Rocket League Essentials: Positioning
Rocket League Essentials: Sometimes It’s Not How You Hit It, But Where You Hit It
It’s week two and I’m back to discuss the concept of team positioning. Given the relative simplicity of the game, this is one of the most important aspects of competitive Rocket League and is something that needs constant attention. Constructing a solid foundation of where and how a team should react will allow individuals to more effectively decipher what role a particular player has in certain situations and grant a better understanding of their specific individual posturing; Meta > Micro > Mind Games, or something like that…
Something Justin Bieber Fans Don’t have
Today we’re talking about standard(s) positioning, but before we begin, let’s discuss the different ways of implementing standard play. The two main playstyles are static player roles and rotational play; for example, in rotational play (the preferred meta within Rocket League at the moment) Player-1 may have to expend boost and leave his region to complete a play, causing another member of the team to fill that position in order to maintain their pressure, while Player-1 grabs boost and rotates to the newly emptied location. Whereas with the static player roles, the other two members may stay in their general locations and continue their dedicated jobs, while Player-1 re-ups on boost and returns to play. Each have their strengths and can be used effectively, but being able to instantly implement either is much more advantageous in the heat of battle. It should be noted that static playstyles may blur the lines between Striker and Support, allowing for each to do either at a moment’s notice or potentially
As for the positions themselves, here is how I have broken them down; Striker, Support, and Defender. The Striker is usually the player making the attack, whether it is taking a shot or being the first line of defense, they’re always playing aggressive. Defender is the exact opposite; they play back and are usually the last line of defense. The Support has the most complicated job in the game; they setup shots, block passes, run interference, anything and everything that isn’t sitting in goal or taking the shot. This position is also the one most commonly rotated out of, given they are almost always using their boost to create plays.
D-*PICTURE OF A FENCE*
Being on the defending side of the map can be more stressful than on the offensive, but is usually less complicated. The main objective is to clear the ball (forcing it to the other side of the field or at least pushing it away from the goal), effectively keeping the opposing team from scoring. Doing that may be more difficult than expected, but solid positioning can make the task considerably easier.
Above is a visual representation of where each position should be. As mentioned earlier, the Striker is in front, being the first line of defense and trying to stop the push before it even gets past midfield. Once a push starts and a Striker is designated, the other two players should rush to their zones; Support’s location being the opposite side of the field from the Striker and Defender’s being the goal itself. Once there, each player takes on the roles of 2nd and 3rd lines of defense. Support’s job is, again, the most difficult of the three; stopping potential Strikers from getting a pass, helping defend the goal, bumping the opponent to prevent easy shots, and securing the team’s boost. “But, Lightbox! You have a goalie, why is Support protecting goal too?! Let’s say there is a shot from across field and your Support is in position to block; it’s more advantageous for Support to expend boost and protect the goal, because that allows the Defender to maintain his “worst case scenario” position. It’s also important for Support to realize that passes can come as bounces off the wall, above the goal. Letting these be mistaken as missed shots can leave your Defender in a potential 1-on-1, 2-on-1, or position to be demolished, leaving the goal wide open. If your Support has already dispensed their boost and was unsuccessful, the Striker should be ready to fill the role for Support, at least until they return.
Occasionally, you may see teams pushed into situations where almost all players are forced into Defender roles and tightly huddled around the goal. Instances like these may require 2-3 players in order to clear the ball, since there is so little room to build momentum and force the ball a considerable distance and so many opponents willing to knock it back. Ideally, this will fall on the Support and Striker’s shoulders, but ideal is very few and far between, so the player not clearing should immediately rotate into goal to stop blocked clears and follow-up shots, if the Defender is needed for a clear.
O-*PICTURE OF A that doesn’t really work here does it?*
Now that we have a decent understanding of defending our goal, let’s look at crushing the enemy team.
To begin, I want to discuss the Striker and Support duo, since they’re the power couple of offense; AKA the Jay-Z and Beyonce (the Defender is Blue Ivy, ofc). You may recall that I said “The Striker is usually the player making the attack, whether it is taking a shot or being the first line of defense, they’re always playing aggressive”, yet have the Striker placed further from the goal than the Support. This is because of the possibilities these two roles have when working both together and separately. For instance, the Striker has the option of forcing a solo shot, assuming a supportive role and passing, or waiting with full boost to capitalize on potential passes from Support. Being able to decide between these and react at a moment’s notice can be difficult, so even a fraction of a second helps when in this position. On the other side, the Support also has a ton of options when approaching the goal; they can pass, follow-up shots, or assume the role of Striker and shoot. On top of that, they are also tasked with any disruptive play possible. By this I mean; stealing boost, bumping opponents, blocking clears, demolishing the opposing Defender, anything that can make defending against shots more difficult or at least force the opposition to make mistakes. Being closer to the corner allows the Support to be on-the-ready and accomplish any of these tasks.
Now, for the Defender. As you can see, I have them positioned at midfield; while the ball is on the opponent’s side, there is little to no threat on the goal, so being closer for potential rotations or blocked clears can take priority. If a ball does come flying overhead, the Defender should be ready with full boost and able to aerial the ball back into the opponent’s face. It’s important to note that if this is necessary and playing a rotational style, the Striker or Support should decide if rotating to the Defender’s position is necessary, while the x-Defender gets boost and fills wherever possible. Same goes for the Defender when playing a rotational style; if Support or Striker is forced to use boost and leave their position, they should be ready to fill that role, either from their post or by moving up (unless the opponent gets a solid clear and starts pushing). Lastly, if the opponent has a defense stronger than that one guy in Game Of Thrones that crushed that prince’s eyes in, the Defender should be ready to demolish anyone in the way. Knowing when and how to execute something like this can be the deciding factor on whether or not a strong defense can be scored on at all.
This is far from all there is to know about positioning on the field, but is a solid basis on where to begin. Obviously, like most other sports, there are infinite possibilities when creating plays to be executed in game. Three Strikers, Three Defenders, left/right side pushes, man-on-man defense, anything can be viable if executed correctly; the element of surprise should never be underestimated, so keep your eyes out for interesting movements around the map. Before I end, I want to give a special shout-out to Gibbs, from Cosmic Aftershock, for his insight into professional Rocket League. He helped give incredibly valuable insight into how competitive play generally works and was a huge asset in creating this article. Please make sure to