We are all aware that Stellaris ship design has had a massive rebalance, and with that the combat system and the overall pace of the game. It was a long-awaited change since the meta seemed to be amassing Battleships with Neutron Launcers and going through the game mindlessly.
The Guide is up-to-date for 3.8.3 and 3.9 “Caelum” Patch.
Furthermore, the mid-game ship classes like Destroyers and Cruisers were obsolete when the Battleships came, so it wasn’t very worth even buying them. This all has changed…well, sort of. You can actually keep some of your Crusiers and Destroyers when going into the late game.
Ship Design Table [3.9 Meta Update] by Fantasy Warden
This all makes the midgame battles much more dynamic and you will need to be able to utilize almost every ship class there is. Furthermore, it influences the pace of the game and the choices you make (Ascension Perks, Traditions, Origins, etc.) in the key points of the scenario. While it’s tough to flesh out the optimal build, below is a table with a good reference of what a Stellaris ship design should look like in the current state of the game.
Corvette Ship Design
In this stage of the game, it may seem like you can disregard combat, but a lot of unexpected situations can happen like a Fanatic neighbor empire attacking you. So it is important to know all the things you can do in order to have the optimal early game fleet, regardless of your empire type, and that is done with proper Corvette ship design. Corvettes have a very precise countering strategy against other Corvettes. You can think of this as a triangle:
- Missile-class counters Laser-class
- Picket-class counters Missile-class
- Laser-class counters Picket-class
- Disruptor-class counters everything
The Missile Corvettes (only using Missiles) are good for a few things, mainly dealing with ships that don’t have anti-missile defenses and Starbases. They are good against all Corvettes except the ones that are equipped with Phase Disruptors or Picket Ship modules.
As mentioned, this ship design is countered by the Picket Corvette, mainly because the Point Defense will shoot down your missiles and then you will be outclassed. Also, once the Phase Disruptors come into play, this design won’t be good in the Corvette versus Corvette combat.
The Picket-class ship design, as we already mentioned, is a direct counter to the Missile-class design. This is because the additional Point Defense system has a huge advantage against incoming missiles and will be able to neutralize the majority of them.
This build is mainly designed to counter enemy missile Corvettes and will be pretty useless in any other type of “job”. And just like the previous design, this will be horrible against the Disruptor-class Corvettes.
The Laser-class Corvettes will be completing this “triangle of counter designs”, and the idea of this design is essentially everything the same as the Picket-class, but instead of the picket slot, you would just pick an offensive weapon (for example, one more Laser).
This extra slot will provide you with enough power to outclass enemy Picket-class ships, but you will still have a problem with missiles since you removed your counter to missiles.
This design is considered the absolute best against Corvettes. The sheer Tracking power of Phase Disruptors will devastate the enemy swarm of Corvettes. You will need to outfit your ships with this design as soon as possible. Moving from Missiles to Phase Disruptors will provide you the edge over an opponent who hasn’t researched this tech yet.
Consider this a spike in your Fleet power. If you are ahead in tech, and if you are going to make any aggressive moves early on, going with Phase Disruptors against an opponent that has only Missiles or Picket ships will provide you with a significant combat advantage.
Do note, that Phase Disruptors are close combat weapons that are generally only excellent against other Corvettes, this is mainly because of Tracking and the ability of Phase Disruptors to circumvent the huge 60%+ Evasion that Corvettes have. Once the bigger ships come into play, you will need to repurpose these ships.
Frigate Ship Design
Frigates are usually used as a specialized type of ship, and utilizing the Cloaking Tech is what this ship is about. It won’t stand the chance against brawls and direct combat, but you can pull up some very good sneak attacks.
Generally, if you’re going to go with stealth units and want to utilize the power of Cloaking Technology, the best way to do this is to build Cloaked Frigates. Combine that with Torpedos, you get the “Stingray-class” Frigate rogue ship. The main reason why Frigates are so good for stealthy attacks is their size. They are the smallest ship in the game and that works really well with Cloaking.
Do keep in mind that this is a niche Ship and that Corvettes armed with Phase Disruptors will have a field day with them. The main purpose of this ship is to take down the big targets like Titan-class, and Battleship-class ships. It’s important to note that if you don’t have the Stellaris DLC – First Contact, you can’t research Cloaking Tech, rendering this design useless.
Destroyer Ship Design
Destroyers are still in an awkward place in the game. There are better than before the big ship changes, but since the next ship class, Cruisers, are very powerful and the essence midgame, spending too much in destroyers can hurt you in the future.
That said, Destroyers are not obsolete and have their function in the game. Primarily, they are used to counter enemy Corvettes and have a generally easier time with Starbases and Defense Platforms.
Going for an Arty-class design is a good choice if you want to steamroll your opponents with Artillery at this stage of the game. The Point Defense Systems are very good in this ship, but you will need to build a lot of them in order to be effective.
We should mention one critical thing regarding the destroyer class. You either build a lot of them, or you almost skip them completely. This is because the next ship class, Cruisers, is much better than destroyers in every shape and form.
At this phase of the game, you will probably want to arm them with some Phase Disruptors as you know you will encounter Corvettes, and then you can choose whether or not you should place missiles and lasers for attacking star bases and defense platforms, or use phase disruptors and Autocannons.
Keep in mind that Autocannons have a great deal of Tracking, and are good against shields. So if you see that your enemy has a lot of Corvettes with shields, going for this ship design will ensure victory.
Cruiser Ship Design
While the jump from Corvettes to Destroyers isn’t a game-changing one (sometimes players can skip Destroyers completely), the jump from Destroyers to Cruisers is astronomical. You will have more space, more design options, versatility, and weapons choices.
Cruisers are just much better than Destroyers and Corvettes in almost every single regard. It is a ship that dominates the mid-game and is still very useful (certain designs like Arty-class) in the late-game.
The main idea of this design is to use as many Whirlwind Missiles as possible. This is mainly because, in the current state of meta, this weapon is extremely powerful in a lot of scenarios. It has good range, great firepower, and versatility.
Getting extra range with perks or Artillery Computer will also provide you with the power to steamroll enemies quicker and have fewer casualties. This design will be outclassed by late-stage Battleships, but it will be perfect in the midgame.
Devastator Torpedo Cruiser the short-range brawler cruiser has superb damage output and can absolutely tear through enemy fleets. Its short range is a problem since it doesn’t have the evasion of Corvettes, but it makes up for that with incredible firepower.
You can use either Autocannons or Disruptors in the small weapon slots, and I’ve had excellent success with both. Use Afterburners for maximum speed, and a Torpedo Computer for the correct behavior. Hangars can be a useful option in the mid-game before Battleships arrive to provide fleet diversity, but once you reach Battleships they do the Carrier role much better.
Arty-class is definitely not a go-to Stellaris ship design, but it has a place in the game. The Kinetic Artillery/Neutron Launchers are devastating against hull ships in long-range engagements. They are very good against big ships and are not effective against smaller ones.
The main idea of this ship is to wipe out the enemy at the initial stages of combat. This is usually effective if you have outnumbered your opponent and they have big ships like Battleships or Crusiers. On the other hand, they are especially vulnerable to Torpedo-classes.
Battleship Ship Design
The Battleship class will get you through the endgame without too much trouble. Of course, there are situations where some weapons and defenses (Hull vs. Shields vs. Armor) are better.
For example, when fighting the Endgame Crysis, 4th Dimensional Beings have a lot of shields, compared to Prethoryn Scourge, so you have to always keep in consideration the ship designs of the enemy too.
The Overlord-class deisgn is the perfect allrounder ship. It has everything it needs in order to have extremely good offensive power without having too many blind spots. Your main weapon, Focused Arc Emiter is the primary source of damage against big ships.
The Whirlwind Missiles are a powerhouse in itself and provide good firepower and range. Also, the Point Defense Systems mitigate the biggest blind spot of these big ships, Torpedos. Finally, you have the Strike Crafts that are equipped to deal with pesky small ships like Destroyers, Corvettes, and Frigates.
In regards to the “A” slot, you can run almost whatever you want, depending on the situation. It’s more of a personal preference and situational thing.
This design takes a more classical long-range approach. It resembles pre-3.6 Patch go-to artillery designs where you just have the ridiculous range and enough damage to melt anyone. This is not so true in the new meta, but regardless, it still has its place in the game. Just like Arty-class Crusiers, this design is very effective against big targets and has trouble with smaller ones.
The main idea of this ship is to provide you with long-range ballistics and neutralize targets before they even have a chance to retaliate. If you are fighting against fewer big ships and want to preserve yours as much as possible, having artillery ships is the way to do it.
Nevertheless, they don’t have Point Defenses or close combat utilities, so be careful when going to the battlefield with this Stellaris ship design, Torpedos, and Stingray-class stealth Frigates are scary.
Stellaris ship design meta development has been an interesting journey for the whole Stellaris community. It’s always good to see people experimenting, trying different builds, and exploring different weapons choices and defenses. In this current state of the game, we are happy with the changes Paradox made in regards to the whole combat system in Stellaris Patch 3.6. There is still some polishing to do, like the state of Destroyer ships and some other questionably powerful weapons. Nevertheless, you will always get some sort of power scale in games like Stellaris.
It’s important to note that every Stellaris ship design has a counter to it, meaning there is no perfect design, but there are bad ones. That said, the ever-evolving meta is the part that makes it fun for the players. We think we won’t be seeing any significant changes in the combat system since the last big change was more than enough to keep Stellaris players engaged in the combat system. Moreover, we all know that Stellaris is not only a game of combat but also a game of politics, relationships, economy, etc. This is why we think once you learn these Stellaris ship designs, you won’t have to worry for a long time and the main focus should be on other things as well.