Rocket League - The Fundamentals of Rotation in 3v3



Tue 24th Mar 2020 - 4:37pm


You’ve decided you want to improve your game in Rocket League? Whether you’re a player struggling to hit the ball or if you’re a Grand Champion going for a ceiling shot flip reset double tap backboard shot, there is a fundamental aspect of your game you must work on improving continuously, one which will instantly elevate your game at the lower ranks and will separate you from the competition at the very top; rotation.

Rotation, in its simplest explanation, puts you in a position to better make a play on the ball. It is a basic set of principles and rules which tell you where to position yourself on the field in relation to your teammates, the ball, and even your opponents. However, rotation is complex, circumstantial, and oftentimes subjective. By this, it is meant that there is sometimes no clear cut right answer for a rotational question. Rotation and your understanding of it is something you must develop as you play; that is to say that it is a way of thinking. This article is not teaching you what buttons to press or when to contest your opponent, but rather how to think.

For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus on rotation in the sense of the 3v3 gamemode, the most popular in the competitive scene. Things get a little more complex in 2v2, and 1v1s… well… as much as we all wish someone was there to stop those kickoff goals, there isn’t. We all have had moments in which our car has simply chased the ball, attempting a play with little regard for where our teammates are. A problem this brings is that when players are so bunched up, if the enemy team knocks the ball past you, he has now beat two of you as opposed to one, making a defensive rebuttal much more difficult as you are both in a disadvantageous position. This is why rotation is so important, and even in the lack of communication with those random teammates who chase the ball relentlessly, its application can still save your rank and win the match. Rotation ensures someone is always ready for the worst case scenario. But how exactly does it work you may be wondering? In a 3v3 gamemode, there are two different rotation sets for both offense and defense, both of which we will explore below. 

Offensive Rotation

For offense, each individual player assumes a loose role of either the striker, the passer, or the defender. To better visualize these positions, please look at the figure below. From this, you can see that the striker is positioned near the center of the map, waiting for a pass from… you guessed it, the passer. The defender is positioned behind both of these people by quite some distance, enough that a clear could be contested without worry of the ball going over their head and close enough to allow for a transition of roles if needed. The key of rotation is understanding that these roles can change in an instant based on various factors, such as your ability to continue the play, the relative position of your teammates, or even the pressure the other team is applying. 

To further clarify, let’s imagine that the person passing the ball sends a pass that is way past the goal. At lower levels, many players will consistently follow their own hits even when it isn’t advantageous or even efficient. In this example, the person passing should assume the striker role, waiting for a pass in front of the enemy goal. The former striker now becomes the defender and the former defender becomes the new passer, and the reason is quite simple. This way, the defender has been able to watch the entire play develop and has every opportunity to react. In other words, they are in the best position to make a play on the ball. Using the same line of logic, now the former striker will be the last line of defense and, once again keep the entire play in front of them. The philosophy is simple yet complex and hard to apply, but in doing so, you put yourself in a position to consistently apply efficient pressure without exposing yourself to counterattacks. But, as we know, there’s always going to be times when defense is necessary, and the key to maintaining that same philosophy is to remember one key term; back-post. 

Defensive Rotation

For the purposes of this explanation of defensive rotation, we will look at the image below. Here we have three loose positions yet again, being the “clear”, the “back-post”, and the “goalie”. The clear is the player who is closest to the ball, and their job is… well, you get it. If they miss, their job is to assume the role of the back-post player. The back-post player is positioned in such a way that makes them incredibly important to defensive rotation. They are the player with the entire play in front of them, and are crucial for ensuring that those hard upper corner shots or backboard bounces can be defended. This is why it is a general good rule of thumb to always rotate back post, meaning you are moving to the spot which will give you the most advantageous position and best opportunity to defend a shot. If the back-post player no longer has a good play on the ball, they rotate to the goalie position. The goalie’s job is to be the last line of defense and make a save. This general defensive rotation is once again simply a groundwork and a way of thinking and is once again circumstantial and subjective. 

Wrap Up

Which brings me to my main point of the article. Rotation is key to advancing in rocket league competitively, but even more so than rotation itself, what it opens you up to is a way of thinking that will stay with you all throughout your grind. We start in bronze and silver and focus on the ball, thinking little of anyone else. The further we zoom out and the more aware we are of the dynamics of the game, the more efficient and intelligent our movement and plays can be. Now there will undoubtedly be times when your teammates are not thinking themselves, causing complications in the rotation. However, knowing these fundamentals and mastering them will allow you to close up any gaps and assume the necessary roles to rise in rank. This is only the beginning step into an incredibly complex video game, but just remember, when your physical ability is suffering, not only practice, but examine the way you think.