Stellaris – What Are the Best Traditions?

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Traditions are what make empires unique. What traditions you pick will drastically affect your play style, often permanently. Selecting the best tradition tree in Stellaris isn’t an easy decision to make.

Traditions are paid for using Unity, and they provide your empire with anything, from resource bonuses to free pops. Whatever you want your empire to specialize in, there will be a tradition for that.

Recommended Read: How to Create Sectors in Stellaris

Adopting traditions, and completing them, is the primary way of unlocking ascension perks. These perks unlock the maximum potential of your empire and synergize very well with the traditions you choose.

The best traditions to take in Stellaris are the one’s that best fit your empire from a role-play perspective. That being said, the four core traditions that every empire can make use of are Expansion, Discovery, Prosperity, and Supremacy.

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What are the Best Traditions in Stellaris

Traditions represent the advancement of the culture of your empire. Are they becoming more warlike? Or are they embracing trade with their neighbors?

Whatever the tradition is, it will have long-reaching consequences on your empire’s journey on the galactic stage.

Some traditions are only good for certain empires. While other traditions are almost always a great choice for any empire.

Some players, myself included, like to role-play as their empire and select traditions that match my empire’s style.

There is no right or wrong way to build your traditions. None of the traditions come with negative modifiers, nor will any make you weaker.

You shouldn’t catastrophize if you don’t make the perfect choice. Every play style is viable in Stellaris, so there are no bad choices when it comes to traditions.

The Must-Take Traditions

Every tradition in the game has its merits in some shape or form. Four of the traditions often stand leaps and bounds above their peers.

I know I said that there are no wrong choices, and I stand by that statement. But if you are serious about maximizing your power with traditions, then you need to know about these four traditions I call the Must-Takes.

The must-take traditions provide strong bonuses, that can boost every kind of empire. Stellaris is a four-X game; Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate.

It is no coincidence that the four must-take traditions all correlate with one of these pillars.

Discovery (Explore)

A lot of players consider this the de facto first pick when it comes to traditions. It is easy to see why because every play-through starts more or less the same. You are alone in the galaxy and must explore your surroundings.

This tradition is all about boosting your early game exploration potential. It also provides some amazing benefits to your research.

The greatest of which is an extra choice when picking your next research project, increasing the odds of rolling a rare tech like Psioncs.

Minus the bonuses to research, the strength of this tradition does taper off as the game progresses.

The research benefits are strong enough to make it worth that price, though. I would recommend taking this as early as you can to maximize the exploration benefits.

Expansion (Expand)

Your other objectives in the early game will be to start expanding your empire’s borders and, just as important, begin colonizing other worlds. The Expansion tradition tree specializes in making these two priorities much easier.

The early benefits of this tree are great for young empires. Increases to colony development speed, reduced star base influence costs, and extra pops when colonizing new worlds.

As you progress through the tree, though, there are benefits that even the strongest of late-game empires wouldn’t turn down.

While expansion may not be the flashiest of traditions, its buffs to empire size and pop growth will compound over longer games.

Prosperity (Exploit)

The prosperity tradition tree is all about maximizing the potential of the resources that you have at your disposal. Prosperity will keep costs down and yields high.

Prosperity is the unsung hero of economic power in Stellaris. People too often praise Megastructures, like Dyson Spheres or Matter Decompressors, for economic might.

When in reality, prosperity has been doing the heavy lifting of their economy long before they built megastructures.

Prosperity only becomes more powerful the more resources you have access to.

You could take this pick first, but there is no rush to get it. 3rd or 4th is what I would recommend if you are planning on taking all the must-takes first.

Supremacy (Exterminate)

I know what you are thinking. How is this a must-take? What about pacifist empires? Taking this tradition doesn’t mean you have to start invading everyone around you. What it does, is make everything about running fleets easier and cheaper.

Taking this tradition allows you to field more fleets, lower their costs, build faster, fire faster, hit harder, and give bonuses to ground armies.

Even pacifists will find themselves at war, and this tradition is the best defense against warmongering neighbors.

If you are running a Genocidal play-through, this will want to be your first pick-up.

Those filthy Xenos neighbors of yours will not stand a chance against you if you are supremacy, and they are not.

Sub Optimal Choices

If those were the four best tradition choices, what are the worst choices? While the following choices are not bad per se, they would be a suboptimal choice for the average empire.

Of course, these choices still bring some good buffs to the table and will still net you an ascension perk on completion.

If these traditions fit the theme of your empire, or you think they sound cool, please do not be discouraged from taking them. It is your empire after all.


The release of the Nemesis DLC came with a lot of new features, one of which is the espionage system. This allowed empires to spy on each other. The full extent of the espionage system is for another guide.

This tradition tree will buff your empire’s espionage and counter-espionage capability.

While having intel on your neighbors is always useful, you can make your empire more than competent at espionage without going anywhere near this tree.

The extra envoys you get from it are always a welcome addition, though.

This tree would find itself more useful in a PVP scenario. The AI is predictable and easily manipulated into doing what you need it to do.

Other humans are not as easy to manage. I would recommend this tree if you are playing a large-scale PVP match.


The politics tradition tree is all about maximizing your strength within the galactic community.

It will provide you with more galactic weight, an envoy, reduce cooldowns for council powers, and can even make you immune from diplomatic law. The latter can be a very lucrative power.

These bonuses are great, but the real threats in the galaxy are not defeated by using the galactic council.

Sure, the galactic council can help, but a strong army and economy are what will defeat the end-game crisis.

Great for role-playing when you are playing a Xenophile empire, and the Politics Tradition Resolutions are very powerful.

The galactic community is such a slow-moving beast that it could take almost the entire game to farm the benefits for this to be worth it.


Despite it being on the weak side, this is one of my favorite traditions. Unyielding provides buffs to star base capacity, defense armies, star base expenses, and fleet buffs whilst inside your borders.

Whilst these star base strength buffs are great in the early game. They fall off a cliff after the mid-game, when they have no chance of putting up any sort of fight against the monster fleets now patrolling the galaxy.

I like this one, though, because I like to play tall and as a pacifist.

While not exactly game-breaking, this tree does provide some very helpful buffs to making this strategy more viable.

The problem is, the best defense in Stellaris isn’t a good defense. It’s a good offense. This is why supremacy beats this tree. What this tree does provide is a valuable safety net to buy you time.

The Ascension Tradition Trees

Finally, there are the Ascension Tradition trees. These tradition trees are locked behind an Ascension Path Ascension Perk.

The Ascension path perks are late-game unlocks that advance your empire to the next levels of science fiction.

If the ascension perks take your empire to a new standard of what it means to be sentient life, the tradition trees they unlock take that standard even higher.

All these trees are great picks, and they should be a top priority after making the decision to take your empire down one of the ascension paths.


The most mystical of the tradition trees, and without a doubt, the one that can provide the biggest consequences for your empire. This tree will finally allow your empire to master their psionic potential.

Dabbling in Psionic powers is one of the coolest features in Stellaris, and this is the tree you need to do it.

It will help you with espionage, contacting the mysterious shroud, unlocking psychic powers for your pops, and creating psychic armies.

The greatest part of this tree is contacting the shroud. I would love to tell you all about it, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

If you are considering psionics for your next play-through, go and make a spiritualist empire now and get right to it, it will not disappoint.


If fiddling with your empire’s genetics sounds like the direction you want to take your species, then this is the ascension path for you.

This will provide your empire with cloning vats, gene modification points, over tuned traits, and you can even change your species portrait.

If you are a perfectionist micromanager, this path was custom-made for you. If you want to, you can modify every pop according to the planet to maximize pop efficacy.

While this level of micromanagement wouldn’t be for me, I know some players live for this kind of efficiency problem.

With this tree, you can make your pop’s so powerful they will carry your empire to victory against almost any threat. All you have to do is micromanage every minute detail of their creation.


Unlocking the cybernetic tradition tree is done through one of two ascension perks. If you are a standard empire, you will need to take the “The Flesh is Weak” ascension perk.

Hive mind empires, or driven assimilators, will need the “Organo-Machine Interfacing” perk.

Once you adopt this tree, you will be able to undertake a special project that will give every pop in your empire the cybernetic trait. This is a very over-tuned perk, that will take your empire to the next level.

The rest of the unlocks in this tree make the already amazing cybernetic perk even better. With this tree in your empire’s corner, galactic domination will not be far off.


Much like the Cybernetic tradition tree, the Synthetic tree is available by taking one of two ascension perks.

Machine Intelligence empires will be able to take the “Synthetic Age” ascension perk to unlock the tradition. Standard empire will need to take the “Synthetic Evolution” perk.

While cybernetics is all about implants to improve biological life, the synthetic tree involves leaving biological vessels behind and becoming robots.

After completing a special project, all biological pops in your empire will become robots. If you already were a robot empire, you gain the power to force biological pops in your empire to become robots.

The rest of this tree is all about making your robot pops as overpowered as you can make them. This is in the form of trait picks, production buffs, and robotic modifications.

Those are the strongest traditions in Stellaris. That was a lot of information, so feel free to return and reread any sections if you have questions.

If you have any suggestions or questions on this guide, please let us know in the comments section below. Have fun making an overpowered empire in Stellaris.

Simon Neve

Simon lives in Northern Ireland with his wife and two children. When not caring for his family, Simon enjoys video games, board games, and tabletop roleplaying games. When playing isn't an option he writes about them instead.

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