Week 1 Picks: The Match of the Century

Week 1 Picks:           The Match of the Century

It’s here! It’s finally here!!!

One of the Traditions I pointed out earlier in the week has remained in place, with Sawblaze competing in the first fight of the season. Three years running! It’s an inexplicable tradition (as far as I know), he didn’t do anything to earn this honor besides being genuinely excellent year and year out (and being excellent in these inaugural matches). In fact yes, he’s won both of them including the absolute (and frankly shocking, especially in hindsight) owning of Whiplash last year. That’s gotta be the worst Whiplash has ever looked, though he didn’t look too good the last time we saw him either haha. But Whiplash is next week probably, we’ll get to him. As for the other tradition it appears Tombstone has lost the inaugural main event slot and been booted to the matinee, after losing the inaugural main event last year and being booted out of the Battlebox. The one who did the booting went on to win the whole thing so it’s only fitting they’ve earned the designation here. End Game earned their slot far more than Sawblaze did and maybe they’ll have it until further notice. But man, what a tough draw for them! And Sawblaze! This is really an exceptional fight card with a lot of focus on veteran teams from the past, some returning with a Bang. Five of our top ten bots by the Battleblog Power Rankings are playing tonight, as well as two from the next tier nipping at their heels. Here we go.

(The robot’s Power Ranking is in parenthesis)

The Brazilian Bull rides again

Sawblaze (6) vs Minotaur (8)

Ranked matchup right off the bat! And what a stylish clash, my gosh, I could write 1000 words on these two alone. Let’s see, Minotaur missed last year, their 2019 season was pretty much as exciting and unpredictable as possible. They were 0-2 after their weapon broke in their first two matches (and the Runner-Up curse seemed to be overwhelming), then they cruised through the first two matches of the Desperado tournament and it looked like they would win, lock up a playoff slot and rest up for another deep run. But they didn’t! Black Dragon got them, they managed to salvage a 3-3 record with a late win against some bum (I can’t remember who) and then the magic returned. They beat Cobalt in one of the best driving performances ever to make the playoffs, then upset undefeated 3 seed Hydra in under 40 seconds! Then of course as everyone finally believed in them again they lost, though putting up a valiant effort against Deathroll, maybe the greatest one-hit wonder the sport has ever seen. Anyhow, it was awesome, and they won a lot of great fights, but they also lost 4 matches that year and seemed to have springing leaks all over the place, with the reliability (of the weapon at least, maybe not the robot) coming into serious question.

I seem to be talking myself into taking Sawblaze here, who always seems very well prepared to start each season when Minotaur absolutely does not (they were 0-1 in 2018 as well). Again, opposing styles, Sawblaze seems to really plan things out and be methodical while Minotaur wants to romp around in the chaos and bruise and counter-punch and be reactive and outthink and outdrive someone in the heat of the moment. Sawblaze has that wonderful wedge that gets under most people and allows him to control things, seems like the easy strategy for him is to scoop the compact and rounded Minotaur, drive him into walls, and occasionally drop the hammer. But…hmmm…what about Minotaur’s weapon, the broad drum spinner that’s pretty low to the ground?

Dang, this is a tough one!

Ok, yeah I’m reversing course here. If Minotaur can use its weapon to chew up any of Sawblaze’s three wedge/forks than Sawblaze is going to be in huge trouble. And I think it will, that weapon is lower than most and didn’t have a problem going against Hydra in that aforementioned playoff match. Minotaur hits just about everybody, that’s rarely a problem for them. Sawblaze can’t really use it’s weapon without having the opponent in its clutches and never uses the weapon much at all. Without the forks the saw isn’t very useful, that’s my point. And then Sawblaze is trying to keep up with Minotaur, Sawblaze is fast and a great driver but Minotaur is so tight and can turn on a dime…yeah, that’s it. I’ve seen enough. Sawblaze can certainly win, it’s going to be a great and highly competitive fight, but I just think Minotaur is elusive and twitchy enough to avoid being caught in his grasp for long and will be able to damage the front forks, at which point the Brazillians have a serious edge. It’s a risky pick going against plenty of my logic, and Minotaur did miss a year, and Sawblaze is always so prepared…but I think stylistically Minotaur has an edge on Sawblaze and that’s just part of the matchup of these two great designs.

The Pick: Minotaur, Judges Decision

KABOOM

Uppercut (Tier 2) vs Gigabyte (Tier 2)

WOW.

What a matchup!!!!!

We are going to learn so much about these robots, or at least one of them, one way or the other. These two robots are both very central to the Battleblog predictions, both in how the power rankings assessed things and the ‘Age of Durability‘ prediction. Gigabyte was my backup pick to win the title this year, though not so much because I believed Gigabyte could go all the way, but that they are the second best bot in the ‘Durable’ category right now. So, why not take what could be the most durable bot in the entire sport and put it against the HARDEST HITTING weapon in the entire sport? Why waste our time doing anything else?

Uppercut is an absolute treasure, capable of instant knockouts (the first playoff match was over in 33 seconds) where robots soar majestically across the arena ceiling. But…I don’t believe in them, and hence they were omitted from a top ten ranking. They win EASY over mediocre competition and have mostly struggled with above-average competition (the win over Sawblaze being the outlier, for now). Here’s an easy chance to prove me wrong! They will have to hit Gigabyte many times, many many times, before Gigabyte dies, Gigabyte is going to be bouncing off the walls and floor like a superball. If Uppercut is going to win it needs to not die when it is adminstering these hits. I don’t think we’ve seen Uppercut face a full-body spinner before, certainly not last year, and the amount of force returned to Uppercut when it hits one of those have to be massive. Here’s another interesting point: Uppercut doesn’t really move well, and certainly isn’t fast enough to execute an effective box rush. I think Gigabyte will be at full speed when those two weapons collide (in what might be one of the hardest impacts all season). You can probably see where I’m going with this.

Age of Durability!!! (Until I see Gigabyte die, I’m not going to believe it’s actually possible)

The Pick: Gigabyte, Knock Out

Switchback (unranked, rookie bot) vs Gruff (unranked)

Oh boy.

Gruff is my darling, Gruff is my sweetheart, and nothing would make more upset than them losing to some absolute nobody robot that they are superior to, which is exactly how last regular season ended (and why Gruff was the 31 seed in the playoffs). Maybe Switchback is great, maybe they have a pedigree, but it doesn’t look like it based on the brief Youtube clips I watched (the sound was off). They have a really wacky design with a large spinning drum that is mounted on arms that swing over the robot. They can use the weapon on either side, I guess. Not really sure how useful that is but ok. It looks slow and lurchy, the arm and weapon must take up a lot of weight and power. I don’t think either robot has a great matchup with the other, the overhead spinner could hurt Gruff’s forks, and Gruff might not get to dictate where on its body the opposing shot will land. I don’t know that Gruff’s forks will be useful here or not, maybe he can push Switchback around? On the other hand, Switchback seems to be a mostly offense weapon going against one of the hardest robots to kill, so that’s not ideal for them. Gruff will probably be faster and more manueverable. But can Gruff do anything with the forks? Can the overhead spinner land in some weaker-armored spots on top while Gruff struggles to do anything to them? It could happen, I suppose.

Nevertheless, rookie robots generally struggle with unforseen issues, and almost everyone loses their first fight or has a rough go. There’s so often some adjustment or grip issue or whatever. Gruff SHOULD win this one. He should just drive into the opponent and push them into a wall. I feel like a weapon like that with arms and a spinner is more complex and easier to spoil. Finally, I haven’t mentioned yet Gruff’s secret weapon: Fire. Get close, hope you can absorb the hits, and torch this inexperienced robot all you can. I bet he’s not fireproof or has a problem with grip or general reliability and Gruff pushes him around until he don’t move no more.

The Pick: Gruff, Knock Out

Captain Shrederator (unranked) vs Tombstone (10)

Ummmm, yeah.

The Pick: Tombstone, Knock Out.

P.S. Ok a little info, just a little. Captain Shrederator is a jolly full-bodied spinner that really hasn’t won anything significant in years, if ever. I think they won a regular season match and a bounty match last year. Lots of reliability issues and other things just seem to go wrong, his weapon “brake” got activated last year by accident and shut down his spinning, for example. Tombstone should eat him alive and hopefully split the bot in two. I wasn’t very confident about the first three picks, I would put 10 thousand dollars on this one.

What is going on here?

Free Shipping (unranked) vs Backsmith (unranked)

Intriguing match as two veterans return from a one-year absence!

(takes a break and watches an old Free Shipping match, possibly in black and white)

Ok! Research completed. Free Shipping is a very interesting design (if somewhat antiquated), a robot with a fork-lift. And fire, lots of fire. He’s almost like an evolutionary Gruff.

What Free Shipping does have as an advantage over his opponent is maneuverability, that thing moves fast and Gary is renowned as a great driver. So that should be a sizable edge for FS. Still, what is Free Shipping looking to do, push him around? Get under him and lift him? Both are hard to do to Blacksmith, who is tough and low to the ground, and should be capable of the defensive driving necessary to keep FS off his side. Blacksmith has an adjustable wedge and that will be key here. On the whole Free Shipping it’s a very cool combo of skills and a slick, crowd-pleasing robot, I’m just not sure it’s good enough at any specific thing to be successful in the modern age. If anything I feel like it’s too versatile, quantity over quality maybe. But again, in this case it definitely has a serious advantage in the driving category.

What I’m stuck on is all that stuff positioned at the top of Gary’s bot, the exposed pulley system for the lifter is up there. Blacksmith should be able to mess that up with his hammer pretty bad, and he should be able to do it quickly. Blacksmith is tough and should be able to hold ground and not get pushed, he should plan to body him and use the hammer to disable the lifter. Blacksmith should be able to withstand fire, he has fire of his own, and I don’t see how Free Shipping could do damage to or disable the weapon. I think this is a pretty good draw for Blacksmith, of course who knows what shape they’re in after a one year hiatus.

The Pick: Blacksmith, Judges Decision

Pain Train (unranked) vs Deep Six (unranked)

Not a lot to say on this one, these two are both very young and marginal robots so far. Pain Train was a rookie last year and was mostly awful, they seemed to have ability to grip the Battlebox floor and consequently he moved like a spastic. Not being able to drive in a specific desired direction is kind of a handicap! Deep Six…memory is shakey, I think they were on the show in 2019 and played a match or two. It’s like the most ridiculously vicious weapon you could imagine, kinda like a giant spinning pickax, and boy would it maul throw a legion of human bodies. Basically its trick was to spin the weapon so fast that it would go flying and break itself against a wall, pretty much a guaranteed self-knockout everytime we saw it. So, yeah. Of course it really depends how they’ve changed the design in two years, and on the other hand Pain Train might be much better two in its second season. Maybe it can drive straight now! It seems like if Deep Six could just run its weapon against Pain Train it would win, but I think even that might be too big an ask.

The Pick…Boy, I dunno, Pain Train I guess. Yikes.

The Pick: Pain Train, Knock Out

The Match of the Century

Hydra (3) vs End Game (1)

WOW.

It’s like the Battlebots Boss ordered them to “set up the greatest matchup possible, that didn’t happen at the end of last year’s playoffs.”

Here it is, regular season wizard Hydra (7-0 lifetime) goes up against the reigning Champ. Really tough way for both these guys to start! On the other hand the winner will probably be the #1 seed, if that can be predicted in week 1.

In terms of analysis there ain’t a lot to say. If End Game can have its explosive and unstoppable weapon make contact with Hydra, End Game will win. If not, Hydra will win. That’s it. Hydra is almost certainly going to flip him at least a couple times. End Game is not particularly low to the ground, there’s a weakness there, this was evident during the Tantrum playoff matchup. Maybe they can adjust but it seems unlikely. End Game’s closest relative might be Uppercut, and Uppercut couldn’t touch Hydra AT ALL in their match last year. Very few weapons can touch Hydra as he slides and slithers along the floor like a snake. I honestly think one hit from End Game landed on Hydra would win the match for End Game, but I don’t think he’ll get that far. So yes, I predict the newly minted champ takes a loss in week 1, which would be crazy. So maybe I’m wrong. This is honestly one of the most consequential matches in recent Battlebots history and the winner will have all the bragging rights in the world, they will have every right to the claim of the greatest in the sport. Such a thing isn’t up for grabs very often, but it is this week.

The Pick: Hydra, Judges Decision

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