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Manuel “Martoz” Martinez was sweating, but not because he was under pressure. Situated just outside Slurpy Swamp, he was boxed up with an enemy just on the other side of his wall.

He built a ramp going toward his enemy’s box, giving him an extra layer of protection from a deadly shotgun spray. The enemy, clad in one of Fortnite’s skin-tight superhero skins, opened a small window to take a shot at Martoz. That was their first and only mistake.

Martoz started to edit his ramp, turned around and placed a bounce pad on the wall behind him, flew past his ramp as he finished editing it and then crouched as he flew through the enemy window. The enemy superhero didn’t have time to react as Martoz served them deadly, kryptonite shotgun shells.

All about memorization

“The play was pretty hard at first,” Martoz said. “But once I got it down, it became pretty easy. I’m able to pull it off almost every time.”

Arena lobbies are like a sauna. Sweating comes naturally to everyone in the lobby when they run into another player. There is no easy fight; few headshots take out a player instantly. Fortnite all comes down to elaborate box fights where whoever thinks outside the box fastest wins.

A box is a familiar place for every Fortnite player in the world, from Risky Reels to Amsterdam. As soon as a bullet lands — and even if it misses — there’s no better defensive option than to quickly build four panels and a ceiling out of wood, stone or steel. Health and shields are the most valuable currency in the colorful battle royale. Players can buy a lot of kills if they know how to spend it.

Fortnite boxfight hop
Players have developed different ways to peak out of their boxes, including one where they jump up for a brief moment | Provided by Aron Garst/Epic Games

From build battle to boxfight

Fortnite’s meta used to revolve around build battles. Two players or teams would clash and build elaborate and random mansions out of single sheets. The goal was always to get on top of your opponent to more easily land headshots and defend against their counter attacks.

“Build fights were really popular in the early days in Chapter 1,” said Fortnite player Aggro Vohade. “But for competitive, people started to realize it wasn’t smart because you would get third-partied easily.”

It was all too common for players to get hit by a distant sniper, get knocked out of the sky by a well-placed rocket that took down the entire structure or get killed by another player minutes after winning a stressful fight. The battle became about limiting how much players got hit, making it increasingly difficult to land those one-off pump shots.

Fortnite Rail Gun
The Rail Gun was added in Season 7, but removed from competitive play soon after | Provided by Aron Garst/Epic Games

Fortnite players then turned to box fights by spending dozens of weekly hours in Creative Mode, nailing down specific strategies named after other players. The Mongraal Classic, named after FaZe’s Kyle “Mongraal” Jackson, has players break an enemy wall, replace it with a wall of their own and then build an additional ramp within the enemy box to prevent the enemy from protecting themselves. It leaves them open for a well-placed pump blast.

There are only so many ways to edit a box, so players have practiced these moves over and over again in order to turn them into a habit. Winning a box fight comes down to who can perform a move faster or who can predict what the other player will do before responding accordingly. That’s why old dogs like Nicholas “Nickmercs” Kolcheff can no longer keep up with younger players.

“After playing the game a lot and fighting thousands of different players, you start to notice what a lot of people will do,” Martoz said. “You will learn to time your shot almost perfectly when they edit something since you have been in that situation a lot of times.”

Few second chances in the FNCS

The box fight changes every season as Epic Games add new — and some old — items to Fortnite. A bow and arrow with a shockwave grenade at the end that can propel players through enemy builds and a jar of fireflies that can burn through wood are just two examples of items that push players to go beyond the box. They just need to experiment and hope these items aren’t deemed too overpowered for competitive play in order to utilize them in the Fortnite Championship Series (FNCS).

If Fortnite Arena play is a sauna, then the FNCS is like an oven reaching temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. With every dive from the battle bus, box fights evolve into gigantic superstores full of steel crates with competitors eager to peak for a quick pump shot.

It’s one giant game of chess mixed with paintball. Skill is required to emerge victorious, but a good amount of luck is still key to being the last one standing. You can only win so many box fights until someone gets the better of you.

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