Battlebots Playoffs Week 1 Preview: End Game and Sawblaze at the top

I assigned the regions like March Madness does it, each region here comprising 8 teams. Going around the circle: North is End Game’s region, Ribbot is the top seed in the East, Whiplash in the South and Sawblaze in the West. This week are the first round of fights in the North and West.

The North

Obviously End Game is a substantial favorite here. We also have the runner-up bots from the Season 3 and Season 4 playoffs (both lost to Bite Force in their respective finals) in Minotaur and Witch Doctor respectively. Some strong pedigree, even if those two have not been at their absolute peak/prime this season. Then we have two of the top seeds from last year that suffered early playoff exits in Bloodsport and Copperhead, Copperhead has looked terrific this year. There’s also the enigmatic Glitch at the 9 seed, who won some impressive matches but is still a rookie. To cover everyone – I don’t have high hopes for Lucky, and while I like Skorpios a lot beating End Game in your first playoff fight is a VERY TALL ORDER. So, yeah.

I guess overall the summary would – lots of high-end talent here, but I think everyone is on a tier below End Game. Hopefully I’m wrong and there’s a big upset lurking.

Play-In Match: Skorpios vs Malice

Skorpios (1-2):

Beat Blade
Lost to Whiplash
Lost to Yeti

Good robot that lost some competitive matches against high-end competition. Skorpios is a defensive robot with a very tough wedge. They can take a lot of hits. Weapon is ok (a hammer-saw) and sometimes they land very tactical shots to cut belts, tires etc.

The one on the right!

Malice (1-2):

Lost to Tantrum
Lost to Jackpot
Beat Blacksmith

Malice is tough and their weapon can be very good. They seem to have reliability issues keeping everything running. They definitely had a tough schedule, on the other hand they couldn’t knock Blacksmith out and that fight was pretty competitive.

I like Skorpios here but could definitely see Malice winning. Skorpios needs to be tactical with their approach and find a way to break the weapon, either with wedge or saw.

The Pick: Skorpios by Judges Decision

End Game (1) vs Skorpios/Malice (32)

End Game (3-0):

Beat Hydra
Beat Witch Doctor
Beat Sawblaze

I’m not going to summarize them anymore, you know who they are.

I like them to beat and knockout either opponent. I give Skorpios a slight, SLIGHT chance if they use the long forks and get under End Game, keeping them at distance so they can’t hit. I give Malice no shot at all.

The Pick: End Game

Minotaur (16) vs Bloodspot (17)

Mintotaur (2-1):

Lost to Sawblaze
Beat Dragon Warrior (Slayer?)
Beat Deep Six

Minotaur is a veteran of many wars, usually go on a run in the playoffs. Tough and durable with a gnarly weapon that chews things up. The prime strength of the robot though is the driver, absolutely one of the best in the sport.

Bloodsport (2-1):

Lost to Whiplash
Beat Subzero
Beat Claw Viper

Bloodsport is also a good driver. They have a vicious horizontal spinner but it requires space/time to get spinning. Last year they cruised in the regular season but struggled in the playoffs as the 2 seed. This season they were ok but underwhelming.

I think is a great matchup for Minotaur and a terrible matchup for Bloodsport. Minotaur can just stay right on top of them smother them with blows while keeping BS from getting the weapon going. I don’t think it will be close.

The Pick: Minotaur by Knockout

Copperhead (8) vs Lucky (25)

Copperhead (2-0):

Beat Lock-Jaw
Beat Fusion

Hmm, those wins looked a lot better at the time haha. Copperhead is extremely destructive, definitely at the very top of the weapon rankings. They are 5-0 in the regular season but did lose their only playoff match last year against Mammoth in a mammoth upset. Something to keep in mind.

Lucky (2-1):

Lost to Tantrum
Beat Blade
Beat Mammoth

Lucky is a tough flipper that drives very well. Was around years ago, this is the reboot or whatever. Seems like a pretty good bot, I just wonder about the ceiling here. They’re not very low for a flipper, Tantrum got under them at will (Tantrum gets under a lot of robots to be fair).

I just rewatched both of Lucky’s wins…I’m sorry. I think they’re completely outclassed here.

The Pick: Copperhead by KO

Glitch (9) vs Witch Doctor (24)

Glitch (3-0!):

Beat Ghost Raptor
Beat Hydra
Beat Kraken

Glitch has a really killer weapon that has been its main asset this year. Self-righter and driving seem like question marks. They haven’t lost yet, so probably shouldn’t be doubted!

Witch Doctor (2-1):

Beat Duck
Lost to End Game
Beat Rusty

Hmmm, hard to judge anything from that schedule, I thought they did well against End Game. Witch Doctor is a major veteran with a lot of driving skill. It’s a great combo of toughness, speed and weapon power.

Based on what we’ve seen Witch Doctor will be outdriving Glitch by a HUGE margin, he’ll be doing doughnuts around him. I think it’s a complete mismatch on that front. Assuming WD avoids Glitch’s very dangerous weapon they should be able to take the upset. There’s plenty of Glitch to hit that isn’t weapon.

The Pick: Witch Doctor by KO

The West

This is kind of the fun/wacky region of the bracket. It also has the heaviest favorite of anyone to emerge from their region – Sawblaze has a really good path here. I expect him to win the first two matches pretty easily and then maybe he’ll be tested in the the third.

Lots of different approaches – Huge of course, P1 the race car, HiJinx with the weird undercutter design, Sawblaze of course is a unique setup (though familiar by this point), Shatter! is the best modern hammer-bot and only one in the playoffs, and Riptide has been a lot of fun this year and is very unpredictable. Then there’s Uppercut, the most powerful robot in the sport pretty much (they’re comparable with End Game but I’d give them the edge), and absolutely the most extreme case of going all in on your weapon, all offense all the time. Uppercut had an early playoff exit last year and I have questions/concerns that they can withstand the power they generate. Anyhow, lots of cool robots but I think Sawblaze is a clear cut above everyone else. But we’ll see!

Sawblaze (4) vs HiJinx (29)

Sawblaze (2-1):

Beat Minotaur
Beat Madcatter
Lost to End Game

Veteran robots that wins a lot, and has a very good record against other top/playoff robots. Mostly a control bot but hammer-saw very dangerous this season. Usually gets under opponent and drives them around. Superb driver.

HiJinx is upside down here FYI

HiJinx (2-1):

Lost to Mammoth
Beat Kraken
Beat Subzero

Not to say that HiJinx’ wins don’t count but Kraken and Subzero were a combined 0-6 this year. They are an offensive robot with a very dangerous horizontal spinner. They don’t seem to move well but are quite durable. Last year in the playoffs they were eliminated in 33 seconds by Uppercut.

The Pick: Sawblaze by Judges Decision

Hypershock (13) vs P1 (20)

The yelllow one

Hypershock (2-0):

Beat Slammow
Beat Lock-Jaw

Easy schedule but they dominated all-comers! They have been around for a while but never enjoyed much high-end succes, I don’t believe they’ve won a playoff match since 2016/Season 2. They are a fast well-driven robot (though sometimes he’s a bit frantic) with a decent spinner and decent mobility. Their bugaboo in years past was always reliability and something breaking down.

P1 (2-1):

Beat Valkyrie
Beat …some multi-robot, it doesn’t matter
Lost to Ribbot

The race car! They have a lifter arm but no real weapon, that kind of puts a ceiling on things (seeming). Very low tough bot. They were competitive against Ribbot and ultimately lost (but Ribbot is the 2 seed!) and Valkyrie was a great victory and a big upset at the time. I like them a lot.

What a cool, cool matchup where both robots could (hopefully will) be driving around like maniacs, absolute high-speed chaos out there. Hopefully. I like the one with the weapon to come out on top (but man, it would be classic Hypershock to have a reliability issue surface in a playoff match where they’re favored, I don’t rule it out).

The Pick: Hypershock by KO

Uppercut (5) vs Huge(28)

Uppercut (2-0):

Beat Gigabyte
Beat Free Shipping

Gigabyte is very tough and rarely gets ko’d. Uppercut probably has the most powerful weapon in the sport, it kills lesser robots with ease (and often causes explosions). I’d say the rest of the robot is average-ish, the driving, durability etc. It does seem like sometimes they take a lot of impact from their ridiculous shots, it’s cost them before.

Huge (2-1):

Lost to Riptide
Beat Retrograde
Beat Switchback

The most unique robot in the sport, two giant wheels with the body of the bot suspended higher than almost any bot can reach. The wheels are very durable and bouncy, though tend to shatter against horizontal spinners (none in their future from what I can see…). The weapon is a very long blade that spins vertically, it’s looked great this year. It would be a big upset (and Huge has not record of playoff success) but they’re so unique you can rarely count them out.

I could write thousands of words on this matchup. It all comes down to one question – what impact will Uppercut’s weapon have against Huge? Will it hurt him? Will it send him flying out of the arena or into the screws (which is how Huge lost against Riptide)? Or will Huge kind of just bounce off and take no real damage, while at the same time reigning down his own weapon that (historically) has held up or even won against vertical spinners?

Huge is more manueverable, if they have time they should be able to land some nasty shots on the sides of Uppercut, and I also think they are more durable the longer the fight goes. Uppercut is more likely the one to break down or suffer some issue. But of course, Uppercut might just tear Huge to pieces, or send them to their death in a single punch, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen. I like to believe in miracles.

The Pick: (Deep Breath) Huge by KO

Shatter! (12) vs Riptide (21)

So Cool Looking…

Shatter! (2-0):

Beat Subzero
Beat Blacksmith

Shatter! is our lone modern hammer bot that’s really good! Two playoff wins last year, though they were the beneficiary of Mamoth’s ridiculous upset over Copperhead. They have different hammers they can deploy defending on the situation and have very good long forks as well. Strategic methodical bot. Their weakness would be the hammer that a) can break, and b) does far less damage comparatively than other types of weapons. He does have a knock for precise crippling shots though

Riptide (2-1):

Beat Huge
Lost to Defender
Beat Duck!

Riptide is a rookie. The weapon is extremely powerful, knocking out Duck and Huge who are generally very durable and hard to KO. They had some bad luck in the other match. I think they’re about an average playoff team, with strengths (fast, hard hitting weapon) and weakness (lack of experience, no self-righter that doesn’t involve INSANE acrobatics. That’s still probably my favorite moment of the season to date).

Riptide is up there due to his own decision-making!

Um, this might seem surprising, but I like Riptide here. Shatter! is not going to flip him over, nor deal a ton of damage, and I think Riptide just hits much much harder. Shatter! might have a better gameplan and win by keeping him at distance or something, this is definitely a coin flip of a match. But like the kid in a decent upset. (Prove me wrong, Hammer Man!)

The Pick: Riptide by KO

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