Faster Than Light (FTL) Ship Tier List – FTL Best Ship Guide

Last Updated on September 18, 2022 by Samuel Franklin

Faster Than Light (FTL) Ship Tier List – FTL Best Ship Guide

This FTL ship tier list will help guide you on selecting the best ship for your Faster Than Light playthroughs to ensure you can defeat easy, normal and hard modes with ease. With 10 ships available in FTL and each having various sub layouts there is a wealth of choice available for players which can change your playstyle and the associated difficulty level based on this choice. While each of the diverse ship options are capable of finishing the game some offer a significantly easier path to victory that can be ideal for new players or for those wanting to solely achieve higher scores. If you are tired of having bad RNG on your FTL runs then selecting from the FTL best ships can give you an easy run to defeating the final Rebel Flagship battle before you challenge yourself with some of the harder options.

Each ship in FTL offers a unique experience with some focused solely on stealth while others are offensively minded and others start in a weak state although have fantastic end game potential. Most options also come with three different layouts that further alter your starting weapons, crew and systems for additional variety and new challenges. Given this the FTL best ship for you in terms of fun will often be closely tied to your favourite FTL strategy and playstyle with this guide designed as an initial starting point with a focus on ease of victory. Combined with the randomisation at the heart of this roguelike video game players will find endless replay potential with many players making it a goal to unlock all the available ships and complete the game with each of them.

In this guide each ship and layout is ranked against the other available options with a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each for players to factor in their own preferences. Given this FTL ship guide discusses all available choices there are spoilers for Faster Than Light below.

FTL Best Ships – What Makes Them Good

As noted above every ship in FTL can secure a victory although there are some that excel at reaching and defeating the final battle. These top tier options have a few things that make them special and allow them to remove the random number generation (RNG) from the equation in achieving your victory and in turn allow for larger high scores.

The factors for this best FTL ships tier list include:

  • Layout: A ship layout is permanent in Faster Than Light with some having clear advantages while others are difficult to use in practice. Ideal layouts include the ability to cut off invaders from key systems, having a central healing location or just multiple pathways to reach particular rooms that might need support during a battle.
  • Flexibility: A ship that can be flexible while utilising the FTL best weapons that you are able to acquire is key to long term success and ease of victory. Some ships are simply unable to support a large number of weapons for example due to their inherent design while others might start from such a weak point that you need to heavily invest scrap to increase their power level to a sufficient point. Certain options are also pigeonholed into particular playstyles and if the stores you encounter don’t co-operate by providing key crew or equipment they can quickly crumble as you progress to later sectors.
  • Starting Weapons: Having initial strong weapons is invaluable as it allows you to snowball a strong early game into a powerful late game. With a strong base you can prevent damage and take more fights that ultimately means more scrap to spend and improve your ship in the long run. This also removes some reliance on finding the right weapons for a playthrough which is the biggest RNG hurdle of Faster Than Light. Like other games like FTL that use roguelike mechanics many runs can be doomed from a failed start even if you limp through many sectors before meeting your end because you simply couldn’t acquire the right tools for victory.
  • Starting Systems & Power: Similar to weapons your starting systems and power can impact on a FTL run with certain choices starting with the FTL best systems that are difficult or expensive to acquire otherwise. This is not as important as starting weapons though as it can be easily corrected after some early success through stores provided you can acquire the necessary scrap.
  • Starting Crew: The least important factor as crew members can be hired and trained relatively easily but still a factor to consider in your choice of starting ship layout. Starting with a higher number of crew and the right mix of crew does give you unique options for random events and allow you to start levelling system skills early.

This FTL ship tier list is split into five tiers based on the above factors and how each of them allows you to achieve victory or high scores with better consistency based on each layout. A summary table is included below for quick reference with limited spoilers with further individual FTL best ship information underneath that discusses the specific elements of each.

faster-than-light-hangar-ships

FTL Best Ship Tier List Summary

Ships within each tier appear based on the left to right order they appear in the hangar (Kestrel, Engi, Federation, Zoltan, Lanius, Stealth, Rock, Slug, Mantis, Crystal) and the order of the layout (A, B, C) and are not ranked within tiers. Further information on the meaning of each tier is included in the detailed section with layouts ranked from best (S tier) to worst (D tier).

Ship Tier Ship Name & Type
S Lanius B
Crystal B
A Kestrel B
Zoltan A
Lanius A
Mantis B
Crystal A
B Kestrel A
Engi C
Federation A
Zoltan B
Slug C
Stealth A
C Kestrel C
Engi A
Federation B
Rock B
Rock C
Slug A
Mantis A
Mantis C
D Engi B
Federation C
Zoltan C
Stealth B
Stealth C
Rock A
Slug B

FTL Ship Tier List (S Tier)

The S tier ships in Faster Than Light won’t be ones you’re using in your first runs of FTL given unlocking them is a significant journey in their own right. Not only are these two options difficult to unlock the best ships are also the B layout variant that requires you to complete some achievements with the A layout first (although these A layouts are also quite strong). The S tier is basically easy mode for Faster Than Light even on the hard FTL difficulty and can overcome even the worst luck given their strong initial starting position, crew and late game potential.

ftl-ships-lanius-layout-b

Lanius B

With an almost fool proof design for boarding parties the Lanius B provides players two deadly lanius crew members that can be teleported to your enemy to sap the oxygen while attacking the enemy. Supported with the mind control and cloning bay systems players have an easy time boarding with little risk to their own crew while acquiring high scrap amounts form start to finish that can be invested in any upgrade you desire. Alternatively players also have the backup option of the advanced Flak weapon which is highly effective given its a special version of the Flak I which is already a top tier weapon.

ftl-ships-crystal-layout-b

Crystal B

While it might seem odd to have no weapons this option is the FTL best boarding ship and is absolutely overpowered given it provides players three strong crystal crew, a four tile teleporter and the cloak system from the start. With stealth you can easily dodge projectiles while you board and defeat anything that comes your way and like the Lanius B earn high scrap rewards in the process given you won’t be destroying enemies that you encounter which rewards higher scrap values compared to destroying an enemy vessel. The starting augment while not particularly useful also provides a healthy amount of scrap when sold to boost a run further that can allow you to either boost your shields or start filling your weapon slots.

FTL Ship Tier List (A Tier)

A tier ships are powerful and like the S tier above are rarely going to be impacted by bad luck in a FTL run on their way to success in the final battle. They are only held back from the S tier by the lack of overpowered setups that place the S tier options in a league of their own. These A tier options are significantly easier to acquire as well which makes them some of the best beginner ships in FTL to secure your first victories.

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Kestrel B

An easy to play ship that is available quite early on given it is a secondary layout of your starting ship, the Kestrel B has a number of nice quality of life enhancements though that make it stronger than the initial Kestrel A. Most notably is the massive arsenal of weapons that you start with that can easily eat through enemy shields and disable their weapons to prevent you taking damage until the mid game sectors. This initial setup means the first few sectors offer little challenge as you battle on almost auto pilot until you can replace them with more powerful weapon variants with your abundance of scrap for the Rebel Flagship battle. It also starts with a high number of crew so that all your key systems can be occupied while providing protection against enemy boarders.

ftl-ships-zoltan-layout-a

Zoltan A

The Zoltan ships are quite powerful and unique for their starting Zoltan Shield augmentation that prevents a significant amount of damage but the Zoltan A stands above the others in this FTL ship class. This advantage over the other layouts is primarily in the weapon system that provides a balanced setup of missile to knock out shields and the deadly halberd beam to destroy the enemy ship quickly. This results in no early game progression issues although you might need to micro your Zoltan crew a little until you can beef up your reactor levels as that is a minor drawback that you’ll overcome quickly.

ftl-ships-lanius-layout-a

Lanius A

The Lanius have a specialty for powerful ships with both layouts being top tier options due to their strong starting layouts that reflects the effort required to unlock them. While the focus on using the initial hacking can be a little bit of a playstyle shift for those that don’t regularly use it this is key for achieving long term success with the Lanius A. Despite this you do have the teleporter and two useful weapons that let you establish a foothold down other preferred paths as well with a decent crew number of 3 to start with.

ftl-ships-mantis-layout-b

Mantis B

Another high ranking potential option that starts without weapons due to the Mantis B having the deadly and unique four person teleporter that provides a wealth of boarding options. While you start with only 2 mantis crew this can quickly be scaled up through shops which is relatively easy to do in most games but until this point players will need to be careful. Given the limited weapon slots you’ll need to establish a strong boarding party to see success and also be well practiced with a boarding strategy in FTL as shifting to a weapon strategy is scrap expensive and you are capped at only 3 weapon slots.

ftl-ships-crystal-layout-a

Crystal A

Your first reward for following the long crystal unlock quest line the Crystal A is a deadly ship to add to your hangar that will see you succeed in many adventures across difficulty levels. Likely to be your first experience with the crystal weapons these provide a wonderful offensive opening that can quickly disable and destroy an enemy while you build strength with each sector. In time players can also acquire a teleporter to make use of the two starting crystal crew members that will carry you through the mid to late game with limited effort while your human crew can occupy key systems as reliable quick learning crewmembers.

FTL Ship Tier List (B Tier)

The B tier for Faster Than Light ships is where you start to encounter some weaknesses that if not overcome during a run will spell the end of your adventure and as a result you are somewhat exposed to the randomisation of the game. This means you generally need a little bit of luck on your side to find the right weapons, augments or crew although they can slog through to the end game with careful tactics if required.

ftl-ships-kestrel-layout-a

Kestrel A

The first ship you’ll use in Faster Than Light is middle of the road in terms of overall power that make it a good training ground that with luck and strategy can be a winner. Serving as the default it is designed to introduce you to the basic concepts of FTL and provides a blank slate that allows it to work for all playstyles and strategies with the right investment. The best part of the Kestrel is its basic but effective starting weapon system to get you through the start of an attempt although it doesn’t start with anything specialised.

ftl-ships-engi-layout-c

Engi C

The Engi ships in general can be a bit of adjustment from your initial Kestrel variant as the weapon starting position of this ship is weaker and there are some awkward layout considerations to adjust to. That being said the Engi C is by far the best of the Engi ship options and overcomes the lack of weapons and maximum 3 weapon slot in other ways with a lanius crew member, hacking and drones available right from the start.

ftl-ships-federation-layout-a

Federation A

The Federation A is a fun niche archetype with the ship having access to the artillery beam which is a slow but high powered beam that pierces enemy shields. While this is unlikely to kick in until late game given the upgrades required to reduce its cooldown to a reasonable level this ensures players have an end game weapon for the final fight regardless of their luck along the way. The starting position in general of the Federation A is also decent with a diverse crew roster that is flexible for the challenge the galaxy throws at players and the deadly Burst Laser II for early combat encounters.

ftl-ships-zoltan-layout-b

Zoltan B

Like other Zoltan options the Zoltan B starts with the Zoltan Shield that is always a useful augment to have and will ensure your survival in a broad range of situations. The downside of the Zoltan B variant though is that it starts with no other shields in reserve which can result in some early bad luck cascading to significant damage and scrap repair cost. The Zoltan B has pretty good early game firepower though to compensate with its ion and pike beam blend from the start that give you a foundation of weapons if you can push through the early game where you are exposed.

ftl-ships-slug-layout-c

Slug C

The best of the Slug ships that in the right hands can be a deadly weapon given its slug crew, hacking and mind control that provide an alternative but reliable approach to victory. This starting combination is unique and means you need to focus on crippling your enemy instead of a direct damage approach which requires a strong understanding of game mechanics to succeed. The Slug C does also have the support of a laser weapon but needs to quickly progress their weapon arsenal for success otherwise enemies will quickly out scale the player.

ftl-ships-stealth-layout-a

Stealth A

A unique ship in the FTL universe that starts without any shields that can make avoiding early damage quite difficult and running into an early asteroid field a potential game over sentence (although using the long ranged scanners that you start with should prevent that). To offset this lack of shields players do start with cloaking and decently high engines although that relies on luck to dodge incoming attacks. Stealth A also has a good mixture of weapons although is capped at 3 weapon slots that limit your end game potential. While starting with stealth can save a significant investment in the mid to late game on purchasing this system with scrap you’ll need a strong handle of game mechanics and luck to make it there which means the Stealth A is below average compared to other options.

FTL Ship Tier List (C Tier)

At this point the weaknesses of ships start to outweigh their strengths in terms of starting status and selecting any of these will result in a challenge. This sees players needing some initial luck if they hope to acquire the power level necessary to win the game with the amount of luck required increasing based on the level of difficulty you select. If you are not yet familiar with all the Faster Than Light mechanics players should avoid the C tier and below as it will likely be a frustrating experience.

ftl-ships-kestrel-layout-c

Kestrel C

The worst of the available layouts for the starting Kestrel ship given it lacks any meaningful strengths to set you up in the early game and results in an adventure of struggle. The best feature in the Kestrel C is the starting Lanius crew member and decent weapons but these are average at best and need to be quickly replaced. The lack of starting teleporter also means that the Lanius crewmember won’t be providing significant benefit for some time as their strength lies within their boarding abilities compared to other crew options. Like the other Kestrel options it is still relatively flexible to pursue a range of strategies but can sometimes not even make it to mid game if you can’t overcome the weak starting position.

ftl-ships-engi-layout-a

Engi A

Despite the low FTL ship tier list ranking here the Engi A is quite an easy ship to manage early on given it relies mostly on passive initial gameplay with the ion and drone combo. While this is often sufficient to get you through the early game without issue you’ll need to quickly transition to something more powerful which can be difficult with the cap of 3 weapon slots. The weak crew also makes them susceptible to boarding attacks so you’ll need to bolster crew members at the same time as upgrading systems that can leave little room for error given the required scrap to upgrade everything quickly will be high.

ftl-ships-federation-layout-b

Federation B

Starting with a diverse crew the Federation B embodies the empire having a far reach across the galaxy although they aren’t a particularly strong starting crew. While not the best of the Federation archetypes it still comes with the artillery beam that provides a reliable end game weapon once it is sufficiently upgraded. Reaching this point with your average at best weapon setup is a challenge though as you’ll be going through missiles at rapid pace to take down enemies and needs to be quickly replaced for an effective run.

ftl-ships-rock-layout-b

Rock B

Despite having a strong rock crew of 4 members the Rock B can quickly suffer depending on the circumstances you encounter in your randomised FTL run. While rock crew are fantastic for avoiding fire damage and boarding due to their general durability their poor repair abilities can quickly lead into cascading problems in battle with this rock ship. The lack of outside doors to vent atmosphere and general lack of starting doors also just create an odd gameplay flow in the FTL meta as using doors effectively is a vital advanced strategy. Once you acquire a teleporter this ship definitely sky rockets in effectiveness but you can expect many games to end before you even have that opportunity.

ftl-ships-rock-layout-c

Rock C

Adding a crystal crew member to your rock layout this ship has another odd layout that can be difficult to manage with your slow crewmembers and limited pathways to key systems. This odd design is also reflected in weapon choices that on paper seem strong but are awkward to use together in practice and places a lot of reliance on missiles that need to be restocked constantly at the cost of scrap. Overall to have any Rock C success you need to quickly build up a repair crew and better weapon options but without having a reliable method to have scrap positive enemy encounters this is quite a challenge.

ftl-ships-slug-layout-a

Slug A

Another unique slug vessel that starts with only 2 crew members that can cause problems if you can’t fill out your crew by the mid game and increases the micromanagement requirements greatly until then. Slug A also has an awkward array of weapons that similarly require high levels of micromanagement although does uniquely start with 3 of them to give you a decent amount of firepower. The problem is that all of this effort simply isn’t worth the reward in most cases with vastly superior ships that require less work to achieve victory.

ftl-ships-mantis-layout-a

Mantis A

The Mantis A actually has a reasonable early game thanks to the mantis crew members and initial teleporter although with the lack of starting sensors and the late game cap of 3 weapons hurts the ship potential dramatically. Outside of the teleporter option you’ll find a layout that is unable to deal with most foes with initial weapons and there are simply significantly stronger options for boarding focused gameplay in Faster Than Light.

ftl-ships-mantis-layout-c

Mantis C

The Mantis C seems to operate as the opposite of Mantis A given this has the unique four tile teleporter that makes it a late game boarding beast but at the cost of early game power. That being said the initial lanius and mantis do give you an okay initial boarding crew although the lack of medbay and reliance on the cloning bay results in some awkward situations. The lack of direct weapons can also make this ship a slow slog towards filling up your 3 capped weapons and hoping you find enough crew to throw them relentlessly at the enemy while you recover them with the clonebay.

FTL Ship Tier List (D Tier)

The bottom tier is reserved for the most challenging ships available and should only be selected if you are seeking a new FTL challenge. If you want to test your luck and FTL abilities than selecting one of these will provide the challenge you’re after and even an experienced player can expect many attempts before success. These ships simply lack strengths and have an overwhelming number of weaknesses that rely on early game luck to have even a remote chance of success.

ftl-ships-engi-layout-b

Engi B

If you want a challenge then the Engi B can provide that with one of the worst ships in the entire Faster of Light game. Starting with only a single crew member you’ll be joined by a full suite of drones on board to assist you instead which simply don’t provide the same flexibility as real crewmembers that can perform multiple roles and level up their abilities over time. The Engi B really has nothing else going for it either with a weak initial weapon setup and the cap of three total weapons impacting your end game. It’s often better to sell all your starting drones and drone augmentation at the first shop to try transition into something workable although dedicated masterful FTL players might make the drone setup work.

ftl-ships-federation-layout-c

Federation C

Taking the Artillery Beam concept to the next level is the Federation C that doesn’t come with any other weapons and instead alters the Artillery to be a Flak based weapon. The obvious problem here is the massive cooldown of this weapon initially which even with upgrades is never as effective as the beam of the other Federation ship layouts. The Federation C does start with a teleporter but its crew is fairly weak and requires you to rely on the cloning bay to recover health which will only get you so far before enemies will simply be able to resist your boarding attempts.

ftl-ships-zoltan-layout-c

Zoltan C

The weakest Zoltan variant by far where the only redeeming feature is the Zoltan Shield augmentation that gives you some hope of a decent late game if you can last that long. Expect to rely heavily on the shield throughout the game with a lack of initial weapons and weak crew members to defend against any boarding. The largest weakness of the ship though is it was designed around using the Zoltan crew members to power systems given the extremely low reactor power which requires insane micromanagement and even with the starting battery is simply insufficient to operate enough systems to be a viable in the early game.

ftl-ships-stealth-layout-b

Stealth B

Like Stealth A the Stealth B starts with cloaking then can save you some late game scrap funds to purchase given it is one of the more expensive scrap purchases from a store. Reaching that point where this is even a factor though can be difficult as you’ll be without initial shields, restricted to three weapons and in general be at the mercy of the RNG roll of the dice. This ship does come with an okay weapon in the Glaive beam but due to the long cooldown if it is not supported by other weapons quickly you’ll fall behind and be unable to recover as you simply won’t be able to defeat enemy ships to acquire scrap currency.

ftl-ships-stealth-layout-c

Stealth C

A weird variant of the Stealth ship given it starts without cloaking or shields that makes any FTL attempt particularly challenging. Thankfully the Stealth C does have a reasonable arsenal of offence and defence in weapons and drones to ensure it can survive in the depths of the Faster Than Light galaxy though and is arguably better than Stealth B because of that. The diverse crew roster is also slightly better on this Stealth layout which gives you flexibility to build up your ship strength with some early luck.

ftl-ships-rock-layout-a

Rock A

Utilising the weaker missile weapon archetype for its two starting weapons the Rock A needs some initial success to acquire other weapons before it runs out of consumable missiles and is literally left unable to fight. It does start with a higher stockpile than most ships but given these are your only damage source you’ll quickly eat through them. Outside of this the Rock A itself is actually quite strong with a good starting position and 3 rock crew that can transition to boarding parties later with the useful medbay located right next door to the teleporter to help with the slow move speed of this crew type.

ftl-ships-slug-layout-b

Slug B

The worst of the slug ship variants as it suffers similar failings to the Rock A with its single offensive weapon of the Artemis reliant on consumable resources that can quickly run out. Although it does have the backup teleporter from the start players need to be careful as this ship lacks a medbay and relies on the healing bomb instead which uses the same missile resource as your main attack and can equally miss when used that can quickly derail a potential run.

Written by
Samuel Franklin
Samuel Franklin is the founder and lead editor of the Games Finder team and enjoys video games across all genres and platforms.

Sam has long enjoyed Faster Than Light (FTL) and regularly returns to the game for its randomisation and challenging mechanics. He has beaten FTL with all ships and layouts but enjoys the starting Kestrel Cruiser over other options to defeat the Rebels.

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