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Welcome to Part 4 of the Daily Esports Rocket League Ranked Guide. This guide will be listing the key mechanical and strategic skills we believe Rocket League players should invest in to reach the higher Champion ranks on their rise closer to Grand Champion, such as shadow defending. If you’re still grinding for Champion rank, then check out our Rocket League Ultimate Guide to Champion.
A fake challenge is to attempt to fool your opponent into believing that you’re about to tackle or challenge them for the ball. They’re an essential part of higher Champion defensive skills, especially in the third rotation defensive role.
Use fake challenges to slow down your opponents when they’re on the attack. When done correctly, it can trick your opponent into making a rushed shot, a pass, or any desperate touch on the ball that they otherwise wouldn’t have made if you weren’t nearby.
How to do it:
- Approach the opponent with possession at a threatening speed.
- Handbrake turn while boosting to turn towards your own goal.
- Collect possession or shadow defend.
If your approach was convincing enough, your opponent will attempt to make any hit on the ball that ruins their possession. Sometimes, by rushing them while they’re not ready, you can force them to severely mess up. In either outcome, you’re usually first in line to collect possession of the ball and start a play of your own.
In a scenario where the opposing player doesn’t respond to your fake challenge, you’re now in a shadowing position. It’s time to shadow defend.
Being able to shadow defend is a crucial skill in the higher Champion ranks. This technique will double-up as a way of slowing down your opponent (so your teammates can recover) and also making any necessary tackles or saves. Shadow defending gets its name from the defender’s movement – acting as a shadow.
As a shadowing defender, your task is to mimic your opponent’s movements — turning as they do — to pressure them as they approach your goal. Using this defensive strategy allows you to pick a better time to tackle, instead of right away.
How to do it:
- Position yourself between the opponent with the ball and your front post.
- Drive towards your front post with ball-cam on.
- Mimic your opponent’s turning to keep close and pressure them.
- Try to convince your opponent to turn towards the corner or the farther post.
- Tackle the opponent from side-on if they try to pass you.
Traveling towards your front post blocks the nearest angle to your goal that the opponent can shoot at. If they shoot anyway (with a low-shot), this should be close enough to turn into and block with your body.
By persuading the opponent to travel towards the corner or the far post, you slow them down and convince them to take a shot that will have to travel farther and have more chance of being off-target. This all adds up as time that you’ve bought for your team to rotate, in addition to making the approach more difficult for your opponent.
If you notice that the opponent is losing control of the ball while trying to adjust to your shadow defending, you can turn to tackle them when the time is right. If the opponent isn’t persuaded by your shadow defending and shoots high, it’s now time to make a shadowing save.
Shadowing saves are the next step to being an effective defender. This is saving an opponent’s shot while you’re facing your own goal, such as the shadow defending position.
How to do it:
- Drive towards your goal with ball-cam on.
- Jump off fast aerial to intercept the shot before it falls lower than cross-bar height.
- Arc your car backward or air-roll to face upwards.
- Boost your car upwards to touch the ball from underneath — enough to push it off-target.
Start your shadow saving practice by just trying to get a slight touch on the ball that knocks it off-target, such as your backboard. Once you’re comfortable with this, you can then add air-rolls into your aerial to hit the ball more accurately and push it into your corners.
Backboard defending is being able to meet the ball on the backboard and strike it back upfield, instead of waiting for it to bounce back down. By doing this, you prevent your opponents from having a chance at a backboard shot.
You can do this by meeting the ball at its bounce or by jumping off the wall to make contact. This is better than trying to aerial up to it from the ground as it uses much less boost and clears the ball farther away with less effort.
The ideal backboard clear is meeting and striking the ball at the bounce. It will act like a half-volley and hit the ball hard up the field. If you won’t make it to the ball in time for the bounce, you can single jump off the wall to strike the ball with a front or side flip.
This fast-rebound technique can be used to pass to yourself and get a closer shot on net when you’re one-on-one with the goalkeeper. By passing to yourself like this, you give yourself the elevation to dunk the ball over the goalkeeper. A well-timed rebound can generate a lot of power on your shot.
How to do it:
- Strike the ball wide of the goal at crossbar height.
- Aerial to meet the ball mid-air, like a backboard shot.
- Turn and air-roll as necessary to strike the ball from the nose of your car into the goal.
The quicker you can do this, the faster and more unpredictable your shot will be in the higher Champion ranks.
Flip canceling uses the same technique as half-flips. It allows players to flip at the ball from farther away while still making a more forward-facing hit on the ball.
It shouldn’t replace all of your front flip shots; it’s just a great addition to your offensive skill set and a good recovery mechanic to use in specific scenarios.
How to do it:
- Single jump and arc your car backward roughly 45 degrees.
- Front flip with your second jump.
- Immediately pull your analog stick down to cancel your flip.
When canceling your flip, you still receive the mid-air speed boost that a flip would give you. This means you can throw yourself forward at the pace of a front flip while also aiming to hit the ball with the nose or top of your car.
After you’ve canceled the flip and your car is facing forwards, you can continue to boost to thrust yourself farther. Many players will use flip-canceling to help keep their car facing forward to reach farther shots or reach challenges for the ball from a farther distance.
Redirects are changing the direction of the ball at high speed to surprise the opposing goalkeeper. The tiniest touch can greatly affect the ball’s path. At high speeds, it’s also very hard for the goalkeeper to predict and react to the new angle. This is one reason why it’s effective to use passing plays.
We don’t encourage you to stay upfield for longer than necessary, as rotations are important. Learning redirecting shots allows you to take advantage of passes like these when the scenario arises. Practicing them also increases your mid-air car control, which will be necessary to push for even higher ranks.
We suggest you practice the skills in this guide before introducing them into your ranked games. Here’s a Rocket League training pack code for all platforms that will help you perfect these skills.
Champion 2 and 3 Offense: 4A61-4874-6BD0-A399
Champion 2 and 3 Defense: C840-D52F-BA35-60EA
The road to Grand Champion usually takes as long as the climb to the first Champion rank. As well as the skills demonstrated in this edition, it’s also vital that you perfect your rotation strategy. You can learn about this in our Rocket League Rotations Strategy Guide.
To motivate yourself to climb to higher Champion ranks, you should also check out the high level of play available over on the Rocket League Twitch Channel.