Build Types

Last modified: 9 November 2023

One of the biggest draws of Star Trek Online is that it doesn't really pigeon-hole players into specific types of builds. However, there are certain build pieces that synergize naturally, and player understanding and learning has led to natural groupings of build types. This page covers what each major build type is and what it does. If you want a more thorough breakdown, the Mechanics slides starting at slide 16 go into more detail, but this is a basic breakdown of build types. This does not cover PvP builds. STOBETTER does not cover PvP.

Fundamentally, there are 5 competing goals that fight for build space on a build. What does build space mean? That's the parts that go into a build: consoles, gear, traits, doffs, and even the ship platform itself. So, what are the goals? In decreasing order of popularity, they are:

Of course you can subdivide and hybridize between many of them as well and that's what we'll do next. It's also worth noting that there are niche builds that don't fall into these categories, but they're ... well, niche for a reason. There's also some useful terminology discussions to be had. 

Any type of build listed below can do well in Normal or Advanced, even at budget or semi-optimal levels, though some really thrive in Elite. Non-supportive builds of any type can be made capable on any Elite maps. Supportive builds are typically for specific Elite maps but can be used elsewhere 

Weapon Builds

The first and obvious split is to subdivide weapon builds into energy and projectiles and there are many reasons that they're grouped at the highest level, including the fact that most tactical skills that aren't type-specific affect both (Hull Penetration, Accuracy, Weapon Amplification, etc.). 

Your goals when making a weapon build are:

1. Focus on a single weapon type. That's not to say you can't mix a single torpedo into an energy build or an energy weapon or two into a projectile build, but keep the main thing central. No adding dedicated consoles or traits for that one torpedo on your energy build, for example. If you have a Beam on a Scatter Volley build for Mixed Armaments Synergy, toss a rank 1 firing mode at it but don't go looking for Symbiotic Ice.

2. Make sure it's survivable enough for your intended playcase. If you're flying general Elites, you'll need more durability than just DPS-chasing on parsing maps with a tank. This is harder for multi-target builds like CSV and FAW since they draw more aggro.

3. Everything else. 

Energy builds

Next, we can subdivide energy further based on beam/cannon/specialization modes, because what defines an energy build is primary firing mode and flavor.  There are many optimized energy builds that use multiple firing modes, like Beam Overload + Scatter Volley to trigger Preferential Targeting, but the main mode in that case is Beam Overload and that's what you're building around. Most builds in the game are probably aiming to be energy builds. They excel at shorter combat times or spread out combats because they're not dependent on travel time or cooldowns like Projectile or Exotic builds are. They do have some weaknesses in terms of DPS ceiling and vulnerability to damage reflect effects aka Feedback Pulse. 

Aliases: Some acronyms you might see include "DEW" (Directed Energy Weapons) or they might use the acronym for the central firing mode (e.g. CSV = Cannon Scatter Volley). 

1. Beam Builds are building around beam weapon damage output and include Beam Overload (single target) or Fire at Will (multi-target) in whatever flavor you want (Phaser, Disruptor, Plasma, Polaron, Tetryon, or Antiproton). 

2. Cannon Builds are focusing on mostly cannon weapon damage output and include Cannon Rapid Fire (single target) or Scatter Volley (multi-target) again in whatever flavor you want. Unlike beam builds, which you can put on just about anything, cannon builds should only be run on ships that support dual cannons. 

3. Specialization Modes affect both beams and cannons but require a Commander Pilot, Intel, or Miracle Worker seat to be run effectively, for Reroute Reserves to Weapons (Pilot), Surgical Strikes (Intel), or Exceed Rated Limits (Miracle Worker). It is highly suboptimal to run these modes at less than Rank III and you're not running any other firing mode alongside them on an optimized build. Again, pick whatever flavor you want. 

Further reading on Energy builds is covered in Energy Basics.

Projectile Builds

Projectile builds are usually slotting multiple firing modes, so they're best classified by the type of weapons they're focusing on, which largely comes into play with ship, bridge officer, and tactical console selection. These builds are still weapon-focused. We'll cover the exotic ones below, but these build quite differently.  Projectile builds have very high DPS ceilings in Elite content because when properly chosen and buffed, the appropriate torpedoes do much higher DPS than energy builds. Projectile builds typically deal much higher damage once an enemies shields are down, but there are some exceptions that deal equal damage against hull and shields . . . and they are niche.  They struggle on maps where the enemies are many, fast, or flimsy, as the travel time of torpedoes makes them inefficient at clearing the swarm.

Aliases: "Torpedo boat" is kind of a loaded term because it could also refer to exotic builds but often means this type. "Kinetic" build is clearer somewhat in that you're focused on projectile weapons, but since a lot of exotic damage is kinetic too...that can also be confusing. The best terminology is probably "Projectile" but I've used the other two as well. 

1. Mixed/Torpedo builds are generally running some combination of torpedoes and mines, possibly with some energy weapons tossed in for set bonuses. I would guess most optimized projectile builds fall into this category, but when push comes to shove, they're taking +torpedo over +mines, so for this reason you could say full torpedo builds fall in here too. The difference between a full torp build, mostly torpedo+energy build, and one mixing in mines is...pretty small so I've grouped them together 

2. Mine builds invert the focus from torps to mines which leads to some different build considerations. This is a pretty niche thing, but you can make it work on Elite content. 

Further reading on Projectile builds is covered in Projectile Basics

Exotic Builds

This is where we bring in the builds that focus on items that (generally) scale with Exotic Particle Generators. These are still personal-damage focused builds, but they're generally building around consoles, bridge officer abilities, and the secondary deflector rather than straight weapon damage. If your enemies are many and preferably in a 10-12 km radius, an Exotic build has the highest DPS ceiling, and thanks to the persistent nature of many exotic damage sources, don't care about repeatedly warping-in waves of enemies as they all go into the space-time blender. They struggle when fights are frequent and spread-out, as they're more cooldown dependent. These builds are best on ships with a secondary deflector, but can also be applied to ships particular the 2-bay carriers with Commander Science, at some performance penalty.

Aliases: These builds have all types of nicknames. "Scitorp" could refer to a hybrid between this and a weapon-focused projectile build, but often just means exotic build. "EPG" is another term, referring to the primary stat (Exotic Particle Generators). "Space Wizard/Space magic" is either used affectionately by those who love it or pejoratively by those who hate the visual effects that accompany an EPG build. 

Exotic builds have some competing subgoals that don't differentiate themselves as distinctly as energy builds do, but there are some distinct concepts and sub-focuses that I've called "leans" in the past. Most will hybridize at least 2-3 of these.

1. 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.

2. Tactical lean uses the Entwined Tactical Matrices trait (T6 C-store ship) and potentially the Morphogenic Armaments 3-piece to boost and hurl extra torpedo spreads of the Gravimetric and Particle Emission Plasma torpedoes. This requires additional tactical officer powers in the form of various firing modes to be slotted. 

3. Console lean focuses on consoles with powerful actives and the Unconventional Systems (Lockbox/Exchange) trait to reduce their cooldowns. This forces low-cooldown "Control" bridge officer powers alongside Gravity Well like Tractor Beam or Tractor Beam Repulsors. The most expensive type and most high-end exotic builds will at least partially hybridize into this.

4. 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.

If we had to order them by ceiling, it's probably console > tactical = anomaly > deflector, but there's so much mixing and matching in any given build it's hard to tell which is truly the best, especially since console takes significant investment to get there. 

Your main goals on any Exotic build are:

1. Maximize exotic damage. You need to be able to re-arrange the molecules of everything in your chosen Area of Death. Don't get caught up trying to amplify the mine you tossed in the back. You're not going bananas for hangar pets. Embrace the wizardry. You're probably going to need to diversify your damage sources, too. Focusing on building around a single console or trait can work out if it's strong enough, but a better path is more likely to have several heavy hitting sources and a bunch of smaller ones. Don't get too lost in the sauce of building around just one thing. 

2. Make sure you have enough Control Expertise to pull a big enough pile of enemies into the Dematerialized Zone. 

3.  Make sure it's survivable enough for your intended playcase. If you're flying general Elites, you'll need more durability than just DPS-chasing on parsing maps with a tank. Exotic builds tend to draw aggro very quickly so...either go very glassy and kill everything within firing range first or at least have a plan. Failing that, there's always Continuity. 

You can find more information on Exotic builds in Exotic Basics


Support builds in STO are not generally healers but rather buff/debuff ships designed to help teammates reach new DPS thresholds. Support builds by their very nature are not intended to be DPS machines in their own right and are typically geared for Elite content only; Advanced is too easy/fast for a support build to really shine. Supports and tanks have this in common; it's not that they can't function on Normal or Advanced, but they only truly serve a needed purpose on Elite. For this type of build, unlike the Weapon or Exotic builds, you are not trying to build up your own DPS.

Aliases: The most common one is "nanny." We prefer "support" but YMMV. "Debuff" is often associated with this build type as well. 

You can select and build supports somewhat differently depending on whether you're focused on supporting energy, projectile, or exotic builds, but most of the pieces are the same, so I wouldn't worry about subdividing too much. In terms of how these builds look, their equipment and boff stations look like a combination of exotic and AOE energy builds, but with very different consoles and traits. That's not to say that supports have to be on a science vessel, as there are supports on Strike Wing Escorts, Carriers, and other types of ships as well, but you can expect to see debuff abilities pulled from across engineering, science, and tactical careers rather than focusing mostly on tactical (weapon) or science (exotic) builds. We subdivide supports into 2 subclasses: Anchors are bringing Gravity Well III and focused more on high Control Expertise to help group and clump enemies. The other subclass, the Spotter, brings a Commander Tactical seat and is focused on maximum debuff  / damage amplification with a weaker spec into Control/ Gravity Well.

Your main goals on any Support build are:

1. Buff allies through consoles, traits, boff abilities, etc.

2. Debuff enemies through more of the same. 

3. Bring other useful abilities, like Control (pull, Gravity Well), Buff-stripping (Shout-out to science captains who can clear Feedback Pulse from certain boss-enemies like the Borg Queen) or Disable (for example, Tachyon Net Drones console to turn off enemy shields). 

Further reading on support builds can be found at Support Basics


Tanks are a subset of energy weapon builds, specifically Fire at Will, designed for the express purpose of absorbing damage AND drawing fire away from the team. Why FAW? Because that's how you get that sweet 360 degree threat coverage. Tanking is also more than just slotting all the heals you can possibly slot, because without attracting incoming fire away from the team, they won’t be very useful. The goal is "Tank" not "Turtle." Tank builds are generally nice to have but not essential on Advanced for players with moderately capable builds. Certain Elite maps practically require a tank to be completed successfully.

Aliases: "Tank" is pretty universal, but we'll demarcate more down below as the tank type gets split between two different types depending on the answer to this question: Should my tank also deal lots of damage or should it focus on helping the team inflict more damage?

The goals of a tank build are:

1. Pull threat

2. Survive threat

3. If you're a support tank, debuff enemies/buff allies. If you're a heavy tank, do damage. I would suggest that straddling the line between the two results in being meh at both but YMMV.

You can read more about tank builds at Tanking Basics.

Carrier Builds

Carrier builds have significant variety and there's been much less effort put into defining the best way to optimize them. Depending on the ship involved, they might build more like a traditional energy weapon ship or a more tactical-leaning Exotic build. The biggest concern is having two bays, access to a strong hangar pet ideally with some powerful/expensive traits to support them. Having more engineering consoles is helpful if you're really focusing on hangar pets since the new advanced consoles are a strong power boost. Carriers may also attempt to draw threat away from their pets, so some tanking concepts and powers like Suppression Barrage might be employed. Be aware that carrier builds have a substantially lower observed DPS ceiling than other major damage builds, and require significant cost to get there. 

The goals of a carrier build are:

1. Buff and support pets damage

2. Be able to replace/heal/make pets immune to damage efficiently

3. Deal damage through your ship.


What about blending between the types? It's quite possible to hybridize between the major types. Here are some examples. 

I'm not going to say it's impossible to hybridize supports into damage types, but the two goals (my damage versus team damage) are mutually opposing so what's the point? I'd also suggest that Exotic or Projectile tanking is . . . not a thing, or at least an unproven concept that seems bad on paper. 


There are other more niche build types out there and all sorts of reasons to make other builds (example: theme builds) which will defy the categories list above. Many builds will not drop neatly into these categories and that's okay. We don't argue for for strict adherence to build classification. The best part of STO is the endless opportunity for customization and creativity in shipbuilding. That said, more optimized ones will often be a lot closer to one type than not, and if you want to do something on the wild side, it's good at least know the standard recipes before you go in the kitchen and *really* cook. 

If you'd like to see a diagram with all the major build types in relation to each other, maybe this picture will help illustrate the point: