Tired of losing online matches in Rocket League? Looking to level up your gaming skills? Maybe you’re just sick of being hard-stuck in the same rank you’ve held for the past three seasons straight. Well, I’d love to help! You’ve stumbled upon the most intuitive guide on the internet. If that isn’t enough, I’ve provided some credible video references at the bottom of the post.
A 50/50 Challenge occurs at any point two (or more) players from opposing teams make contact with a contested ball.
It’s possible for two players on the same team to 50/50, but luckily we’ve been blessed with an in-game cheat code to ensure we win those. Just hit Start, Down, Down, Down, Down, X. You’ll exit the game immediately.
The terminology is widespread. Most of you have probably already heard it used.
I hold 50/50 challenges in Rocket League close to my heart. They are very dear to me. I’ve analyzed them for years, and ultimately, I hired Fireburner as my coach because he was long hailed as the king of the 50/50 challenge.
At surface level, it’s easy to feel like winning a 50/50 is like pulling the lever on a slot machine. Truth is, a good challenge is the culmination of great game sense, quick recoveries, and adaptation. They’re probably the epitome of what RL players consider “smart” gameplay.
Winning a challenged ball is your easiest route to opening up plays for a teammate, and is guaranteed to result in more goals scored and fewer goals surrendered. You can’t win them all, but with the right mindset and proper follow-through once committing, you can ensure a surprising payout.
Before tackling anything else, I need to point out the golden rule of 50/50’s: once you dive, you cannot hesitate. If you realize that you’ve initiated a bad challenge, you still need to follow through with it.
Think of it this way: The mistake has already been made, and it’s better to make a bad decision quickly than it is to hesitate on a good one. Proper follow-through signals more readable on-field body language for your teammates and your window of opportunity for the “better” plan that snuck into your head has been sealed shut.
I say that a lot, but it’s especially true on challenges.
Anyway, let’s dive into the techniques that will help you win more challenges. You’ll even win a few bad challenges. These techniques will win you more games, no doubt about it!
Let’s dive into the general ‘rules of thumb’ when initiating a 50/50 challenge. The factors themselves may seem like common sense, but I’d like to break them down into a hierarchy in order of importance:
*(It’s important to note that moving at supersonic speed isn’t 100% of your full potential. There is an extra 5% boost hidden exclusively behind boost usage that instantly disappears once boost is released.)
Proper flip timing depends on your situation.
Make a mental note of how low on the list I placed velocity. Sure, it’ll power you through a bunch of challenges, but it only becomes relevant if your opponent has read your intention with absolute perfection.
Not to mention they would need flawless mechanics.
So, instead of rushing into your challenges, it’s ideal to approach with a strategy. Luckily for you, we’ve had since 2015 to develop those strategies. We can make favorable 50/50’s from every situation in Rocket League.
Let’s see what those strategies are:
These are the most common challenges in the game. Both players are fully committed to the play, both players are moving near supersonic speed – blazing through boost like it’s their morning coffee.
Most importantly, both players are attacking the ball head-on.
It might feel like the only thing you can do here is pray that your opponent makes a mistake in their timing, but there is more you can do.
You can utilize flip-cancels to straighten your car’s momentum throughout the dodge animation. A speed flip style flip-cancel extends your reach and reduces unnecessary motion for more direct contact. This often results in sacking the enemy car backward with the force of an NFL linebacker.
Speed flips will also help you power through opponents who delay their 50/50’s. Just aim for the opponent’s weak side of the 50. Pay close attention to which side of the ball he’s aiming to cut from and send the ball flying to the open area he’s left on the ball. The path of no resistance equals a clean win.
A player delaying their 50 expects to hit the ball last, but sheer power and precision will help ensure that doesn’t happen.
Arriving at the ball second will generally be enough to win a 50/50 challenge. You’ll still need to have good timing and a solid touch, but it becomes infinitely easier when the opponent is blindly charging in and knocks the ball straight into you. He expects the 50/50 and flips accordingly, but he may not expect you to be patient.
Your only goal is to absorb the ball and make the most centered touch possible. It might sound intimidating, but it’s honestly one of the easiest reads to make in the game. You only need to notice which side of the ball the other player was last seen on.
Delayed 50’s are a practical approach when you don’t have boost (or momentum) and you see an opponent charging full speed at the ball.
Likewise, when you have full possession and see an opponent closing in on you, bait them forward with a gentle tap on the ball. This sends a false promise of “you’ll get to it first, my guy,” and when you inevitably hit the ball after him, you’ll dunk the ball over him. Deep down you already knew you were Kobe Bryant’s secret apprentice. Now you have proof.
A delayed 50 won’t take any magical reading abilities, either. A simple diagonal flip toward the opponent’s weak side of the challenge will yield miraculous results.
Aerial 50/50’s are similar.
You want to arrive at the ball second, but in the air you often want your nose to aim high on the ball rather than in the center. This doesn’t mean chipping the summit of the ball, that would be silly. We’re aiming to be taller than our opponent. Think about the upward angle your car is in. You’ll angle the ball cleanly over the opponent.
If an opponent aims low on the ball the most he can expect to do is kill the ball’s momentum and knock it toward the ground. More commonly, if he aims for the center of the ball, he’s certain to lose.
I admit that speed is a much larger factor for 50/50’s made in the air. Friction is no longer anywhere in sight for either player.
Sometimes it’s wise to dunk opponents on the ground, too. Bear in mind this requires a small pre-jump, and if your opponent has enough time and control over the ball, he’ll be able to dodge the 50 entirely. You also risk having the ball rolled underneath of you.
Having said that, there is plenty of merit to being taller than the opponent.
Shadow defense becomes an important skill any time the opponent has possession and the potential to lunge the ball over you. Since you’re matching the opponent’s movements, winning a 50/50 is as easy as chipping the ball away from him. You’re both aiming to hit the ball in the same general direction, but the other guy has a target to hit, and you’re perfectly comfortable knocking the ball away into a corner. Think of it more like a 90/10.
Understanding the midline will provide you with the tools of knowing when to utilize shadow defense. The midline will also guide you to gaining full possession with matching momentum.
Of course, not every opponent will be willing to toss the ball away in a blind 50/50. Some will cling to their possession as Martha Stewart clings to HGTV homemaking programs.
Fake challenges can bait the opponent into hitting the ball away or panicking into missing a shot entirely. Remember, his goal is to knock the ball outside of your reach and he has a time limit to accomplish that.
Any time you feel like a challenge is risky, try a fake instead. If the opponent is carrying the ball with perfect flicking potential, try a fake. Trust me, these make a dribbler’s life a living hell. A fake challenge will tip the scales in your favor for an upcoming 50/50.
Meanwhile, diving in to challenge a player who can flick is an impossible guessing game. He can do quite a bit with that ball. Instead, applying pressure will force the opponent to make a mistake such as rolling the ball ahead of them or popping the ball too high for a dribble.
This could be your perfect moment to spin a full 180 and charge for that ball. Just remember what I mentioned earlier: If a player is rolling the ball ahead, he is likely attempting to bait you forward with a delayed 50/50. A flip cancel can help you power through him with sheer momentum.
Sweet. So now we’ve come full circle. Hopefully, you’ve picked up a bit of insight to understanding a player’s options and intent when approaching a 50/50. If you did, that means you’ll be able to read their intent and adapt accordingly.
Suddenly, we aren’t pulling levels on a slot machine, are we?
Finding the right moment to challenge can be tricky. Sure, we can break down the mechanics for more favorable challenges, but they’re never guaranteed. We want to minimize risks where possible.
The loser of a contested ball is nearly always taken out of the play, so it’s just as important to identify when to challenge as it is to learn how to challenge.
Well, it depends.
That probably isn’t what you want to hear. There are countless variables, namely rank, and on-field location. A lower rank player is more likely to make slow reads and make mistakes while holding possession.
As you rank up, you’ll want to remain closer to your opponents to capitalize on those mistakes as the window of opportunity grows smaller and more shallow.
The good news is, I can still give you a few pointers.
The golden rule: Threaten early, and challenge with patience.
I can also say with full certainty that the following challenges are safe:
As a two’s main, I can tell you that a full-blown retreat gives your opponent far too much space. While rotating back, your objective isn’t to flip off ball-cam and gun for boost, nor is it to camp in the net. Your goal is to continue your team’s momentum and maintain proper spacing. Keep an eye on what’s happening behind you while rotating back post. You need to focus on how the play is developing.
If the ball isn’t posing an immediate threat, you have an opportunity to lend your teammate some support. Don’t cut him in rotation, by any means. You just want to be ready to follow up.
Especially while retreating backfield, you’ll need to decide whether a 50/50 has an unfavorable outcome. If it doesn’t, resort to safer challenging techniques like shadow defense and preparing midline challenges.
You can probably already identify an “unfavorable outcome” as a vulnerable net. Let’s be a bit more specific, the real threats are in-field cuts.
A midfield cut is the universal sign of a team transitioning from defense to offense. When they occur, it means you’ve already given your opponent too much space. Don’t beat yourself up, it happens all the time.
This means it’s time to be patient. Let the opponent hit the ball away. Prepare a delayed 50/50 to knock him out of the play deep in your half of the field. This is the fastest way to take advantage of the situation.
Ideally, you want to challenge before the opponent makes an in-field cut. Any time you see a ball moving in a straight vertical line downfield, you have the tools you need to mark all three checkboxes for a perfect 50/50 – location, angle, and speed. As long as you don’t identify yourself as “beaten” to the ball, you’ll make solid contact.
The key is learning to space yourself properly. You want to anticipate these moments before they develop into bigger offensive threats. Unfortunately, only experience can teach you rock-solid spacing.
If no team has possession of the ball, it’s safe to challenge as long as you have a teammate rotating back.
Sometimes, if you’ve already positioned yourself too close to the play, you may need to challenge even if your teammates are already positioned in the enemy net or other nasty locations. You’ve already made your mistake, the best you can do is try to atone for it.
In this situation, before you commit, take note of the speed of the ball and the player diving for it. If it’s a low momentum play, you can curb your risk by adjusting yourself for shadow defense. Remember, shadowing effectively turns your 50/50’s into 90/10’s.
Unfortunately, if that ball looks like it’s going to jet downfield straight into your net, all you can do is jump for it and hope to win. Your commitment to this 50/50 was sealed the moment you pushed this far upfield.
Remember what I said in that opening section? Again, this highlights the most important part of a 50/50. You can’t hesitate. You need a plan and you need to stick to it.
Here’s where I say something outlandish: You don’t always want to win a challenge.
If you’re attacking the opponent’s first player on offense, a hard win on a 50/50 may only send the ball to his teammate. It’s important to keep an eye on everyone’s field presence and decide if a hard win on your 50/50 will knock you out of the play. Keep an eye on where the enemy players are located on the field, and try to adjust your 50/50 challenges accordingly.
Sometimes it’s wiser to tie the challenge and try to roll the ball in the direction of a teammate so he can pick up possession.
It’s pretty easy for a challenge to result in a draw if you attack the same side of the ball as the other player. This will result in a lateral pinch on the ball.
It’s even easier to intentionally lose the challenge. If your team is behind you scrambling for boost pads, it may benefit your team to throw the challenge. Pushing the ball forward doesn’t win games. Holding team possession wins games.
First I’d like to link a video made by Doomsee. He covers mechanics with some good examples:
This video by Fireburner covers reads and flip cancels:
This video by Musty helps dispel timing for shadow defense and fakes: