three purposes in STO:

1) If you're using a powerful secondary firing mode on one weapon, put the weapon you shoot in "regular mode" in your primary slot and switch to the secondary when its cooldown is up. In practice, most secondary firing modes can generally be reduced to a pretty low cooldown through traits and specializations and this is usually more micro-management than is warranted.

2) If you're using different weapons for different enemies (read: Borg/Elachi). Having that TR-116B or Thompson handy when you need it keeps it out of the bank when the drones start closing in. In practice, you could just swap the weapon in on maps with Borg, but some people like having all their employed gear ready to go. Too bad there aren't ground loadouts.

3) For a set bonus. This is the path that people will take if they're optimizing for ground, as this lets you run a powerful 2-piece or 3-piece set bonus and since you basically never use the secondary weapon, might as well get some stats out of it.

Just like with weapons, there are a few possible set bonuses/combos that are worth mentioning. We're not going to cover all the not-good ones:

Universally Good

It's hard to go wrong with the Burnham's Armor/Na'kuhl Shield and Na'kuhl secondary weapon for the mix of offensive and defensive stats and both are readily accessible. That said, if you want a spicier setup, keep reading:

Situationally Good


Out of all the devices in the game, there are only a few that are truly consequential. Most combat pets do not qualify; use them if you like them and have them, but generally don't expect much out of them. Here's the highlights:

Kit Frame

The Kit Frame is one of the bigger stat-boosting items on your build, so selecting a good one is important, especially since the vast majority of them cannot be re-engineered. The most important stats on a Kit Frame are as follows:

Risian Kits

The undisputed best kit in the game comes from the Summer Event Store and is called the Risian Kit (not Andorian or Vulcanology). It's powerful because you can re-engineer it to [KPerf]x3 [Proc][KPerf/Wpn], which is the largest amount of Kit Performance on a kit in the game and again, remember that kit is king. The proc also has increase weapon damage and a chance of triggering other Risian kit modules based on using Risian kit modules. 

In order to maximize this kit's potential, you must do the following IN ORDER: 1) Buy the kit (1,000 Lohlunat Favors), 2) Place it in the upgrade window to get it to Mk XII Very Rare but DO NOT ADD UPGRADES, 3) Re-engineer the kit until it's [KPerf]x2 [Proc], 4) NOW you can upgrade it. It will be [KPerf]x3[KPerf/Wpn] at Epic.

Honorable Mention

Kit Modules

Kit modules are the most important part of a ground build, but there are also hundreds of them. We have evaluated several dozen we've used or have seen others put to good use in our armada. Not all kit modules have been evaluated, and once again, melee builds are not considered. This is unlikely to ever change. Our coverage of defensive kit modules is light because no more than 1-2 should be slotted.

For a quick rundown on the strongest Kit Modules we've seen, here are the most universally effective ones:

For a more detailed analysis with commentary, swing on by the Tier Lists page and check out the module list, where we evaluate over 60 modules. Again, this is not all of them.

Maximizing Kit Uptime

By default, all kit modules that aren't 100% passive have a base cooldown, which represents how long they take to use again once activated. The cooldown can be reduced by cooldown reductions, which reduce the remaining cooldown by a percentage of the base cooldown (example: Large Kit Overboosters), or a flat number of seconds (Example: Tendi Nurse doff), and the much more common recharge hastes which increase the rate at which the cooldown ticks relative to seconds of time. For example, if you have 50% recharge haste, a 30 second base cooldown kit module is reduced to 30/(1 + 0.5) = 20 seconds. We call the cooldown after recharge hastes and cooldown reductions are applied the modified or final cooldown. The uptime of a module, which takes its duration for prolonged effects (example: Photonic Overcharge) and divides it by the modified cooldown is also important. Even if the modified cooldown can be reduced further, some kit modules see no benefit if their modified cooldown is already at the duration.

It’s important to note that ground builds have a LOT of recharge haste built in very cheaply. If you’re seriously running ground TFOs, you’re running Temporal Spec (20%) and Commando (20%) specs, plus two points in Kit Efficiency skills (20%) and Field Technician (10%). You can add on the reputation trait Mini Chrono-Capacity Array (9.4%) for nearly 80% recharge haste. Beyond that, there are Large Kit Overboosters (LKOs) that provide 37.5% cooldown reduction every 10-15 seconds (depending on if you have Biochemist that increases their charge rate, see below). 

The most common strategy that people use to deal with long kit cooldowns is Mudd's Time Device, a Universal Kit module from the Discovery Reputation that does two important things. First, it saves you from death if you die while active, returning you to where you were and restoring your health, once every 30 seconds. Secondly, and I believe many players are slotting it for this reason, when activating a kit, other kits on cooldown have their cooldown reduced by 15% of the activated kit’s cooldown. This is quite powerful and translates to “activate kit, get cooldowns back on other modules.” This is most effective on long cooldown kit modules that have little or no minimum cooldown like Ball Lightning or Motion Accelerator. 

Other Niche Options

Overcharging is a personal trait that provides 10% recharge haste while shields are full.I wouldn't rely on this in general Elite content since it requires your shields to be up, which they're not when you need cooldowns most.

Gone Before Security Arrives reduces captain cooldowns by 20% when exiting combat, but this is not great for general TFOs, even on BHE which has some combat breaks. It's believed to be a recharge haste.

Chroniton Jolt is a kit module. It has a powerful but unreliable cooldown mechanic whose utility relies on having allies (including your own fabrications) within 6 meters, but applies the effect to the team. Since you can't reduce its own cooldown with it, it's basically a worse Mudd's Time Device for general use IMO.

Tendi (Nurse) duty officer has a 20% chance to lower cooldowns by 2 seconds on use of a heal, once every 5 seconds. This is usually kind of hard to reliably trigger and thus is also not accounted for in the tool. The best way we’ve found to exploit this is on an Engineer with Overload Power Cells (which causes some minor self-injury) and a Passive Medical Field kit module. Each tick has a chance to roll Tendi. This is a fairly uncommon setup, though we do have a build that employs it.

A Muddy Question

It's not intuitive to assess whether or not Mudd's Time Device is needed for your chosen without doing some math. Since that slot used for Mudd's Time Device could be another offensive kit module, it'd be helpful to have a couple of things:

Well, here they are!

Quick Kit Cooldown Reference Chart and Tool

Note that not all modules are included and if something was within 1-2 seconds of its minimum cooldown without Mudd’s, I said it probably wasn’t worth it to give up a Kit Module for Mudd’s just to cool that module faster. Similarly, if a damage-oriented kit module’s cooldown like Chain Conduit Capacitor or Gravity Containment Unit was sufficiently low without Mudd’s (<10 seconds), I said it could go either way since you’d have to be fast on your fingers to activate the ability and then a couple of others to get it noticeably lower, and not all ground combat is non-stop fighting. 

If quick reference table doesn't suit your needs, consider the ground cooldown calculator. The Back End tab of the table also has all of the durations, base cooldowns, and minimum cooldowns in it. 

The tool allows you to (and I would encourage this) draw your own conclusions based on your personal setup. For example, if Paradox Bomb is the primary lead ability for your combo, what matters is that your other nukes sync to that minimum cooldown of 15 seconds, not absolutely minimum. Similarly, Motivation is powerful, but 100% uptime on that ability is unreliable since the buff expires after a certain amount of healing is done; hopefully your build is not based on having that active all the time. Is it worth it to slot Mudd’s just for that? Only you can determine that for your personal scenario.

The tool only accounts for passive recharge haste since frankly, programming it to accurately use Mudd’s would be a giant headache and isn’t really needed. Instead, the tool will offer a recommendation on whether to use Mudd’s or not for a given kit module depending on if the modified cooldown is within 2 seconds of global, or if the uptime is above 90%.

As with our other tools, please make a copy to fill it out for yourself. It’s worth noting that not all kit modules are in the tool, just the ones that were easily accessible. Feel free to request for either other sources of Recharge Haste or Kits to be added, but you’ll need to supply the module or the Lohlunat Favors unless I can craft it or happen to have it already.

Don’t forget that cooldown reduction is only part of the benefits of Mudd’s Time Device; avoiding death is very solid too. Once your ground build is sufficiently developed, that’s not a major concern on Elite with good control, but it’s still a powerful effect!


Personal Traits

The ground personal traits tier list on our Tier Lists is sortable and filterable on price point, so we'll point you there instead. Even F2P should be able to pick up most of the good ones that aren't from the Lobi Store with a little bit of grinding.

Reputation Traits

Unlike space, where there are some different choices, there's only a handful that are truly meaningful on ground. 

Always slot:

Pick 2:

Honorable Mention:

Active Reputation Traits

Don't skip these! Active Reputation traits have some significant benefits, and since you can take 5 out of the 6 possible options (assuming the unlock), you might as well to get some extra damage and healing, admittedly on very long cooldowns.

That means that Visual Dampening Field (Terran) is generally the one to skip, as the temporary PBAOE Ally Cloak/Confuse has limited utility on most maps.

Duty Officers

There are not many duty officers that we've found that are truly impactful on the ground, so we're not making a tier list for them, especially since we tend to reserve 2 doffs for universal/space doffs. Instead, here are the top performers, some middling/average performers, and a couple that aren't as good as they look from the outside. Remember that duty officer pool limitations are shared between space and ground, so if you have heart set on a Sensors Officer, make sure you're not also running one in space. 

Example of a ground doff layout. Neal Falconer is mostly for boosting space DPS against Borg since his effect also applies in space. Dedicated ground builds building around parsing maps would replace him. 

Universal, high impact

Career-specific, high impact

Universal, moderate impact or situational

Career-specific, moderate impact or situational

Avoid, not worth it