Dicta Cruiser: The Fundamentals of Cruiser Captaincy
Repost from Beta
The Dicta Boelcke is a list of fundamental aerial maneuvers of aerial combat formulated by the first great German flying ace of the First World War, Oswald Boelcke
Some of these tips may seem obvious, others may seem controversial. In the end they are simply one man's opinion about how to fight with your cruiser. The usual cavaets are in order; things may change, and everyone is entitled to their own way of doing things, etc. However, this is my thread and therefore if the language reflects confidence in my own choices, well, that's kind of the point. Star Trek Online like all massive-multiplayer online games will inevitably change and reveal new aspects of combat that will eventually demand changed to some rules. Therefore this post will try to stress general theory and maneuvers that should remain viable.
TL DR people, just read the bold and blue text
1. Try to ensure that your power settings are set to your preference before you engage the enemy
* Get a handle on how long it takes for you to really change your power settings from Full Impulse to whatever your preference may be. Mine is Offensive by default - more on that later - by practicing timing yourself against mobs or even in PVP. Your weapons will do insignificant damage and your shields will be far less effective while still under full impulse power. Players have a tendency to over or under estimate these effects and their duration, don't be one of them. As a cruiser captain power versatility is one of your key tools.
2. Do not necessarily continue an attack you've begun
* Unlike Oswald Boelcke who was dog-fighting in World War I in fragile, primitive, yet nimble aircraft, you are a space battleship that does not have the ability to dictate the terms of the engagement. Your turn rate will always be too slow to win a turning battle with an escort or even a well captained science ship, and another cruiser is unlikely to engage you in one. So don't fight them. Instead, pan your camera and engage targets as they enter your most deadly fields of fire. Keep your head on a swivel and be prepared to dish out damage at any vulnerable target from any direction.
3. Use your offensive cooldowns efficiently
* Cruisers are not meant to dish out the same kind of consistent damage as an escort, but they are equally capable of large amounts of burst damage through judicious use of cooldown powers. But too often players - myself included - mistime these key abilities that are the very basis of our destructive capability. For example learning to properly time things like High Yield Torpedo are of tremendous importance to a cruiser's overall effectiveness in dealing damage. Fire too soon, and you'll do some reasonable but unremarkable damage to the target's shields. Fire too late, and the target has already been destroyed by your brethren. This takes practice to get right and depends on the class of enemy ship, the distance between you and the target, your weapon/ability of choice and the enemy's shield strength. For High Yield Torpedoes, I find I have the best results in group combat when firing at yellow shields at long range and red shields at short range. No shields works in extremely close range or when allies are not firing on the target as well. If your target has no shields, and your allies are laying into it, do not burn your cooldown finishing it off, just use a regular torpedo and move to the next target of opportunity (eg. rule number two.)
4. Cruisers are meant to fight all 360 degrees available to them
* Unlike escorts which have the maneuverability required to support their forward firing weaponry, cruisers do not have the luxury of being able to point their bow at a target at all times. Therefore, a cruiser captain should be adept at how to best utilize his or her ship's tools to fight the enemy no matter where they are in relation to themselves. Once captains get the handle of this, they can advance to exploiting that very limitation and turning it into an advantage. The enemy has a natural tendency to want to attack you from the sides or rear, and will often resist attempts to face you head on. This can be exploited by turning away from an attacker, exposing your aft. This may seem like a gift to them, but if the cruiser captain is capable of and prepared to fight 360 degrees, their willingness to stay put behind you will be their undoing.
5. Thou shalt have an aft torpedo tube
* If you're confused by any of the above rules, this might answer some of your questions. I have heard many times in /zone chat, "I don't get the point of a rear torpedo." These are the same captains that are stacking +Turn Rate consoles for their engineers in a vain attempt to out turn Klingon escorts. The cruiser does not have the capability to dictate the terms of the engagement, nor should it even attempt to try. Instead, react to the movements of your opponent with subtle maneuvers meant to guide them to either your fore or aft. The majority of the time, they will willingly and actively take up position on your tail. You may turn to the left or right to give them a new shield to shoot at momentarily, but that front torpedo tube is never going to get a shot against a determined enemy. The aft torpedo tube is therefore an invaluable offensive and defensive weapon. With a set-up of Array/Torpedo and Array/Torpedo, the cruiser presents strong damage dealing potential forward, broadside, and aft. Thus, the offensive disadvantage of poor maneuverability is nullified.
6. Keep in mind that you can see the enemy's attacks coming
* Opponents are not so much predictable as their attacks are slow: Torpedoes take a while to hit you, if you're observant you can see the enemy turning to engage, maybe they've hit you with a debuff, etc. These warnings should tell you when to switch to a Defensive Power state and think about efficient use of defensive cooldowns. Do not burn them all at once, but if you're switching from an Offensive Power state, use them early as you will need those moments for your power settings to catch up to the switch. After that, use them where appropriate. Though it should be emphasized, given the ability to switch between offense and defense far more effectively than any other ship - mostly given that cruisers actually posess capable defense - the ability to exploit the difference between Offensive and Defensive power states is not only practical but essential.
7. Emphasize the cruiser's strengths
* Earlier I mentioned my mild frustration with cruiser captains who insist on improving the weaker cruiser attributes such as turn rate or forward firepower - the latter exemplified by those who employ depressingly weak turrets in aft slots. In dog-fighting it is never wise to engage in a turning fight when the enemy has even a slight advantage in turning ability. Cruisers are not going to win a turning fight unless it is against another cruiser, and I doubt that is the case these captains are preparing their ships for. Combined with the misguided attempt to improve forward weaponry this creates a cruiser that tries to fight like an escort but is too sluggish to get its target on anything but another slow cruiser - something it could have accomplished without gimping itself. Instead, focus on passive increases to your ship's natural strengths like Power, Shields, Hull, and Damage Resistance. These things will always be working for you and not dependent on some dream of lining up that perfect shot. Those are for escorts.
An example of how to "Fight 360" - The "Aragon Maneuver"!
*Yes, I named it after my own toon. Because it's my thread and because I can - also I do genuinely and deliberately use this move all the time in PVE and PVP. The Picard Maneuver won't work in this game so I encourage everyone to come up with and post their own named tactics and maneuvers. Why? Well, uh, we are geeks aren't we?
>>>>Handy Animated GIF!<<<<
The Requirements: A cruiser with fore and aft torpedoes, High Yield Torpedoes
I. Be engaged with an enemy at medium-long range to the side or in front of you, preferably with low/no facing shields.
2. Activate Evasive Maneuvers and turn towards the target.
3. Fire fore torpedoes as quickly as the enemy enters the firing arc
4. Continue the sharp turn away from the target and activate the High Yield Torpedo ability.
5. Fire aft torpedoes as quickly as the enemy enters the firing arc
This has the effect of getting off one normal and two high yield torpedoes within seconds of each other on the same unshielded or low shielded quadrant of the enemy's shields. It has to be done at medium range or greater or you run the risk of overshooting on your turn and firing your aft torpedoes on a different quadrant.
The Requirements: A cruiser with fore and aft torpedoes, High Yield Torpedoes, Beam Overload or Target Subsystem: Shields.
I. Be engaged with an enemy at medium-long range to the side or in front of you.
2. Activate Beam Overload or Target Subsystem: Shields, and fire.
3. Activate Evasive Maneuvers and turn towards the target.
4. Fire fore torpedoes as quickly as the enemy enters the firing arc
5. Continue sharp turn away from the target and activate High Yield Torpedo ability.
6. Fire aft torpedoes as quickly as the enemy enters the firing arc
This has the potential to absolutely wreck an opponent in a short time, leaving them asking just precisely what the hell just happened. In both cases the key is the difference in cooldowns between fore and aft facing torpedoes and the burst maneuverability of Evasive Maneuvers. Attack Pattern Alpha can also be used in conjunction with that ability to increase turn rate and damage further.
Great post. Very appreciated.
Superb post. Lots of great ideas here for improving cruiser captaincy. More like this please! :-) This is a genuinely useful thread.
Cruiser discussion always makes me want to switch over from escort :(
But rapid fire with blue cannons is soooo pretty! ;_;
I wish i did not have to chose.
I felt like another "rule" could have potentially been added, but it isnt exclusive to cruisers, so I left it out of the initial post. But...
Again, unlike the harsh realities of World War I that Boelcke faced, the penalty for losing (the death penalty) in Star Trek Online is at worst, an inconvenience. Therefore, two conclusions must logically follow:
1) If death is essentially meaningless, than risking it is not a problem
2) If risky situations demand the most of our talents as players, we should throw ourselves into as many of them as we reasonably can
So, aside from completely stupid things like throwing yourself - alone - headlong into a half dozen well-prepared opponents, taking risks and being aggressive is a good thing. Especially early. Something I learned about PVP in Age of Conan (which for all its faults currently has strong PVP balance and tradition) is that the only real way to get better is to get your teeth knocked in. You don't learn by playing it safe, and to use a STO example that means staying in the Federation bubble in PVP. Be stupid/aggressive when the opportunity arises. Don't fret over unfavorable odds. Push yourself into circumstances where victory is unlikely. Do it enough and you'll learn exactly when and how you can get away with, delay, or most efficiently time your abilities. Again, this is GENERAL advice. Unlike in the other MMO I mention (heh), your kill/death ratio is not recorded publicly, so who cares if you end up having a mediocre PVP match or have to restart a PVE mission - you've learned, and in the long run, you'll be a better captain.
Why post this when it seems like common sense to some people? Because of personal experience. Before Age of Conan I would never have even entertained the concept. Being exposed to that sort of demanding PVP enviromnent didn't just make me a better PVPer, it made me a better PVEer, too. It forced me to challenge myself and my conceptions of the class/what was expected of me , despite the complacency many games today offer. Star Trek Online, especially this current build's PVE content - is no exception.
That doesn't mean I'm telling PVEers to go out and PVP their butts off, just that challenging yourself is a good thing, and losing isn't a bad thing. A lot of dedicated PVPers already know this, and I guess that means this post really isn't for you/us. But if you're never really been challenged by a game, PVE or PVP, you've got control over that somewhat - seek such challenges out. It's rewarding.
In short, for the TL DR people:
"Ah, what the hell" should be your motto., in PVE and PVP Otherwise you'll never learn. I don't claim to be the best, but I'm always trying to get better.
Very handy post
Sticky this plz
Regarding Torpedoes, I'm skeptical at the necessity of equipping them, since doing so automatically means you'll be less able to bring down a target's shields. And as you pointed out, a Cruiser is much less capable at dictating the terms of an engagement. If they're watching out for Evasive Manuevers, they're going to perform moves to run counter to yours. You may very well found yourself staring at a fully charged shield by the time you've knocked down one facing and lined up your shot.
Me, assuming it's a duel, I think I'd try for a battle of attrition. Put those Hull Points and Crew to good use. Use beam arrays. Let the oppenent dictate the terms of the engagement, at least as far as turns are concerned, while doing what I can to mitigate the damage. If you can outrun and out last them, once they've exhausted themselves, then you'll be in a position to destroy them. That's when you use use manuevers and attempt to go on the offensive.
Well, CnB you certainly have a point, but I think you've walked into something of a contradiction.
You've correctly pointed out that in a duel a cruiser is looking to win a war of attrition by using its superior survivability to wear the opponent down.
Where I'd disagree is how effective a torpedoless cruiser would be in using maneuvers and going on the offensive.
Ultimately, the longer a fight goes on the more likely a cruiser's chance of winning the engagement - all other things being equal. But unlike say, boxing, where a winner could be chosen on points scored from successful jabs (phaser shots) landed, eventually someone is going to have to swing the knockout punch or they're just going to dance around you until help arrives (PVP), they just run away (PVP), or you get bored (PVE).
Without torpedoes, I don't see that happening. If it takes a few more phaser hits, or a few more non-high yield torpedoes to bring down the enemy's shields, then so be it. I'd be far more confident in my ability to finish them off if I had some torpedoes locked and loaded to land that final blow than if I didn't.
Furthermore, Gunfugue makes a good point about the power drain of energy weapons.
Another upshot of using Beam Arrays is that they hit instantly and you do not need to manuever to use them. There's a greater marjin for error and a reduced reaction time for your opponent. Worth considering is the damage potentional of a Beam Overload. If I'm not mistaken, it should be possible to dump emergency battery power into weapons right before using this attack, increasing the damage potentional not only for the overload, but the initial weapon strikes tremendously.
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