In this Rocket League essential guide, we will be looking at two simple and effective rotation strategies for standard 3v3. These are the offensive and defensive rotations and roles players should learn and apply to their playstyle to rise through the higher ranks of Rocket League.
Rotation is a term for switching in your position and role after you’ve made your contribution to the team’s play. The simplest form of rotations will look like a continuous circle, but their shape can get more complicated as you adapt to your opponents.
Rotating means to play selflessly, for the benefit of the team. Rocket League is a team-based game, and the professional level scene is mostly all team-based too.
Rotations are important skills for all players to learn and apply. Refusing to learn rotations will make it difficult to reach the higher ranks of Rocket League.
Effectively, this means not taking all the shots for yourself and not always being the first to challenge for the ball. When all players on the team are rotating and playing their roles correctly, your team will have many more opportunities to score and your opponents will have less. Put simply, you’ll win more games.
Offensive rotations are used to play the ball around your opponents, build pressure, and create better chances of scoring. Successfully rotating will maintain your attack and possession for much longer compared to just shooting as soon as you get a chance to.
In this role, you’ll be position 1 of the above image. You’ll have possession of the ball – usually ahead of both of your teammates.
As the playmaker, you need to take the ball upfield and create a shooting chance for the striker. The most common method for playmakers to create a scoring chance is to use the wings of the pitch. You’ll create a scoring chance for the striker by passing the ball from the wall or corner, using the backboard for a rebound, or giving an in-field pass (directly to the striker).
If you’re on an immediate counter-attack or you have a good opportunity to strike, you can take a shot yourself. Just consider it a passing play and exit rotate immediately.
After passing the ball or taking a shot, the playmaker should exit rotate using the white lines as a reference. Rotate behind the furthest back player on the team (3) via the quickest path. A good point of reference would be to the half-way line. This lets you secure the third position and allows your teammates to push up.
In this role, you will be positioned at 2, between the playmaker and the third. As the striker, you need to shoot from the opportunity the playmaker creates for you. When the playmaker is setting up an opportunity, you should be approximately between the half-way line and the opponent’s goal. You ideally want to be in free space so you can take a run-up to the shot.
After the ball is centered, you can either shoot, keep possession, or make another pass. This is for you to decide, depending on your scoring chances. You’ll want to take into account details like your angle of approach, amount of boost, number of opposing players ready to make a save, and more to make this choice.
After you take a shot, follow it up with a second shot if the ball rebounds directly back at you. If not, rotate out of the play. Your exit rotation is now the same as the challenger’s (1). It’s more effective to rotate the opposite side that the challenger did. This is so your team is covering more of the pitch.
If you keep possession instead of shooting, you’re now the playmaker. You should look to make a good shooting chance for the third on rotation, who will advance forward to become the next striker if the playmaker has rotated in time.
In this role, you will be positioned at 3, the furthest back on the team. As the third on rotation, you need to observe the play from a safe distance but also be available to rotate into becoming a striker. This role is arguably the most critical in 3v3. Playing it correctly can mark the difference between maintaining pressure or giving your opponents an easy shot on goal.
You should patrol around the half-way line. Assess how your team is developing the play while also watching the opposing team players. You want to constantly analyze and predict what may happen in any given challenge. Always be ready to react to the worst-case scenario, such as if the defender gets a hard clear.
When the striker has missed their shot, it’s saved, or the ball is cleared only a short distance, the third on rotation has to fully assess the danger of advancing forward. If a teammate has rotated behind you, you can opt into taking any available shooting opportunity.
If the playmaker hasn’t completed their exit rotation, you are still your team’s last line of defense. As a rule, do not commit to any challenges in these scenarios. This means no shots, aerial challenges, or 50-50s. The reason for this is that if you’re beaten to the ball in any way, your opponents then have an open net.
Instead of challenging the ball directly, you should use skills such as fake challenges and shadow defending. This is to slow down the opposing player and buy time for your teammates to rotate back into defense.
While you are exit rotating into the third position, there are ways to increase the chances that your team will score. These include bumping or demolishing any players who are in your exit rotation path or stealing boost pads from your opponents’ side of the pitch.
Stealing consecutive boost pads from your opponents’ side of the pitch is called boost starving. If your opponents don’t have a good supply of boost, they won’t be able to challenge or clear the ball effectively. In time, their rotations will slow down.
Bumping and demolishing opposing players contributes to offensive pressure. These remove players from your opponent’s defensive rotation, which gives your strikers more room to shoot. The goalkeeper at the back post is usually an easy target.
It’s important that you only steal boost or bump/demolish players that are close to your exit rotation path. Taking too long to do these can result in your own team’s rotation falling apart.
Defensive rotations are used to intercept your Rocket League opponents in waves, while also having a goalkeeper ready for any sudden shots. Successfully rotating can allow you to withstand an offensive attack for much longer, helps to avoid double commits, and can result in good counter-attacks.
In this role, you’re positioned at 1, facing towards the opposing playmaker as they’re advancing upfield.
Note: If nobody on your team is behind you in defense, you are still playing the third role of offense. Try to buy time for your team to rotate into their defensive roles instead of challenging head-on.
As the Challenger, you need to tackle the playmaker or intercept their attempt to pass or shot the ball. You can use methods such as fake challenging, shadow defending, parallel goaltending, and backboard defending. It’s important to not allow the playmaker to pass you or fake you out without a challenge. If you can’t tackle the playmaker, you need to at least approach them as a threat. Your presence will pressure them to act earlier than they’d like to and block some possible angles for them to shoot or pass the ball.
After challenging the playmaker or attempting to clear the ball, you need to become the new goalkeeper. Rotate around the front of your goal and turn to enter via the back post behind the goalkeeper. Do not rotate on your back wall or directly through your teammates. These routes will have the least boost available and can cause head-on bumps and double commits with your teammates.
Lastly, as you approach the back post to become the new goalkeeper, don’t try to cut off the goalkeeper and make saves for them. This double commit can result in two defenders being out of position or you redirecting the ball into your own goal.
In this role, you will be positioned at 2, the front post of your goal, facing towards the attack. As the defender, you need to react to the outcome of the challenger’s attempted block or clear the ball. After they rotate, you will become the next challenger. However, your role will be slightly different as you now need to consider the striker that’s waiting for the pass.
If the playmaker outplays your challenger or makes a pass or shot which the challenger couldn’t clear, you’re responsible for making a block before the striker can meet it. Always try to clear the ball before it passes your front post, too. Allowing the ball to pass your post opens up many more angles for the striker to shoot the ball.
Don’t allow the striker to have an uncontested shot. Whether it’s on the ground or mid-air, always attempt to apply pressure and block their shot. This will reduce the shooting angles available to them and makes saving easier for the goalkeeper.
Lastly, if the ball is crossing straight over your goal (not on target) and isn’t immediately threatening, don’t aerial for it. Allow your goalkeeper to contest it instead. You can adjust yourself on the spot to become the new goalkeeper at the new back post.
In this role, you will be positioned at 3, at the back-post of the goal, behind the defender and facing the ball. As the goalkeeper, you will be playing to save the striker’s shot.
Initially, if the defender pushes forward to become the challenger, you become the defender at the front post. The initial challenger of this rotation will then become the goalkeeper. In effect, you’re all taking turns at blocking any shots or passes that make it to the face of your goal.
Allow your defender to be the first to attempt blocking any passes or shots. This prevents you from double committing into the same challenge as them. You can, however, attempt to save shots that are directly aimed at the back post.
If the defender blocks the striker’s shot, you are responsible for clearing the ball or saving any follow-up shots from the opposing team. If the rotating challenger is nearby, they can also clear the ball or take possession.
Lastly, if the striker makes a shot, you must react to make a save. Remember to always try to save the ball into your corners. Preferably into the corner behind you, as the challenger will be heading in this direction already.
When you’re returning to your own defense, these are three common ways you can enter the rotation (as 2) to challenge the centering ball. Each of these paths has its pros and cons.
A shallow rotation (right arrow) cuts into the defense at goal side nearest to the centering ball (green arrow). This can be useful to stop the ball from passing your front post or reaching the ball quicker than the striker. This rotation’s risk is double committing into blocking the ball with the challenger (1). You should make a shallow rotation when you must make a challenge on the ball because your teammates aren’t present.
A deep rotation (left arrow) joins the defense from the corner furthest away from the ball. This is usually to collect the full boost pad and then approach from the back post. This is useful as it doesn’t cause double commits with your teammates and you’ll have full boost when it comes to making a save. You can also ride up the back wall and clear most backboard passes. This rotation’s risk is leaving the back post of the goal undefended if the ball is centered early. You can safely make a deep rotation when there is no immediate threat of a shot from your opponents.
The perfect medium is to enter directly at the back post (middle arrow) like the challenger would to become the goalkeeper. The advantage to this is you do not risk a double commit and the goal is immediately defended. You’re also allowing the defender in front of you to confidently make a challenge. To do this right, aim to enter the position between the two red dots.
While your team is rotating, there are some ways to effectively maintain your defense and create opportunities to start a counter-attack.
Don’t allow your opponents to take the full boost pads in your corners. Also, don’t skip on collecting any of the small boost pads as you rotate out of the challenger role. 2-3 boost pads are more than enough to make a critical save.
Saving the ball directly forward should be avoided. It allows your opponents to follow up with rebound shots. If you have to clear forward, it has to be a high and far clearance that passes the half-way line.
After a clearance, whoever is nearest to the ball (between the challenger and defender) should follow it. The goalkeeper becomes the third on rotation in most scenarios.
Rotations are a best practice for your pathing and decision making in Rocket League. However, not every scenario is the same, so don’t be afraid to use your initiative and try other methods. You’ll either discover better strategies or learn from your mistakes over time.
If you want to see good rotations in action, you should watch professional-level matches from the Rocket League Championship Series on the Rocket League Twitch channel. You’ll see first hand how these strategies work.
Rotations, strategy, and good decision making are just one side of Rocket League player development. If you’re looking to develop your mechanical skills, read our Rocket League Champion Guide.
Ellis (Llexis) Lane is a writer and developer from Birmingham, UK. If he’s not currently playing Rocket League you’ll be able to find him talking about it on twitter.