Battlebots Week 3 Preview: Sweet 16

Battlebots Week 3 Preview: Sweet 16

I like this concept of previewing the fights in the order of least exciting/compelling to most exciting/compelling. We’re going to do this again while examining regions as a whole.

The West: The Young and the Restless (Upper-and-comers at different points in their development)

Sawblaze (4) vs P1 (20)

I mean, what would a P1 victory look like here?

Sawblaze can’t be flipped so he’s not going to lose the fight himself, unlike some robots I know. I also think Sawblaze being on two wheels makes him more awkward and harder for P1 to carry him around. I guess Sawblaze’s weapon might be less effective against the flat race car than Hypershock’s was, but in the end Hypershock’s weapon broke during one of the big hits and that ended up benefitting P1 anyhow haha.

At best P1 avoids being scooped up and it survives a lot of awkward close-calls, but I don’t see any avenue for P1 to hurt Sawblaze (no weapon!). Sawblaze won’t make a big driving mistake, he won’t allow the arena to be used against him, and once he gets that Dictionary-shaped robot into his clutches he might never let him go. I don’t think it will be close, despite P1’s ascendance and the wonderful season they’ve had this year.

The Pick: Sawblaze by Judges Decision

Uppercut (5) vs Riptide (21)

I’m finding Uppercut increasingly hard to analyze and handicap these days. While I generally am impressed with how they’ve made improvements this year and show progress in addressing and shoring up some of the weak points in the design (speed/maneuverability, reliability, ability to withstand the massive shots they deliver), I am definitely not impressed with how their last two matches ended with Uppercut disabled and ready for a count out. In fact they were counted out in the last one, thankfully the other robot (Huge) could not move either and Uppercut won the Double KO Judges Decision. The match before Uppercut was limping (looked to me like crab-walking) while Free Shipping was eliminated, this match did involve the largest explosion we’ve ever seen so I’d like to give Uppercut a pass in this case. Still! I’ve got 3 data points to analyze in the 2021* season, in two of them Uppercut was winning a match against a lesser opponent and yet couldn’t move in the end! Call me crazy, but I’m highly concerned this weakness will COME BACK TO BITE THEM LIKE IT DID LAST SEASON. That’s my prediction. It might not be this match, it might not be the next one, but I for one think Uppercut has no chance at weathering four more matches and not dying sadly somewhere along the way.

Nevertheless, they should be ok to take care of business in this match against a rookie (right?). Riptide has already had a great, great season for their first run, two weeks ago winning an upset over Shatter! and earning a very rare rookie playoff victory. They’re absolutely for real. I think the matchup favors Uppercut though, Riptide’s main asset is a very explosive spinning weapon – that’s Uppercut’s main asset as well! Uppercut’s is obviously better. Riptide really hasn’t had its durability and reliability tested much, I cause they held up well in a loss to Defender that went 3 minutes, but we haven’t seen them take really big shots and get chucked the way Uppercut and Huge chucked each other in the Round of 32. I think Riptide takes an early wallop (might give one out too) and has trouble with drive or something while Uppercut holds up better and closes things out with relative ease.

Anyhow, big picture, we are moving closer and closer to an Uppercut-Sawblaze rematch. I think the Round of 8 fights are going to be spectacular. These two met of course last year for a very brief fight…

Yeah, it was crazy. Obviously I would give SB the edge here but who knows, this fight is definitely going to come down to some amount of luck. That’s next week though. For now

The Pick: Uppercut by Knockout

The East: FlipperLand

Blip (7) vs Jackpot (10)

Squints…ummm.

Yeah I don’t see much of a contest here. I think Blip is going to ROLL right through this and get comfortable to watch and see if he gets the Flipper Bowl (Hydra) or the Flipper Killer (Black Dragon) in the Round of 8 fight.

I think Blip is lower anyhow, but he’s certainly quicker and more manueverable if he wants to play it safe (and probably should). I’m just so impressed with Bip’s durability and their robustness, even if they get hit a couple times I really think they’ll be fine. You have to tough to do so many flips, and to be able to flip yourself back over when you get stuck upside down. Meanwhile I should show more respect for Jackpot but they won a coin flip against Tombstone. They should be proud of course but it could have gone either way, TS’s weapon was still live and theirs was not. Thankfully for them Tombstone’s wheels were not working. They are going to fight a little gnat that will be kicking them all over the place and I just think Jackpot is too slow and jerky to avoid the style of match that they will lose and Blip will almost certainly win.

The Pick: Blip by KO

Hydra (31) vs Black Dragon (18)

The lower seeds emerged from the Round of Death, and boy, those two matches did NOT disappoint.

Huge win for Hydra, obviously (He’s Back!), I thought their game-plan and in-game decision making were superb. Both of these robots “rose to the occasion” in their wins, they were both underdogs and rightly so (though in Hydra’s case, the seeding greatly overstated the real difference in talent). Hydra looked to be moving better, even against Defender in their first match they were getting caught on the floor again. Throughout most of their career Hydra has won dominantly, now either they’ve slipped or the field has caught up to them (or both). The result is the most exciting and competitive Hydra matches ever, starting with the wonderful, wonderful Hydra-Whiplash fight in the Round of 8 last season.

Incredibly, Black Dragon is about to go through a highly specific and unusual test. He has on his schedule the two greatest modern flippers (maybe the two greatest flippers ever) back-to-back in his next two fights. What information us Battlebots Researchers can gain from this scenario!

Well, obviously if he loses to Hydra then the research is truncated and we’d have a very different test at that point (flipper v flipper, that will be fun to break down next week if that’s the case). But if he faces both then it will be so interesting to see the strategies against each, what is successful and what doesn’t. I also wonder if being low really matters, as Black Dragon seems to be wondering that themselves this year. I think they could have the option for a very effective configuration removing the wedges entirely and going weapon-first, like we got to see against Madcatter!

This is a Witch Doctor type approach, forgot about the low game and just hit them. That feels like Black Dragon thinking to me! I seriously wonder if they should start the match like that against Hydra and just try to drive into their sides and cut things up from the start. You get flipped, you don’t worry about it, you let Hydra worry that you’re going to land on him with a live exposed weapon running at full speed.

I also think Hydra’s recent weakness has been its mobility and Ribbot made a significant mistake in not forcing Hydra to drive around a lot (and risk getting caught on the floor). Ribbot sat on top of him, that made Hydra’s strategy easier. Black Dragon should make this a track meet and keep circling him at odd angles, it’s safe to assume at some point H will get stuck.

Black Dragon is a better version of Ribbot, even more durable and unrelenting. They have more experience and tend to flourish in these big moments (like last week). And I just think every fight for Hydra is a coin flip, they can win any single match, they can win a couple in a row, but at some point it’s going to come up tails and their season-long issues of 2021* will cost them.

The Pick: Black Dragon by KO

The South: Three Elites, One Wildcard

Whiplash (3) vs Cobalt (14)

This is one of these fights where common logic tells you it’s going to go one way…and yet…

Cobalt has to be our Wildcard of the 2021* season. They won 3 Awards from the Battleblog: HIT of the Year, Most Destructive, and Worst Gameplan (for a single fight). That’s a lot to cover in a 2-1 regular season, and again it seemed to show up last week(link). Credit to Yeti I guess, for some novel defensive driving and fork positioning, as Cobalt stumbled around for the first minute or so trying to figure out what it was doing and where its weapon is located (its on your back!). Then sure, it found its footing and delivered some of the ripest shots in modern Battlebots history, sure. It usually figures things out and we get that happy ending.

Ok, now he’s going against maybe the smartest and most well-driven robot in the league, who almost always wins, who certainly always wins over inferior opponents, and who just never makes a mistake. That’s what we have here. On one side we got a sloppy bumbling killer, on the other side a veteran Battlebots genius. The genius won 4 playoff matches last year before losing the final to End Game and since losing to Sawblaze in the first match of last season is 9-1. I know who I’m betting on!

Both robots are low, Whiplash more consistently and effectively so. Whiplash wants to push them around and flip them, Cobalt wants to get the opponent on his back and rip them in half. If Whiplash stays low and doesn’t do anything wacky (like run his lifter into Cobalt’s weapon) then Cobalt might not hit him at all! I think that’s most likely scenario here. Whiplash is pretty tough too, if somehow he takes a shot he can withstand it. He can’t withstand many shots from Cobalt of course (nobody can). I think he controls things easily and keeps the very vicious spinner neutralized. Anything can happen (Cobalt should try to be chaotic and unpredictable and muck things up) but this seems like it’s going to go a certain way.

The Pick: Whiplash by JD

Rotator (6) vs Tantrum (11)

This is going to be a very close and competitive fight between two of the most consistently excellent robots, this season and the last.

Both are tough as hell. Tantrum is faster and more aggressive, can be almost frantic and unrelenting in the attacks. But Rotator has defense, now in the form of hanging wedgelets that scrape the ground that so far have been as low as anything in the sport. Rotator likes to “rotate” throughout the match, using the wedge to slow things down (protect himself) and then turning to expose the vicious horizontal blade when he’s ready to strike. That gives them a level of control over their fights (and the pacing, especially) that few other robots can achieve.

I Rotator has the edge on Tantrum, for a few reasons. Rotator’s defense should allow them to mitigate what Tantrum really wants to do (pepper them with attacks and overwhelm Rotator). Then there’s the weapon comparison, it’s not contest. Rotator has a much, much, much more powerful weapon. Tantrum has one of the weakest weapons for an elite robot (maybe that hurt their seeding?) and it often doesn’t matter, but Rotator’s design means they will definitely land some shots and I’m not sure Tantrum can respond. Finally – while they’ve both been around for a while, Rotator is older but has equal or even less real success here (at least Tantrum made a Final 4 last year) – I think Rotator has an advantage in experience and veteranship. The issue is Tantrum replaced their captain from last year, they’re still 2-0 and rolling but there have been mistakes. Like getting pinned by Lucky and requiring their opponent to make a MAJOR MISTAKE in order to be saved and resume a match that they ultimately won. Then last week they’re kicking Gigabyte’s butt, but Gig gets up onto the upper deck and gets spinning up to full speed, then prepares to jump down back to the regular floor. Tantrum drives right to meet Gigabyte, the way it works out Gigabyte basically lands on top of Tantrum, while spinning at approximately 9,999,999,999,999 million miles per hour…

Dude! What on earth are you doing!?! Don’t do that!!!

Tantrum also showed a propensity for mistakes during last year’s playoff run (see the Fusion fight, and then End Game where he misused his weapon and it completely swung the fight) so maybe this issue is more central to Tantrum itself and the team’s mindset, not whoever’s the captain. Regardless, it’s not good! The mistakes will eventually hurt them, I think they do here. I think Rotator is better anyhow.

The Pick: Rotator by JD

The North: Best of the Best

Copperhead (8) vs Witch Doctor (24)

Here are Copperhead’s only two losses in the past two seasons (against now 8 wins, this is counting regular season, postseason and Bounty Hunter episodes)

  • Mammoth, Round of 32, 2020 playoffs

The massive Mammoth smothered the comparitively tiny Copperhead for 3 minutes, flipped him a bunch of times, and even got the drum spinner to shut down for a period of time. It was extremely close and the judges rules 2-1 in favor of Mammoth.

  • Gigabyte, Bounty Hunter Final (SOW)

In a rematch from a regular season fight where Gigabyte had its outer shell separated from the rest of his body, Copperhead went with the same approach – hit Gigabyte as hard as possible. He did so, and it was working, and then suddenly Copperhead couldn’t move anymore and Gigabyte was still fine. I’ve rarely if ever seen such a display where the attacker broke down while the victim simply absorbed the sequence of blows like a rubber ball, this result was simply unfathomable.

Ok, so he lost a couple of freak matches, it happens. Do we have any idea what Copperhead’s ceiling is? Cause they won every other fight they had, almost always by KO. They absolutely have one of the best weapons in the sport. And they’ve beaten pretty good opponents too (but nobody great), here’s the list for 2020 and 2021* (I’m omitting the Bounty Hunter episodes, they had 2 wins there too but against nobodies)

  • Gigabyte
  • P1 (that’s like, an impressive win now!)
  • Black Dragon
  • Lock-Jaw
  • Fusion
  • Lucky

Anyhow, I took Witch Doctor, I still like their durability and driving more than Copperhead…but I don’t know. The older bots haven’t done so well lately, there’s a definite feel of a generational shift here. This should be a great fight, I’m locked in but kinda wish I took the snakes. Ultimately – we will know Copperhead’s true pedigree after this match, whether it be Dark Horse Contender and second-tier challenger (like it’s buddy Bloodsport). And I guess we’ll know Witch Doctor’s place too! But Witch Doctor we have seen go head to with End Game and hold up as well as anyone, that’s what I’m resting my faith in. Fingers crossed (this should be close and a very good one).

Upset Pick of the Week: Witch Doctor by KO

End Game (1) vs Minotaur (16)

Ho boy.

There’s just something about Minotaur – a lot of the great matches over the years have involved them. There’s an intangible spirit that accompanies their squad, a storybook quality, like they’re the stars of a (FANTASTIC) sports movie. Yet it’s not all boisterous celebrations and Bull hoodies, while they have not been champion they have had a large amount of success the part 3 seasons they took part in (2016, 2018, 2019). When they were a top seed they finished Final Four and as the Runner-up. When they were a higher seed and had to win a play-in game (which they did) they then won the biggest upset that year, 14 seed over a 3 (this was in 2019 and using a 16 team playoff structure). So yeah, Minotaur is a big deal, things happen to them. For that reason, and mostly that reason, they have a (good?) shot in this fight. It would be SO THEM to come out and beat End Game, the top robot by a mile, when I really don’t think they will.

Other the intangible spirit of a South American Bull, I don’t like how this fight looks for them. Minotaur has always seemed susceptible to be tossed and thrown around, and End Game has a weapon of legendary power, so…yeah. End Game is a lot like Bite Force and Bite Force walloped Minotaur in the 2018 Final, so much as I can remember (it’s been a few years, Mino definitely lost!). Minotaur’s best advantage here is probably its driving, and while I think End Game can theoretically be bested there they held up very well against Witch Doctor who tried to beat them that way earlier this season. Also like, I feel like Minotaur likes to chew and nibble, I’d prefer more concussive strikes to hit End Game with. If Minotaur makes it to the side, chew up the frame a bit, but then EG swings around and slams him with the vertical spinner, I think that’s a win for End Game. Minotaur is capable of driving very, very carefully to avoid contact with a annihilating spinner (see 2019 against Cobalt) and this is an even bigger ask. They can do it, I just don’t expect them to. But they can! Minotaur can win this through execution, and spirit, and luck, just like their Brazillian brethren did last week when Black Dragon beat Madcatter. It would be awesome! I will be cheering for it! But I think the other outcome is the likely one.

The Pick: End Game by KO

(only one upset taken here, but there probably will be at least one more, I’m usually wrong! And picking an 18 seed Black Dragon facing a 31 seed Hydra, that’s a bit different than taking your typical favorite, one could easily argue Hydra is better. I think this week will be good but decided a while ago – the best fights of the year will be in the Regional Finals, the round of 8. Here’s what we could have at the start of Week 14

End Game/Minotaur vs Witch Doctor/Copperhead (How is WD the weakest weapon in this foursome? There is a great matchup here any way you slice it)

Sawblaze vs Uppercut (The Explosion Rematch)

Blip vs Black Dragon (nothing wrong with this) or Blip vs Hydra (the Flipper Bowl!)

Whiplash vs Rotator (I’ve been wanting to see this one for over a year now, two of the top game-planners and modifiers of their robots depending on the opponent)

That, my friends, is what I’m really looking forward too. But hey it’s already been a great playoffs and these Round of 16 matches rule. Keep it coming, BB)

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