Tanking Basics

Tank Builds

Last Modified: 9 November 2023

Tanks are a subset of energy weapon builds designed for the express purpose of absorbing damage AND drawing fire away from the team. Tanks in high-end DPS runs are also built with the secondary purpose of providing additional teamwide buffs/enemy debuffs. Because tanks are essentially a subset of energy weapon builds, this guide assumes you've read the energy build basics.

Tanking in STO is often unlike other MMOs. While a player might  expect access to a wide array of taunts and other attack and damage redirecting tools, these are very limited in STO. Instead, a player must work with damage sources, a select few taunts (often locked to certain ships), and threatscale.

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. Often tanks rely on having just enough healing power to stay alive in any given circumstance, with all other options being placed into damage. 

Tank builds are generally nice to have but not essential on Advanced for players with moderately capable builds as described in our other Basics guides. Certain Elite maps practically require a tank to be completed successfully.

The goals of a tank build are:

Holding Threat or Aggro

Threat/Aggro is the measure of how much NPCs shoot at you as opposed to nearby allies within 10 km. This can be parsed as percentage of incoming attacks toward the team (% atks in). A good tank will hold 75% or more; an excellent tank can hold above 90%.

Given the intricacies and randomness it is difficult to fully map any threat interaction. The thousands of moving parts and AI decisions that happen makes it nearly impossible to really track what does and doesn’t affect threat; including but not limited to distance from target, damage dealt to target, debuffs applied to targets and heals applied to allies. Threatscale is the main force of a tank as it tends to increase the contribution of these sources to the threat redirection assessment, and is something that can be expressed mathematically. 

Threatscale effectively ‘tricks’ NPC AI into perceiving players as a bigger threat than they are, and as such helps redirect attacks to that player. There are a couple of sources of threat generation that are useful:

As a result of this lower DPS threshold (note the damage potential still needs to be there), tanks generally fare best when running large scale area of effect powers (such as Fire at Will and Gravity Well). Fire at will, for example, targets multiple enemies within a weapons firing arc. FAW with standard 270 degree beam arrays tend to be the go to for any tank, as it creates a large sphere of influence (SOI - a region where a tank can influence the threat direction to themselves). In this case a ship with a 4/4 weapon spread will have a fairly even SOI within a 10km radius bubble centered on the player.

Being close to enemies, but also healing allies,  and using confuses (however these can mess with threat allocations), and debuffing (to a degree) also influences threat and aggro pulling. Tanks in STO need to do damage - there are essentially no direct taunts that force the targets to attack you over someone else. There are also a ton of targets in STO, so single-target abilities are not going to cut it. Additionally, if you can do a big initial burst of damage, it will help lock in your spot as threat leader. But you also need to survive that damage with resistances, healing, and raw hit points. Experience points to the most successful tanks having 25% to 35% of cumulative non-tank player damage output, which can go down if the DPS players are running higher-end builds and the tank is particularly well-geared towards increasing the threat multiplier. 


STO has very few taunts; this makes them very important for potential tanking platforms. Taunts essentially override any threat scaling / attack direction decisions the NPC AI might make. However, there are two types of taunts; hard and soft.

Hard taunts usually have very little conditions and last for a set amount of time. This is the case for the Ability Diversionary Tactics (from Strategist secondary specialization), the Chronos Starship Console Chronotachyon Capacitor, and the Advanced Obelisk Carrier starship console Reactive Antiproton Cascade Emitter.

Diversionary Tactics is why tanks universally run Strategist secondary. 

Soft taunts are much more plentiful, and often work similar to most placates. Lone Wolf, for example, cause the rest of the team to placate enemies around them leaving the player as the only ‘viable’ target. However, this placate comes with a damage cap and as such with high DPS teams tends to last for only a second or two (often being a single shot from the tank).


Tanks need both big defensive buffs/heals for “spike” moments when incoming fire is at its highest from many ships and sustained healing to withstand continued punishment

Heavy/Classic Tanks versus Support/Debuff Tanks

In its simplest a tank is designed to remove all incoming fire and redirected towards a singular entity, which in this case is the 'tank' player. To achieve this the player must have sufficient sustained heal/protection and otherwise damage prevention to act in essence as a damage sponge. There is something of a divergence between secondary goals in tanking that will influence a decent amount of the build that can be boiled down to the answer to this question:

"Should my tank also deal lots of damage or should it focus on helping the team inflict more damage?"

There are pros and cons to both. The former, which is referred to here as a "heavy" tank, is more self-sufficient, tends to be built with more survivability due to less build space devoted to debuffs, and can be used more easily on more maps than just DPS-parsing maps that spread the team out and require each player to contribute substantial DPS and survive on their own on a spread out map, not lending themselves to a singular tank: (examples: certain stages of Battle of Korfez, Azure Nebula, certain stages of Herald Sphere, Dranuur Gauntlet). The downside is that if you're trying to help an ally reach new DPS heights on a parsing map like Infected Space or Hive, the tank's DPS can detract from theirs if your allies are sufficiently strong that they don't need the tank's DPS to contribute to the speed of the map's completion. This is basically only a problem for high-end players above 300K DPS. Heavy tanks or classic tanks aim to be a self sustained high performance (High DPS, High HPS, High AtksIn/s) ship that can work in virtually any team configuration and of varying skill from all users. Examples of heavy tanks include the U.S.S. Bedivere, Stormbreaker, and the U.S.S. Dragonscale

A supportive tank, conversely, tends to be less survivable and will certainly be more team-dependent, but still draws enemy fire and survives while also tossing out debuffs and ally buffs to assist the team. If you're trying to help boost allies to new records on parsing maps, support tanks are helpful in that they contribute to both the team's survivability and ally damage output, and they're generally still playable on other maps. Examples of supportive tank include the U.S.S. Alamo, the U.S.S. D'Alembert, and the I.S.S. Phlegethon

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. Engineering gives you extra survivability. Tactical has more damage and debuffs. Science is in between the two. 

Ship Basics (Beams only)

There's a large combination of things that interact to evaluate a ship's suitability for tank builds. Here's our list:

Bridge Officer Seating



Power Levels

The same power levels used for generic energy weapon builds apply to tanks.


In general, the same gear for generic energy weapon builds is used for tanks (look for entries under "tanking"). Of particular note:

Traits and Duty Officers

Are well covered under Energy Basics and our Tier Lists. Make sure you follow the recommendations for survivability. A few notes:


Tanks should typically employ the broadsiding with Fire-at-Will and 1-torp piloting techniques. Seek to move quickly with the rest of your team to each encounter and be near as many enemies as you can engage at once. If you die, the entire team likely does on Elite. 

External Resources

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

Damage Resistance Rating and Bonus Damage Resistance Rating

Some terms you might see while you go about constructing a tank is the terms Damage Resistance Rating (DRR) and Bonus Damage Resistance Rating (BDRR). While there is a mechanical difference between them just know that bonus damage resistance scales up the damage resistance curve. As such when given the option of using an item which grants bonus damage resistance rating it is generally more valuable for durability than an item which simply adds regular damage resistance rating. However these are normally found on consoles and abilities rather than as passives. Keep this in mind when building.

While the exact blend will be up to you to decide what you need, a graph for how these scale can be found below: