Stealth A Cruiser

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Stealth A is on the short list of my favorite ships in FTL. It's a great example of a ship that has major strengths and weaknesses, resulting in a ship that's rarely boring to play. As the name implies, the Stealth A starts the game with a Cloaking unit already installed. This is designed to make up for the lack of any Shields (!) at the outset of the voyage. I remember when I first started playing FTL, thinking that a lack of shields sounded completely suicidal. As it turns out, the Stealth A can generally handle itself pretty well without them through smart use of the Cloaking unit. Go invisible at the start of the fight, let your weapons charge up, then hit your enemies before they have a chance to fire. If the first volley can knock out their weapons, it doesn't matter that your own ship has no protection.

The other thing that makes this work - and which distinguishes the Stealth A from the much weaker Stealth B - is the presence of outstanding early game weapons. The Dual Laser + Minibeam combo have short chargeup times and deal excellent damage despite their minimal power cost. The Minibeam in particular is great: a beam weapon that can normally hit three rooms, has the chance to set fires (which none of the other normal beam weapons can do), and only costs 1 weapon power to use. I would buy that thing all the time if it could be purchased in stores. The big weakness of the weapons is that they don't scale well into the late game. There's a good chance that the player will wind up replacing one or both before facing the flagship, and the Stealth A only has three weapon slots to work with. That's a major penalty; if the ship had four weapon slots, it would be much more viable to keep the Dual Laser and Minibeam, adding on two more guns to complement them. Sadly, that's not really possible with only one more slot available. Still, getting out to an early start is what's most important in strategy games, and the player typically has plenty of chances to reconfigure weapons over the course of a run.

Rounding out the ship are two useful augments. Long Range Scanners are the best augment in the game and need no further introduction. They are particularly useful in steering around asteroid fields when your ship has zero shields. Titanium Casing is useful because it can be sold for a mighty 40 scrap total at the first store, and that's worth a lot. Stealth A also gets a solid beginning crew, level 4 engines, and level 2 scanners for some random reason. Overall, I have this ship at the top of my "Average" tier, being unable to place it higher due to the lack of shields. The developers certainly gave the player enough tools to work around this major gap, and this is a very winnable ship. The other two Stealth ships are not quite as lucky...

On this particular run, I effectively traded the Titanium System Casing for a Heavy Laser purchase at the first store. That gave me a weapon setup that would never work in the lategame, but which absolutely crushed all comers in the early going. All three weapons had a very short cooldown, and the combination of Minibeam + Heavy Laser shots once the Dual Laser cut through enemy shields was nasty. Shields were purchased at the very beginning of Sector Three, and I had enough scrap to take them immediately to level 4 for the second shield bubble. In Sector Four, I sold the Heavy Laser for a Flak I and Hacking system, once again running afoul of the three weapon limit on the Stealth A. It really would have been nice to have the fourth weapon slot and keep that Heavy Laser! I would later change out the Dual Laser in favor of a Burst II Laser purchased at a store, and along with a Defensive Drone and Long Range Scanners for a steady flow of scrap income, this run settled into a straightforward trip with minimal danger. By the beginning of Sector Eight, I had two Auto Reloaders and 600 unspent scrap lying around. Wow. This game demonstrated the Stealth A to its full effectiveness, with a powerful early game snowballing into a dominant position later on.

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