Week 6 Recap: The Madness Begins

Another 4-3 week for the picks, but for completely different reasons than last time.

Last week I was left thinking picking upsets was stupid, that the season was turning out very predictable and would be largely chalk until the top sixteen round of the playoffs. So I went extra-conservative with the picks – right at the exact moment where the chaos decided to show up. The two biggest matches were upsets, though close ones (Rotator over Black Dragon and Hypershock over Lock-Jaw), so there were two losses right there. Than we got to the thing I love even more than upsets – sheer effing chaos, and weirdness, and matches that stick with you and give you a lot to think about. That was what the two Clamper matches gave us, holy moly that was wild. Otherwise there were some of the typical one-sided fights that have largely comprised this season, but still some good moments with Yeti and Minotaur bouncing back and…gee I can’t even remember who fought in the the second match, yikes. Anyhow, let’s circle the wagons and see what’s going on in the sport this week.

Rotator (2-0) over Black Dragon (1-1)

Great fight, and a huge win for Rotator.

The recurring moment of this match was Black Dragon driving up Rotator’s incredibly effective hanging wedges, basically climbing onto his back, and then pausing there to seemingly reflect the futility of the situation – the Dragon could not get his weapon to contact Rotator on the wedge side. Rotator completely, COMPLETELY dictated the terms of this fight, it was a slow tactical match, and I did not see that coming at all. The Ground Game determines another match, maybe. But Rotator got the better of the weapon on weapon exchanges as well, though he was able to pick his moments and angles due to the aforementioned control of the match. The Black Dragon eggbeater spinner became engulfed in flames (AGAIN) after a nasty collision about a minute in and they were weaponless the rest of the way, while Rotator’s blade never faltered, that certainly decided the match if it was going that way anyhow. BD still did good, delivered some good shots (the best got Rotator way up on his side for a couple seconds) but they were unable to string things together, Rotator could always regain control with his backside whenever he wanted. Both robots are absolutely tough as hell and the match going to the judges was a lock.

the highlight of Black Dragon’s night

I think this is more about Rotator being elite rather than Black Dragon showing weakness: somebody had to lose this fight. BD survived another one although they did lose their weapon, and had no control over the tempo/tone of the match. Hmm, obviously Black Dragon doesn’t lose much, but they certainly lost here because of the low ground/wedge matchup, and they were eliminated in the Final Four match last year when Whiplash got under them. That was closer than this though, they were driving face first into each other and eventually one got under the other, it happened to be Whiplash. This one they just had no shot. Something to keep an eye on for the Brazilians (especially if anyone still believes they will win the title this season(link)), I think it’s something they can improve on (can we try dropping the wedge in certain matchups and going with the weapon exposed, kinda like Witch Doctor does it?). Practically speaking this loss probably pushes Black Dragon down to around a ten seed rather than the top five they were probably hoping for. Might matter, might not.

Rotator is definitely Top 10 and looks like they have finally come together. Could be the Golden’s Boy year. The offense-defense strategy is just terrific now, he’s fully realized the concept.

Lucky (1-1) over Blade (0-2)

Memory is a little shaky…this fight lasted like 30 seconds right?

Honestly I had to look up who the fighters were, and I still don’t have a single concrete memory for this match. I think Blade sucked, a lot? Uh, whatever. Let’s assume Lucky had a nice showing and hopfully they’ll make the tournament, I like that guy and good to have flippers in the mix.

Blade, right. I maintain my position that Blade is the coolest looking robot in the sport, design and color alike. Look at this!

But yeah, sadly the sport is about fighting, not looking cool. Alas. Also there was this wild thing where Blade slammed into the wall and a huge chunk of Blade’s blade stuck into the wall and stayed there.

Wild. I like Lucky, hopefully they make the playoffs.

Minotaur (1-1) over Dragon Slayer (1-1)

Minotaur rolled, obviously a lot on the big guy’s mind. Tough stuff. The bot looked great and are almost guaranted a playoff showing, where they will be incredibly exciting and be involved in some wild memorable stuff, no doubt. It was a throwback Minotaur showing, relentless aggression and attacks with the humming drum spinner. My favorite part is always when the spinner kicks the other robot up and Minotaur gets under him, slashing the opponent’s exposed belly as he goes through.

Dragon Slayer is part of the Voluminous 1-1 crowd, they’ll need to beat someone better than Duck to make the playoffs, most likely.

Yeti (1-1) over Pain Train (0-2)

This was a good one!

It was interesting because the weapons were so similar (drum spinners) and yet Pain Train’s was 30 pounds heavier than Yeti’s (70 to 40 I think). That meant Yeti had to be heavily strategic and avoid going straight head-to-head with the weapons. He mostly pulled it off, Pain Train landed a few good shots but nothing crippling, there were some glancing blows where the weapon touched but at angles that went both ways, and all the while Yeti patiently drove like a wild man. He was betting that the creaky Pain Train would not be able to move deliberately enough to keep the weapon in front at all times, that eventually Yeti would see the side of back of PT and could pounce. Excellent strategy; it took a while but it worked. Then it became a complete undressing of poor Pain Train as he was essentially dismantled in front of an audience. Yeti probably felt he needed to show off some style points with such a large and competitive middle-class in Battlebots this season.

a few seconds later…

Honestly that was the best by far, BY FAR, that Pain Train has ever looked. They had the better weapon, they had the other robot playing scared in trying to avoid it, and they did pretty well for maybe 90 seconds. There’s promise here!

Yeti is 1-1, I expect they and many others will be playing a “win-and-you’re in match” somewhere in Weeks 8-10. With so, so many robots having 1-1 records, I assume Battlebots is cueing up a ton of great matches in the Final Third. (It’s the second year with the 32 team playoffs and they are clearly figuring out how to set the schedule better, last year a lot of really good teams lost early playing other giants. Good job Battlebots!)

HiJinx (1-1) over Kraken (0-2)

Here’s where things got wild.

This was an incredibly unusual match – the immediate comparison I draw is to Gruff/Tombstone in 2019 – where one robot was completely dominating control and aggression while the other robot completely dominated damage, leading to a super polarized scorecard. Here they are.

I think the Judges got it wrong, but it’s complicated

To me there were two things that were very clear: Kraken got 3 Control points and at least 2 Aggression points (I guess at the end Kraken couldn’t move and HiJinx was attacking, so HJ probably deserves the other point) and HiJinx deserved at least 4 of 5 Damage points. Kraken was all kinds of messed up by the end. Toothless!

So if Kraken gets 5 of 6 Aggression/Control, HiJinx gets 1 Agression and 4 Damage, they’re tied 5-5 and there’ one damage point remaining. Did Kraken do any Damage? I’m not sure (and obviously haven’t rewatched). But that’s where the pivot was, not on Kraken getting 2 Damage points(?) or HiJinx getting 2 Aggression points(???), let alone Kraken not controlling the entire match. He flipped HiJinx! He put her on the upper deck! What more control do you want to see?

Kraken, during happier days

I mean, Jesus, Kraken completely, COMPLETELY dominated the action in this match. HiJinx didn’t move! So it was always up to Kraken to engage, to try and bite down on this massive spinning weapon, and usually it hurt him. But still! The other robot just lay there, I coudn’t believe they eluded the countdown. And dang, Kraken does deserve credit for making HiJinx so immobile right? There had to be signif internal damage. So yeah, after fully evaluating I think Kraken got screwed, bad judges decision. They’re 0-2 and almost certainly out of the playoffs, it’s a bummer. They always give us a brilliant and memorable match, no exceptions here. Maybe they should have barely engaged HiJinx the second half to avoid damage, I dunno, it could have cost them in other points. I just don’t think it’s right that a robot that barely moved wins, not a good standard to set. Sigh.

Why two vertical spinners to start their season?!?!? They keep losing teeth! Give them something else next time please, and maybe they can impress and scraped out a 32 seed.

Defender (1-1) over Riptide (1-1)

And then, after that fascinating and controvercial outcome, we had this bleepshow. What a wild, wild time. More chaos in the first thirty seconds than in entire weeks this year.

So here’s what seemed to happen:

  • Defender and Riptide had a massive collision caused by Riptide’s concussive weapon, they were both thrown way back. Defender landed on its side and seemed pinned, possibly out. Riptide landed on its head.
  • While Defender failed to move, a few feet away Riptide suddenly (and at the time, inexplicably) drove headfirst into the wall of the arena.
  • Riptide landed on its side, now it was paralyzed, while Defender managed to regain its footing and was back in the fight. They had switched places in an instant, and neither had touched the other!
  • Then the big one, and more incredibly non-contact action. It was the Hit of the Week

HIT of the Week

This is a different kind of massive hit, the kind we haven’t really seen before. Riptide either knew or decided in the moment that the only way to self-right himself was to drive headfirst into a wall. So he did, and…

That’s a robot on the right side, up in the air all by itself
Now it’s coming down

15 feet in the air, according to Kenny. Unbelievable.

Anyhow, both robots are decent and will be in the mix for lower seeds in the tourney. Thanks for a terrifically bonkers fight.

Hypershock (2-0) over Lock-Jaw (0-2)

Please note the lack of tires…

(In which Hypershock drives like an absolute maniac and is rewarded for it!)

Seriously, that was just so wild aggressive driving out there. Hypershock blitzed Lock-Jaw, got right in his face and smothered him, it seems fair to say LJ’s mind works at a slower pace and he would prefer a far more deliberate than this. All the same – Hypershock took enough damage to lose not one but TWO wheels in the chaos and yet it didn’t seem to handicap him in the slightest. Bonkers! Lock-Jaw was continuously overwhelmed, continously a step behind, continuously reacting instead of being active themselves. With the robots so similar in design (heck, HS’s configuration looked like he was trying to be Lock-Jaw) it came down to behavior and execution, and Hypershock was great, or at least very good (the aforementioned lost wheels is surely something they prefer didn’t happen). That seems to be the winning strategy for these guys, the blitzkreig berserker whatever you want to call it approach. It certainly makes for excellent TV (while it lasts, that match felt like it was over in under a minute).

I don’t know if it represents a major career moment for HS or some sort of passing of the torch, obviously Mr Lock-Jaw is double the age of some of his opposing captains, but Hypershock is a veteran himself at this point. And Hypershock has had good seasons before (3-1 regular season in 2019 before losing the play-in match, some tournament success in 2016). In fact upon reflection it appears they alternate seasons good and bad, being quite competent in even number seasons (this is Season 6). So we’ll see! Lock-Jaw is 0-2 and now having a terrible year, we need another measurement on Hypershock, and I bet we’ll get that in their third fight. Right now though – this concept of a 4WD vertical spinner robot that’s faster and more voraciously aggressive than the others like it has found a niche in the 2021* landscape. Good for them. We’ll see what happens next.

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