The first RLCS qualifier came to an end this weekend, and I only suffered about 3 heart attacks during the final NA and EU matches each. NBD.
Aside from learning that you need a strong heart and fresh briefs on hand when watching these high-level matches, there are several other important lessons to be gleaned from watching these top pros perform on the biggest Rocket League stage yet. With the match replays readily available on Twitch.tv/RocketLeague, I strongly encourage you to take a little time to study up after reading our summary of tips and tricks below!
Lesson 1: Get Out from Underneath the Ball
Finding yourself stuck directly beneath the ball in Rocket League often leaves you with two choices: attempt an aerial to strike the ball, or get out from beneath it and retreat to a more optimal position. In nearly all cases, you need to take the latter course of action and retreat.
The reasons for getting out from underneath the ball are as follows:
- Performing an aerial straight upwards is more difficult than it might seem. With ball-cam on, if the ball moves behind or to the side in relation to your car while you’re looking straight upwards at it, prepare yourself for some crazy camera swivel. You’ll need an iron stomach, strong spatial awareness, and tight mechanical skill to navigate your way through the air and towards the ball from this position. It’s often more trouble than its worth for the next reason listed:
- Even if you are able to make contact with the ball from this position, are you really making a meaningful hit? There is very little you can do in the way of ball control when you hit it after a straight upwards aerial. Additionally, you are left with practically no momentum, so you have no choice but to just fall lamely to the ground after contact, and you probably only tipped the ball a small distance to the side of its original position. Save your boost and positioning for something more productive.
Watch the RLCS match replays – you’ll often see players retreat when they find themselves stuck directly underneath the ball. In that same moment, you’ll also frequently see one of their teammates flying in with more momentum and from a better angle to strike the ball away.
Always remember that you have teammates (unless you’re playing 1v1s, of course) on the field, and unless they are simply too far away to reach the ball, they probably have a better shot on it than you – you, stuck directly below the ball looking upwards with your camera spinning wildly in all directions. Communicate to your mates (or trust them to read your retreat) that they need to take the shot while you rotate out and replace their position.
Lesson 2: You Don’t Always Have to Play the Ball
Your rocket-powered soccer car can do more than just hit an oversized soccer ball around a cage. Even if you miss the ball, there are other things you can do to make productive use of your positioning.
- Demo your opponents. You’ll see this happen several times during the RLCS: a player goes for a shot and misses, but rather than immediately turning around and retreating, they continue forward with their momentum and ram an opposing player out of position (the goalie is a frequent target). This can create a brief window of opportunity for your team. The defending team’s rotation is suddenly ruined and there is a hole in their defensive zone that lasts for a couple seconds – plenty of time to sneak a shot in. Just be careful of your own team’s rotation, because while you’re busy bullying your opponents out of their net, they might launch a counterattack with a big clear and you’ll be stuck on the other half of the field, unable to assist your squad.
- Grab your opponents’ boost canisters. This technique is known as “boost starving” and involves depriving the defending team of boost. As you rotate through to take shots on the opposing team’s net, keep an eye out for any boost canisters (especially the ones that provide 100 boost) in your path of retreat and pick them up. Your opponents will be stuck in defensive positions with little opportunity to leave their goal to restock on boost, and if you’re boost starving them, there won’t even be any canisters available to them if they do get a reprieve! Eventually, they will run out of boost and will be unable to aerial to challenge shots high in the air, increasing your team’s chances of scoring.
Lesson 3: Use the Walls
Something that sets high-level players apart from lower level players is the ability to use the walls of the field effectively.
I see this far too frequently in public lobbies, and you’ve probably witnessed this at some point yourself as well: a player gains possession of the ball, and they immediately attempt to steer it into the middle of the field and make a break for the other team’s net.
I don’t know if people think the walls are made of lava or something, but rest assured, they are your friends.
- Use the wall as a proxy for a teammate. By this, I mean that if your teammates are unavailable to receive a pass from you, you can use the wall to bounce the ball off of instead. This is often useful for “juking” a defending player who is challenging your push; simply flick the ball against the wall and send it over your opponent’s head. You can catch it off the bounce and continue advancing, or a teammate can follow up the bounce and maintain ball possession for your squad. In any case, this is often a better decision than trying to carry the ball into open space with no teammates available to pass to.
- Drive the ball up the wall and pass it from there. By taking the ball up the wall, rather than into the middle of the pitch, you make it much more difficult for an opponent to challenge you and steal it. Not only are your cars sideways, which can be too disorienting for some, you also have more access to the vertical axis to play with, making your play more unpredictable – you can launch the ball up, to the side, or straight down to the ground. This also ensures that the ball is lofted in the air when you pass it off the wall, allowing your team to take aerial shots on net and making it harder for opponents to challenge the ball. A ball floating in the air above a team’s goal is a highly dangerous one.
Want more Rocket League lessons?
That’s it for today’s lessons from the RLCS! If you found these tips useful, be sure to let us know that you want more in the comments section below.
Follow our blog right here for more Rocket League tips, tricks, and tutorials. Follow us on Twitch.tv/NZXT for Rocket League live stream coaching sessions and the opportunity to dunk with (or on) NZXT staff.
I encourage you to review the VODs from the first RLCS qualifiers on Twitch.tv/RocketLeague. Until Qualifier 2 next month, we’ll see you in the pitch!