Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
How exactly do you Shield Tank? - or - How exactly do you Chain Shield Heals/Buffs?

Ok, I'm sure you've all seen me around these forums, I've been playing the game since Feb 2010. I'm no noob, but I really have never figured this out and make it work. I read something that made me think about this the other day and thought it was finally time I admitted my ignorance/inability and ask for help.

I've heard people talk about "Chaining" Emergency Power to Shields and Transfer Shield Strength (and maybe even Rotate Shield Frequency if an Eng Captain) in such a way that these powers are up and working (nearly?) "all the time" effectively hardening a ship's shield to the point of nigh-invulnerablility. I believe this phenomenon is known as "Shield Tanking."

And I've seen player ships in game (all types: cruisers, sci vessels, carriers, even (and perhaps especially) escorts and BoPs) that take insane amounts of damage, and yet still keep their shields up.

How is this done?

I know it has something to do with timing the power uses, use power A, when it runs out use power B, then second copy of power A, then B, then A, then ?? or something like that? And maybe balancing? And recently Tac Team helps (but these tanks existed before that). I think. However, when I try that out myself, I'm spending so much time watching the shield powers that I can't keep track of the fight or targets or steer or even keep up firing my weapons (god forbid I try to time torpedo strikes).

Maybe it has something to do with keybinds, yes? Ok, what binds do you use? Seriously, can you please be specific? Because I've tried those too and it seems like I still can't get the system to work right.

And while we're on this subject of Shield Tanking, would you please share your builds, or at least the relevant ship-type, skills, shield power, equipment, etc. that promote your tank?

Thanks for the help.

10/05/11 Edit: Amazingly special thanks to the Archancellor Ridcully for his posts here (especially the next one), but there is so much great info in the whole thread. Skip on over to post #49 for my results.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
Hardening
The first objective for shield tanking is to make your shields last. This means giving it a resistance bonus so it takes less damage from incoming attacks than it normally would. That means every single shield point is worth "more".

Emergency Power to Shields
is a crucial element here. The Emergency Powers have an interesting relation between recharge, system cooldown, global cooldown and duration.
The power bonus from each of these skills last 30 seconds. The global cooldown between two identical skills is 30 seconds. The system cooldown (System "Batteries" IIRC) is 15 seconds. (All system cooldowns currently have that length).
Emergency Power to Shields is even "more special", in that it provides not just a 30 second energy level buff, but also a 30 second shield resistance buff. (The other EPtX powers only provide shorter duration secondary buffs, and those buffs are also less powerful overall).
So, overall: You can chain two identical Emergency Powers (eg. Emergency Power to Shields or Emergency Power to Weapons etc.) so you have a 100 % uptime. Once one buff runs out, the other has recharged. You can also chain a total of 4 Emergency Powers of any type (for example, 2 Emergency Power to Shields and 2 Emergency Power to Auxilally).

THe relevant part for shield tanking, are, of course, Emergency Power to Shields. You use two of them, have 100 % uptime, and that means you enjoy a significant amount of damage reduction. This damage reduction means your shields take less damage and last longer, which protects you from most other attacks as well - torpedoes deal less damage against shields, after all. (Be aware, you get a resistance bonus in two ways here - one as an element of the powers buff itself, and one from the increased shield power level you're running at,which also provides a resistance buff.)

That mostly covers the "shield hardening" part of shield tanking. The resistance bonus is an important basis.

Additional powers will be needed to restore your shields, as EPtS is not that strong as shield healing (though it also provides some).

There are other powers tha also provide resistance bonuses to shields - Rotate Shield Frequency (Engineering Captain Skill), Science Fleet (Science Captain Skill) and Transfer Shield Strength.
Captain Skills usually do not have a good uptime, but they can still be part of a larger "power rotation".
Transfer Shield Strength is more relevant for the "Healing" part, which comes later.

Distributing
Your objective here is to actually maximize the use of the shield points you have, including all heals you receive (be it from natural regeneration or shield heals). There are a few things to consider
1) You want your shields to protect you from where damage is actually coming.
2) You want to benefit from the full regeneration of all shield heals and innate regeneration. The important part here is: All shield heals are applied per facing. If a facing is at maximum, you do not benefit from the healing applied to that facing. So it's better to distribute the shield points evenly, so all shield facings are somewhat reduced and gain healing.

Distribute Shield Power
This is a feature every ship has. Just click on your shield UI, and the shields are slowly balanced. The effect lasts only shortly, you have to keep activating it to continue the balancing. There is no cooldown involved here - it's just that the efffect happens for a few seconds and ends then, and you can immediately activate it again. You can also distribute shield power to different facings, which you might sometimes want to do. But it's not as crucial as regularly distributing shield power.
The most recommended keybind is probably to bind Distribute Shield Power to your spacebar.

Tactical Team
Tactical Team is Distribute Shield Power on steroids and in easy mode. Tactical Team I is sufficient here. It has a 10 second duration, 15 second global and system cooldown (System: Crew), and a 30 second recharge. That means with 2 Tactical Teams, you have 66 % uptime, which is pretty good.
What it does is simple - it distributes shield power to a shield facing that is taking damage. Against spike damage (e.g. a lot of damage in a very short time, that is not maintained), this basically quadruples the number of shield points you have to protect you against that attack. (Sure, afterwards those points might be gone - but as mentioned - spike damage doesn't last long, so afterwards, you will have some time to recover, where otherwise, there would be no afterwards).
In less stressful situation, it means you are guaranteed to be protected for 15 seconds and can go easy on the distribute power buttons.

Healing
The most important heal here is probably Transfer Shield Strength. It's a heal over time with an initial extra package of healing, which means it will quickly also close momentary gaps in your defense while it's running. It doesn't have the superb uptime of Emergency Power to Shields or Science Team, unfortunately. With a 15 second duration, a 45 second recharge, a 15 second system cooldown and a 30 second global cooldown, even in the best case, you will have a 15 second gap between Transfer Shield Strengths. So use it wisely, e.g. when you will really utilize all of the healing and are not in risk of overhealing.
As most science powers, this power benefits from Auxiliary Power. Most of the time, it is a good idea to spend any energy points not spend on weapons on shields, but consider the use of Emergency Power to Auxiliary (only really feasible on a Cruiser) or Auxiliary Batteries to facilitate the optimal use of this power.

Reverse Shield Polarity
is also a good shield heal. It has a really bad uptime, though, so on most ships, I wouldn't recommend it. Cruisers have plenty of Engineering Power slots, and can sometimes work an RSP into it. For such ships, RSP can be part of a larger "rotation" of powers - when RSP is unavalble, the Engineer can use Rotate Shield Frequency for healing and hardening, and possibly use MIracle Worker to restore his shields as well, and when those are on cooldown, he can try to use RSP.

Science Team
is not very strong as a heal, and it comes at a high opportunity cost if you use a high ranking one for shield healing primarily. But it can still serve in emergency cases. But most of the time, you will want to use it to deal with enemy science debuffs. (Stuff like Viral Matrix, Subnucleonic Beam, Scramble Sensors)
Miracle Worker is a Engineering Captain only skill, but it will do wonders for your shields if you have it.

Bonus Topic - Support
Extend Shields must be applied to other targets, so it's only useful if you have one or more team mates. But if you are, it's really good - because it gives them continual (but low) healing and a significant buff to their shield resistance. It has an excellent uptime - 30 second of protection are followed by 15 seconds without. The only challenge is keeping your ally within 7.5 km. (The power will resume working if you get back into range, but only protects while within the range. Keep that in mind, both as the healer and as the healed.)

Science Fleet helps your entire team - so if you see someone hurting, consider using it even if you don't need it for yourself. A good team will try to rotate the copies of the skill to have a good uptime.

Transfer Shield Strength can be applied on others as well, so be generous and share.

Science Team is usually more important to be used for removing science debuffs, but if you know that your ally has hardened shields, but the shields are getting dangerously low or are gone, a Science Team can help as well.

Tactical Team is a great power to use on people under heavy fire, especially newbies that haven't learned to distribute shield power.

Bonus Topic - The Borg
Against the Borg, shield tanking arguably sucks, because they always use that cheater shield neutralizer power. (And they use it a lot.)

Hazard Emitters negates that neutralizer debuff. But the enemies will spam the neutralizer more oftehn you can do. But the worst damage most NPCs inflict comes from their High Yield Torpedoes, in the Borg's case, those are the nasty Plasma Torpedoes. (Plus the new Special Torpedo in the Borg Red Alerts).
So, tricks to get the most out of your shields is to only restore them when you see those torps incoming. Keep some distance, and use HE/TSS/TT to optimize your shield usage. And otherwise - look into options that go more into hull tanking, but beware - the only really good at hull tanking are probably cruisers, as you really need the high ranking heals there, while shield hardening can already done with lower level skills.

Bonus Topic - Keybind
This should be the keybind to bind fire all weapons and distribute shields:
/bind Space "+Power_Exec Distribute_Shields $$ GenSendMessage HUD_Root FireAll"
Simply enter it in the chat mode. (If it breaks anything - sorry. Not my expertise.)
More advanced could be to also bind your two Emergency Power to Shields to the key. For example, if you have EPtS put in your 10th power row in the position 2 and 3:
/bind Space "+Power_Exec Distribute_Shields $$ GenSendMessage HUD_Root FireAll $$ +TrayExecByTray 9 1 $$ +TrayExecByTray 9 2"
(numbers are off by one, since the count starts at 0, IIRC, e.g the first position in the first power tray is 0 0.)

General
What I said applies to PvE and PvP equally, but beware: Most of the time, you don't need all that much in healing options for PvE. 2 Emergency Power to Shields and 1 Transfer Shield Strength will probably be sufficient to get you through anything, on any ship. (Shield-Wise. For dealing with hull damage, a hazard emitter will probably suffice).
In PvP, you might feel the need to have a lot more than that, especially because the enemy will look or create weaknesses in your defense. But be careful - your goal isn't just to survive. Your team has to destroy the other side's ships. So when you select heals, don't sacrifice all your offensive options, or look for heals that help those in your team that did have to make sacrifices in defense for a strong offense. And always remember - if you're not cooperating with your allies, it's 5 vs 1 5 times in a row for your enemy. No matter how clever you are with your shield and hull tanking, it won't get you through that. Better ensure that the combat genuinely remains 5v5.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
09-18-2011, 10:29 AM
Seems I scared off the other posters. Sorry.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 4
09-18-2011, 11:00 AM
I don't think it's so much scaring them off as "well, I have nothing to add to that." Looks like a pretty comprehensive rundown, and I agree with pretty much everything here.

Shield types can be thrown into the mix a bit. Obviously, the "best" shield type for shield tanking is going to have various opinions. Covariant tends to be my personal choice (specifically, the Aegis Covariant), as they have the largest number of shield hitpoints, and once hardened that difference becomes even larger. Of course, they pay for this with a very low natural regen rate, but that's what shield healing abilities are for. Resilient aren't quite as tough as their Covariant brethren, but make up for it by reducing bleedthrough damage, so you can worry a little less about your hull. Normal shields are balanced between hitpoints and regen. And Regenerative shields have the lowest of hitpoints, but the best natural regen.

The one thing I might add (if there's conclusive proof one way or the other yet, I haven't researched this in a while) is the effect of armor consoles. Do they add to your shield "hardening" in any way, or do their bonuses apply only to hull (somewhat negating the "Reactive Shielding" buff from the Aegis set, which only seems to add the same type of resistance armor consoles do).

My specific build is pretty much pure PvE, I wouldn't expect it to do much more than make a good target in PvP, and I'm still making changes every once in a while to shift the build a bit:

Assault Cruiser
Tactical Team 1
Beam Overload 1, Beam Fire at Will 2
Emergency Power to Auxiliary 1, Engineering Team 2, Emergency Power to Shields 3
Emergency Power to Weapons 1, Engineering Team 2, Emergency Power to Shields 3
The commander Engineering ability tends to switch based on situation between Aux to SIF 3 and Extend Shields 3, although I do have an RSP 3 I could theoretically use as well.
Science powers vary based on enemy. Against the Borg, Hazard Emitters 1 and 2. Against the Breen, Polarize Hull 1 and Science Team 2. I usually run the HE setup when not facing either of these 2, although I really should get an officer with TSS.

My ship is currently equipped with the full Aegis set and Borg console, although I'll likely switch to 3 pieces of the Borg set once I have them while keeping the Aegis Shield. I run my power levels at 100 weapons/30 shields/25 engines/45 auxiliary, but my captain and 4 of my 5 officers are Efficient, and along with skills and power consoles, my actual power is around 125 weapons/83 shields/60 engines/72 auxiliary. Once I hit EPtS 3, shield power is also at 125.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 5
09-18-2011, 11:03 AM
Hull resistance and Shield Resistance are two separate things, so Armor Consoles do not help your shields. But they affect any damage that goes to your hull, which includes bleed through. So armor consoles can be useful even when shield tanking, as you're still taking bleed through damage. (But most ships don't have that many slots for armor consoles, unfortunately.)
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 6 +Timing your energy allocation
09-18-2011, 12:50 PM
MustrumRidcully, your post covers all the basics about Shield Tanking! Good work! *thumbsup*

About the shield distribution part:

Time your energy allocation:
Switch between different energy setups in a given combat situation. If you're under heavy it is wise to change your setup from an offensive one to a defense one. I mean by this that you should shuffle more energy to shields and/or auxiliary. More points into shield energy naturally adds up your resistence. Especially Regenerative Shields benefit from it, since its natural strong regeneration becomes a mighty strong one.
More energy into auxiliary is important for Transfer Shield Strength (TTS). To get most out of it you want it to hit 125 energy before you activate it.

Here an example of energy allocation and when to use an ability:
  1. You're an escort captain (since the OP asked for it especially) and run with the initial energy setup of 100/25/50/25 (offensive setup). You receive heavy fire.
  2. Use abilities like Emergency Power to Shields to harden your shields and Tactical Team to keep you shielded from burst fire. Switch energy setup to 50/50/50/50 (balanced setup).
  3. Use a Power to Auxiliary battery, your energy allocation should display like this: 50/50/50/125
  4. Use Transfer Shield Strength, it gives you now most out of the ability that you can get.
  5. Switch your energy setup again to 50/75/50/25 or if desired to 25/100/50/25.
Keep in mind that without a EPS Flow Regulator consoloe it will take some time to have your energy shuffled from one subsystem to another one. You either want to get yourself one to quickly react to situations or you learn by time how to anticipate the enemy and change your energy setup before the enemy's burst fire drains quickly your shields!
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 7 Standing ovation.
09-18-2011, 01:18 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MustrumRidcully View Post
Hardening
The first objective for shield tanking is to make your shields last. This means giving it a resistance bonus so it takes less damage from incoming attacks than it normally would. That means every single shield point is worth "more".

Emergency Power to Shields
is a crucial element here. The Emergency Powers have an interesting relation between recharge, system cooldown, global cooldown and duration.
The power bonus from each of these skills last 30 seconds. The global cooldown between two identical skills is 30 seconds. The system cooldown (System "Batteries" IIRC) is 15 seconds. (All system cooldowns currently have that length).
Emergency Power to Shields is even "more special", in that it provides not just a 30 second energy level buff, but also a 30 second shield resistance buff. (The other EPtX powers only provide shorter duration secondary buffs, and those buffs are also less powerful overall).
So, overall: You can chain two identical Emergency Powers (eg. Emergency Power to Shields or Emergency Power to Weapons etc.) so you have a 100 % uptime. Once one buff runs out, the other has recharged. You can also chain a total of 4 Emergency Powers of any type (for example, 2 Emergency Power to Shields and 2 Emergency Power to Auxilally).

THe relevant part for shield tanking, are, of course, Emergency Power to Shields. You use two of them, have 100 % uptime, and that means you enjoy a significant amount of damage reduction. This damage reduction means your shields take less damage and last longer, which protects you from most other attacks as well - torpedoes deal less damage against shields, after all. (Be aware, you get a resistance bonus in two ways here - one as an element of the powers buff itself, and one from the increased shield power level you're running at,which also provides a resistance buff.)

That mostly covers the "shield hardening" part of shield tanking. The resistance bonus is an important basis.

Additional powers will be needed to restore your shields, as EPtS is not that strong as shield healing (though it also provides some).

There are other powers tha also provide resistance bonuses to shields - Rotate Shield Frequency (Engineering Captain Skill), Science Fleet (Science Captain Skill) and Transfer Shield Strength.
Captain Skills usually do not have a good uptime, but they can still be part of a larger "power rotation".
Transfer Shield Strength is more relevant for the "Healing" part, which comes later.

Distributing
Your objective here is to actually maximize the use of the shield points you have, including all heals you receive (be it from natural regeneration or shield heals). There are a few things to consider
1) You want your shields to protect you from where damage is actually coming.
2) You want to benefit from the full regeneration of all shield heals and innate regeneration. The important part here is: All shield heals are applied per facing. If a facing is at maximum, you do not benefit from the healing applied to that facing. So it's better to distribute the shield points evenly, so all shield facings are somewhat reduced and gain healing.

Distribute Shield Power
This is a feature every ship has. Just click on your shield UI, and the shields are slowly balanced. The effect lasts only shortly, you have to keep activating it to continue the balancing. There is no cooldown involved here - it's just that the efffect happens for a few seconds and ends then, and you can immediately activate it again. You can also distribute shield power to different facings, which you might sometimes want to do. But it's not as crucial as regularly distributing shield power.
The most recommended keybind is probably to bind Distribute Shield Power to your spacebar.

Tactical Team
Tactical Team is Distribute Shield Power on steroids and in easy mode. Tactical Team I is sufficient here. It has a 10 second duration, 15 second global and system cooldown (System: Crew), and a 30 second recharge. That means with 2 Tactical Teams, you have 66 % uptime, which is pretty good.
What it does is simple - it distributes shield power to a shield facing that is taking damage. Against spike damage (e.g. a lot of damage in a very short time, that is not maintained), this basically quadruples the number of shield points you have to protect you against that attack. (Sure, afterwards those points might be gone - but as mentioned - spike damage doesn't last long, so afterwards, you will have some time to recover, where otherwise, there would be no afterwards).
In less stressful situation, it means you are guaranteed to be protected for 15 seconds and can go easy on the distribute power buttons.

Healing
The most important heal here is probably Transfer Shield Strength. It's a heal over time with an initial extra package of healing, which means it will quickly also close momentary gaps in your defense while it's running. It doesn't have the superb uptime of Emergency Power to Shields or Science Team, unfortunately. With a 15 second duration, a 45 second recharge, a 15 second system cooldown and a 30 second global cooldown, even in the best case, you will have a 15 second gap between Transfer Shield Strengths. So use it wisely, e.g. when you will really utilize all of the healing and are not in risk of overhealing.
As most science powers, this power benefits from Auxiliary Power. Most of the time, it is a good idea to spend any energy points not spend on weapons on shields, but consider the use of Emergency Power to Auxiliary (only really feasible on a Cruiser) or Auxiliary Batteries to facilitate the optimal use of this power.

Reverse Shield Polarity
is also a good shield heal. It has a really bad uptime, though, so on most ships, I wouldn't recommend it. Cruisers have plenty of Engineering Power slots, and can sometimes work an RSP into it. For such ships, RSP can be part of a larger "rotation" of powers - when RSP is unavalble, the Engineer can use Rotate Shield Frequency for healing and hardening, and possibly use MIracle Worker to restore his shields as well, and when those are on cooldown, he can try to use RSP.

Science Team
is not very strong as a heal, and it comes at a high opportunity cost if you use a high ranking one for shield healing primarily. But it can still serve in emergency cases. But most of the time, you will want to use it to deal with enemy science debuffs. (Stuff like Viral Matrix, Subnucleonic Beam, Scramble Sensors)
Miracle Worker is a Engineering Captain only skill, but it will do wonders for your shields if you have it.

Bonus Topic - Support
Extend Shields must be applied to other targets, so it's only useful if you have one or more team mates. But if you are, it's really good - because it gives them continual (but low) healing and a significant buff to their shield resistance. It has an excellent uptime - 30 second of protection are followed by 15 seconds without. The only challenge is keeping your ally within 7.5 km. (The power will resume working if you get back into range, but only protects while within the range. Keep that in mind, both as the healer and as the healed.)

Science Fleet helps your entire team - so if you see someone hurting, consider using it even if you don't need it for yourself. A good team will try to rotate the copies of the skill to have a good uptime.

Transfer Shield Strength can be applied on others as well, so be generous and share.

Science Team is usually more important to be used for removing science debuffs, but if you know that your ally has hardened shields, but the shields are getting dangerously low or are gone, a Science Team can help as well.

Tactical Team is a great power to use on people under heavy fire, especially newbies that haven't learned to distribute shield power.

Bonus Topic - The Borg
Against the Borg, shield tanking arguably sucks, because they always use that cheater shield neutralizer power. (And they use it a lot.)

Hazard Emitters negates that neutralizer debuff. But the enemies will spam the neutralizer more oftehn you can do. But the worst damage most NPCs inflict comes from their High Yield Torpedoes, in the Borg's case, those are the nasty Plasma Torpedoes. (Plus the new Special Torpedo in the Borg Red Alerts).
So, tricks to get the most out of your shields is to only restore them when you see those torps incoming. Keep some distance, and use HE/TSS/TT to optimize your shield usage. And otherwise - look into options that go more into hull tanking, but beware - the only really good at hull tanking are probably cruisers, as you really need the high ranking heals there, while shield hardening can already done with lower level skills.

Bonus Topic - Keybind
This should be the keybind to bind fire all weapons and distribute shields:
/bind Space "+Power_Exec Distribute_Shields $$ GenSendMessage HUD_Root FireAll"
Simply enter it in the chat mode. (If it breaks anything - sorry. Not my expertise.)
More advanced could be to also bind your two Emergency Power to Shields to the key. For example, if you have EPtS put in your 10th power row in the position 2 and 3:
/bind Space "+Power_Exec Distribute_Shields $$ GenSendMessage HUD_Root FireAll $$ +TrayExecByTray 9 1 $$ +TrayExecByTray 9 2"
(numbers are off by one, since the count starts at 0, IIRC, e.g the first position in the first power tray is 0 0.)

General
What I said applies to PvE and PvP equally, but beware: Most of the time, you don't need all that much in healing options for PvE. 2 Emergency Power to Shields and 1 Transfer Shield Strength will probably be sufficient to get you through anything, on any ship. (Shield-Wise. For dealing with hull damage, a hazard emitter will probably suffice).
In PvP, you might feel the need to have a lot more than that, especially because the enemy will look or create weaknesses in your defense. But be careful - your goal isn't just to survive. Your team has to destroy the other side's ships. So when you select heals, don't sacrifice all your offensive options, or look for heals that help those in your team that did have to make sacrifices in defense for a strong offense. And always remember - if you're not cooperating with your allies, it's 5 vs 1 5 times in a row for your enemy. No matter how clever you are with your shield and hull tanking, it won't get you through that. Better ensure that the combat genuinely remains 5v5.
Superb! This is one of the best documented posts I have read to date. Absolutely worth a commendation!
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 8
09-18-2011, 10:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MustrumRidcully View Post
Lots of stuff about shield tanking
You forgot this. :p

Excellent post. Should definitely be in the STO manual.


Z
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 9
09-19-2011, 12:32 AM
Despite my exhaustive post, I seem to have missed the Escort part.
For Escorts, I recommend:
Emergency Power to Shields I and II
2 x Tactical Team I
1 Transfer Shield Strength
1 Hazard Emitters.

That should cover you most of the time. If you got team support, you might vary the science powers. (Maybe no shield heal at all? Or a Science Team? The build I propose would have trouble with Tractor Beams, so replacing HE or TSS with a Polarize Hull can do good.)
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 10
09-19-2011, 12:18 PM
There is also some debate as to whether the Aegis Set's Reactive Shielding component provides shield resistance as well.

However, I personally feel that it does not.
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