So you may have heard chatter about “alpha strike” in the game. No it is not some secret strike team combing the universe for victims. But some people have asked me what is that all about. Many of you many be acutely aware and some of you are God-like in the execution of such things. But today I want to go over this technique and its practical application in-game.
The “Alpha Strike” is something you may experience first hand in PVP with time to contemplate its effectiveness from the smoldering debris of your once brilliant ship. You know, you are just about to finish off that player for a kill and out of nowhere another player de-cloaks and kicks your sorry ass to hell. I hate it when that happens. “How did that guy kill me so fast”? You may be wondering. You were most likely killed by an Alpha Strike or more simply an “Alpha”. This is basically just a really amped up attack whereby the player sets off a series of attack buffs just before targeting an enemy ship and then unloads with devastating force for a few seconds. Often that is enough to show you a preview of the afterlife. Good thing video games aren’t real 😉 Thank God for the respawn.
Some players are quite effective at this technique. It is important to understand a few things about maximizing the strength of an Alpha attack. All the buffs used should be well matched to you weapons, play style, BOFFs and space active DOFFs. This is not as simple as remember that you have cannons and not beam weapons 😉 STO has so many integrated abilities it is difficult to keep it all straight. Your DOFFs may give a perk to a particular buff or your captain’s own traits may be enhancing specific abilities. The players that execute Alpha’s with a surgeon’s precision are often those that have everything well oiled and working together for a few short seconds to deliver massive damage and effective enemy debuffs that result in hull shredding terror.
I am by no means a master of this maneuver, but I do know a few things about the mechanics. Take note of the period of time each buff lasts, For example, Attack Pattern Alpha has a 30 second duration. Tactical Team has a 10 second duration. For the purpose of an Alpha strike the cool downs are less important as this is an attack run for the kill type maneuver; buff duration is important however. An Alpha can be as simple as a couple of well time buffs and then unloading, but to be really effective you should unleash as many buffs as possible. Even using captains abilities like Tactical Initiative or EPS Power Transfer or even Sensor Scan along with a series of BOFF abilities to strengthen the Alpha for maximum effect. If you intend to utilize a number of these abilities you should remember that 3-5 seconds may elapse before all the abilities are active and you are ready to fire. I like to start with the abilities that have the longest duration. If torpedo spread or high yield are part of your attack sequence those should be activated first since they are not on a duration counter, the next torpedo attack whether ten seconds or 40 seconds later will be appropriately buffed. Next would the abilities with a start delay and long duration, followed by long duration, short duration with a start delay, and finally short duration. As an example the thirty-second duration of Attack Pattern Alpha might have already ticked off 6 seconds before you start firing but it still has 24 to go. Had I started with a short duration ability like Tactical Team or Scatter Volley, I would only have 4 seconds left when the shooting begins. By activating the shortest duration buffs last you are assured the longest possible period of time with the full effects of all buffs simultaneously. That is really the whole point of an Alpha, massive shock and awe damage and impact on the enemy.
One thing you can do to test firepower in the alpha is to have your ship in a system (not sector space) This can be at ESD or Qo’Nos etc. With your ship idle hover over one of your energy weapons, you will see the dps and dpv values. This is the amount of damage your weapons do as a base with the power settings you have, all the passives your captain and BOFF/DOFF setup provides but none of the alpha temporary boosts. Now you can activate the BOFF abilities and active captain’s abilities and hover over the weapon again to see the amount of bonus damage the abilities are giving you. Bear in mind that some of the BOFF and DOFF active and passive abilities may be a debuff to the enemy and that will not show up with this exercise. This will allow you see the effects on your weapons and how quickly some of the buffs wear off. You can also swap out equipment to see how the various passives on consoles and such work as well.
This video shows a weak Alpha against a pretty easy target. I actually screwed up and selected the buffs out of proper order, but they were still effective. Bear in mind that Alphas are greatly enhanced by decloaking. The cloaking device gives a very generous damage bonus for 5 seconds after decloaking. Performing an alpha from behind while flying a raider class ship will give a huge damage bonus as well; 25% against NPCs and 8% against players. Furthermore the Intelligence specialization has passive perks for firing on the rear arc at tier three. A tactical officer can easily get a weapon that does triple dps for a few precious seconds with an Alpha, that will drop as the shorter buffs wear off. When taking other boosts that may be available such as the Intelligence rear arc damage boost, decloak boost and raider flanking, etc., quadrupling weapon damage is not a challenge.
I would recommend setting up a keybind combo for Alphas. I have a basic space bar hot key that rotates through defensive buffs while I am fighting, this was setup by a community member and is available here. I need to set up one for an Alpha strike. There may be some already built by the community, right now I set my alphas up manually clicking the mouse, keybinding it would be faster and more efficient.
I hope this is helpful and all you masters of the technique, you know who you are, feel free to offer some of your deadly wisdom in the comments. BTW get your freebies, Cryptic is giving away items on a daily basis until the launch of Season 11 next week!