Madden NFL 20 has a new game mode designed for short bursts of gridiron action. Superstar KO shrinks the playbooks, gives you access to elite players from around the league, and lets you compete online in matches that last less than ten minutes. We’ve spent some time with the new game mode and wanted to share a few tips and tricks to help you become the king of the knockout.
What is Superstar KO?
But first, let’s start with some basics. Superstar KO is an online only game mode. You can play 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3. If you choose 2v2 or 3v3, you can play cooperatively with a friend or two, just like how you would in a normal online match.
After choosing your format, you pick a team. Superstar KO has eight teams (more on this later), each with a different coach and playbook. You’ll be presented with three groups of four. Sometimes two offensive groups and one defensive group, sometimes the other way around. You choose one player from each group.
Superstar KO uses modified overtime rules. Each possession starts on the 25-yard line. When on offense, the goal is to score a touchdown and convert the two-point conversion. You cannot kick a field goal. After your drive, your opponent gets a turn from their 25-yard line. That’s it. One possession per player.
If a game ends in a draw, you compete in a Tug-of-War starting at the 50-yard line, alternating offensive plays to see who can advance the ball the furthest (or score). Each team gets three offensive plays in a Tug-of-War.
Picking your team
The eight fantasy teams in Superstar KO each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Not necessarily when it comes to players, but when it comes to the plays themselves. Since playbooks are far smaller than you’re used to, you have to be very comfortable with what you choose.
Each category — pass offense, rush offense, pass defense, and rush defense — is graded one to five. These grades are more about play selections, not necessarily skills.
This is a matter of preference, but we’re going to outline the teams below. Here’s what we suggest, though: If you’re naturally a great defender, pick an offensive-oriented playbook. If you are excellent on offense, pick a defensive-oriented playbook.
So far, we really like Dot City, Record Breakers, and Shutdown. Playing offense in Madden is always easier than playing defense, so the average Madden player will likely want to pick a playbook that has at least an above average set of defensive plays for both rushing and passing situations.
It’s also worth noting that you won’t know which team your opponent picked until you get into a match. While you can’t counteract their choice, if you want to play it safe, you can stick with Snappers, which has a solid all-around playbook.
- Dot City: Coached by Odell Beckham Jr., it’s not a surprise Dot City’s playbook is heavy on deep passes. All plays will take place in shotgun formation and the vast majority have receivers running mid to deep routes. It’s very light on running plays. If you throw the ball almost every play, Dot City is for you (5/5 in pass offense). On the defensive side of the ball, it has great pass protection plays but a poor selection of plays to stop the run.
- GNP: Coached by Emmitt Smith, GNP is the exact opposite of Dot City thanks to legendary running back Emmitt Smith at the helm. Excellent selection of run plays and run defense (5/5 in both categories). It has a very small selection of pass plays and poor pass defense.
- Magicians: Coached by Patrick Mahomes, this Run-Pass-Option and Play Action heavy team has mid-tier passing and rushing offense (3/5), but slightly below average rushing and passing defense (2/5).
- Snappers: Coached by Bruce Arians, the Snappers have mid-tier (3/5) grades in all four categories. If you’re undecided and want a little bit of everything, the Snappers are a great choice.
- Record Breakers: Coached by Rams Sensation Sean McVay, the Record Breakers give you more offensive plays and formations to choose from. The playbook features great passing and rushing offense (4/5). The tradeoff is weak defense all around, with a 1/5 in both pass and rush defense.
- Shutdown: Coached by Dr. Jennifer Welter, Shutdown is the exact opposite of the Record Breakers. Its squad boasts the largest defensive playbook and great passing and rushing defense (4/5). The downside is the offensive play selection is limited. It earns a 1/5 in both passing and rushing.
- Florida Keys: Coached by DJ Khaled, the Florida Keys playbook is really intriguing. This blitz heavy playbook has awesome rush defense and above-average pass offense. It’s bad in the pass defense department and below average in rushing offense, though.
- Backyard Heroes: Coached by Lil Yachty, Backyard Heroes is quite interesting. Great pass offense (4/5) combined with an above-average run game and passing defense mostly outweighs the bad rush defense selection.
Picking your players
Superstar KO is still 11v11 football. You get to pick three Superstar X-Factor players from the jump, though. The rest of your team will be filled out with average NFL players.
You’ll have three rounds of selections, with four players available each round. All of the players are Superstar X-Factor players — one of the 50 elite players EA gave unique abilities to in Madden 20. But not all Superstar X-Factors are on the same level.
Each player has a rarity level: Common, Rare, Ultra Rare, and Legendary. We saw Common through Ultra Rare in almost every batch, but Legendaries are hard to come by. Basically, the rarer the player, the more passive abilities they have.
One strategy is to pick the rarest player in each round and be done with it. This isn’t a bad strategy, as you’ll technically have the best available players.
However, an even better strategy is to pick players that align with your playbook — at least at first. If you have a run-heavy playbook, don’t pass up a premier running back for a receiver or QB. And if you have a passing heavy playbook, please pick some elite deep threats and a QB known to sling it.
The same goes for defense. If you have a run defense-heavy playbook, draft the linemen or linebackers. And if you have a pass defense-oriented playbook, pick cornerbacks or safeties.
If you win…
If you win a round, you’ll get to add another Superstar X-Factor player to your roster. You’ll get four to choose from, plus one from your opponent’s team who is now dubbed a free agent. At this point, if you’re happy with your team, pick the rarest player. Otherwise, load up on your strengths once again. You’ll get to draft a new player three times if you keep winning. After four straight wins, you go back to the start menu to begin the process all over again.
Play smart, risk-free football on offense
When on offense, you really do need to take care of the ball. This means don’t pass into double teams and only throw into tight windows with the right pass type for the situation — low, high, bullet, lob, touch, pick the right throw and execute.
With the ball in a runner’s or receiver’s hands, don’t overdo spin moves, jukes, and stiff arms. This can lead to fumbles if you’re playing an adept opponent. If you turn the ball over, that’s it. You get one possession. Make the most of it.
Since you don’t have to worry about punting at all, you are always in four down territory. This means positive yardage on a play, even if it’s just a few yards, is better than trying to make the length of the field in one heroic effort.
Hit stick and forcing turnovers
On defense, you want to make prodigious use of the hit stick. Take hold of your Superstar X-Factor player(s). They are better than everyone else on the field. Try to strip the ball by pressing R1/RB and always use the hit stick to tackle. Forcing a turnover is the name of the game here. If you force a turnover after you already scored on offense, you win. If you score a defensive touchdown before you even play offense yourself, well, you also win. It pays to play opportunistic defense.