Battlebots Playoffs Week 2 Recap: Rise to the Occasion

Many things rose to the occasion this week. Most among them was the show itself, Battlebots. Thank you for a terrific product and some terrific fights.

But yeah, I use that title because that’s what I saw, in a few big spots. The underdog winners mostly – Hydra and Black Dragon. Hydra played twice (though their first match was a gimme), even then they struggled a little bit. But in the main event they were ready. Even more than Hydra’s rising to the occasion was our friends from Brazil, who I had counted out despite a pre-season prediction and a run of playoff success last year. Otherwise, just some really good action, whether it be Cobalt vs Yeti, Tantrum vs Gigabyte, or Blip approaching a world record for flips. Good stuff!

Hydra over Defender:
My faith in humanity is restored

We got a lot of matches to cover (and I’m falling behind with my publishing schedule), I don’t think anything significant happened here. Defender held up ok, they’ve got a future. Next.

Cobalt over Yeti: “It Only Takes One”

Our first really good fight of the night, this one did seem like a lock to be good given the robots and their respective strategies. By that I mean – ATTACK! Yeti came out with a gameplan and held up well against a creaky-to-start Cobalt. They got him on his heels a few times, Yeti gave out a couple good Yeti drumspinner shots, though Cobalt seemed to hold up well. And how about this defensive manuever in the early going? I was stunned that Cobalt’s weapon kept missing the opponent (and also fearing I made the wrong pick). Look at this posturing!

The problem, ultimately – well, there are two problems. As well established now, It Only Takes One hit from Cobalt to cripple a robot. Two hits usually kills it, I think that’s what Yeti endured. Cobalt is our true One Hit Wonder now (both meanings apply, to an extent, haha) and maybe our best knockout artist going. But the other problem here that was bound to show up – Cobalt is of course designed to be low and pull the other robot onto its back/weapon. Yeti, though it has a low weapon, likes to climb ON TOP of other robots and smash up there (where they are generally not protected so well!). Yeti didn’t try to do but I just think it’s in the robot nature, and what-do-you-know, he got up there and got completely rattled. Good first playoff win for the Green and Black.

Geez, doesn’t it seem like every match is Cobalt’s first time with the robot, where he’s having to learn what it is and how it works on the fly? Either that or the guy has just rolled out of bed when he heard Faruq doing the introductions. Finally, thankfully, he shook off the sleepies, figured out which way to hold the remote, and survived some shaky early moments (how did he not land a hit on any of those passes) before putting things together and tearing Yeti to pieces in the late going. There’s something about Yeti’s body or weight distribution, it just flies when it gets hit by a big spinner. The shots from this fight versus Madcatter were really really similar.

Jackpot over Tombstone: “Picketts Charge!”

Tombstone, I still love you, I’ll always love you……I’m never picking you to win a playoff match ever again. Unless something really significant changes.

Maybe Jackpot is really good, we’ll find out in a few hours when they face the possibly Immortal Blip. It doesn’t matter, I hated the entire approach and strategy here. Last week I was discussing what strategy Tombstone would use here and if he could shift to being a more tactical strategic fighter, if he could outdrive Jackpot and expose their (probable) weakness on that front.

Um, yeah, Tombstone did not take that approach.

Here is Tombstone heroically driving 100 miles an hour into his opponent (and his opponent’s weapon) as if he’s Hypershock with a ramp deployed in front of him.

I just don’t think he can do that anymore, he’s too fragile (comparitively to the other modern bots, and the extent of these hits). Tombstone absorbs the force of his opponent’s weapon AND his weapon in these cases. It’s not a practical strategy for Battlebots success these days.

“I love this sport.” Don’t go anywhere Tombstone! Just some tweaks, and maybe adopt some nuanced strategy next year. Or not.

Black Dragon over Madcatter:
“The Dark Bot Rises”

What a fight! One of the best so far this year, I’d say.

Maybe the best part was the reaction at the end – BOTH teams went nuts! Running around celebrating (and letting off some serious steam), congratulating their teammates and even the opponent, it was super neat. Of course, I suppose both teams thought they had won, at that point in time…

Even when the match had ended, and thinking about it today – I think Catter was the better robot. I think they had a much better weapon. I just think they got beat! Black Dragon beat them! They rose to the occasion and pulled it off!!! That’s my expert analysis. The big question remains to the present – how on earth did they avoid taking a single massive shot from Madcatter’s very scary, very highly rated weapon? How did they possibly dodge and weave through the chaos of the fight and not take a single stunning blow? They were so nimble and slippeary, I couldn’t figure it out. Just a mammoth driving performance when they needed it the most.

So yeah, I’m totally thinking that Brazillians got to Battlebots 2021* and decided to take things light in the regular season, to have a good laugh and muck around and then focus up when the playoffs arrived. Because this wasn’t the Black Dragon we saw last year, this was the plucky unstoppable Black Dragon that won their first three fights last postseason, including one where there were on fire for 2 minutes and never stopped attacking. Maybe it’s a Brazillian thing, more than any other robots Minotaur and Ribbot just…seem to find a way to win. They seem to have fortune and karma on their side along with an obvious flair for dramatics. The fact that I was doubting Black Dragon, the fact that this seemed like a bad matchup and they seemed vulnerable…that should have been the tell! That’s the indicator that they’re about to do something impressive! Same situation that Minotaur will find itself next week (we’ll get to them). But yeah, when the chips are down, when you want to take a robot for a “feeling” and almost no other reason – take Black Dragon. They’ve got “it” going on. (And maybe their Brazillian brethren, we’ll find out next week)

Blip over Valkyrie: “Flip, Flip, Flip”

I don’t think we need to spend much time here. Blip is a National Treasure. Their armor/toughness and front wedge is legit, I couldn’t believe Valkyrie’s weapon broke so quickly. Big picture, it’s another loss for the Horizontal Spinner’s Club, which is having a brutal year. Maybe the sport will bounce back and the type will be successful again, but right now they are getting bludgeoned out there. It’s a Blood Bath. (More on this topic to come in a follow up post)

But yeah nothing to say here, really, except Blip is awesome, and extrememly entertaining, and this fight should have been set to the Blue Danube, or some other beautiful music that captures the image of a form majestically flying through the air.

Tantrum over Gigabyte: “Dive Bomb”

There was some crazy stuff in this one. It was a bad draw for Gig of course, but it wasn’t a great draw for Tantrum either, because Gigabyte rarely dies and Tantrum’s weapon just isn’t powerful enough to deliver Knockouts. So there was a lot of action early with Tantrum dominating, but the fight just went on and on, and eventually chaos intervened enough to make it close. I know Tantrum lost a wheel and was limping bad at the end (how did they lose a wheel…that hit was crazy, we’ll get there) it was clear that they dominated over two minutes of the match, they definitely won.

I do love Gigabyte and they put up a strong effort here against an elite advisary. Didn’t love the wedge but it seemed to help a little. There’s something in these old robots, and old spinning robots especially, that thoroughly reminds me of a horseshoe crab, or a crocodile, where it might be archaic and ancient, but it still works, and sometimes can be real effective even though it hasn’t been modified in a generation. Son of Whyachi won the title in 2002 and hasn’t done crap since, but you could basically pencil them in for a 3-1 regular season and top 12 seed EVERY YEAR.

As for the winners – It’s amazing how Tantrum keeps making these goofs and getting away with them! See the comeback/mistake of the year here (I don’t think their next two opponents will let them off the hook but we’ll see). Gigabyte was up on the upper deck, got up to full spinning speed, and then was hopping off the ledge back to the floor. The only thing to do here for Tantrum, or anyone, is let the wild spinning robot hit the ground all by itself and go FLYING, again – all by itself.

Tantrum opted for the other option, jumping into the fray and letting itself get absolutely SMACKED in the HIT of the Week!

HIT of the Week

This is the best pic, with the site vacated…

That cost them a wheel and probably more. That was Gig’s chance! And really, that’s how Gig plays these things, to lose 90% of a match before blowing away your opponent in a nuclear collision is absolutely what Gig is hoping for out there, he knows it’s going to be tough in stretches. But you make yourself immortal and you’ll always have a chance.

Hydra over Ribbot
“Every Frog has His Day, but not This One”

Gotta love the disembodied frog head in the back


That was a wild watch, the sheer chaos of Ribbot bouncing around with the spinner non-stop…but their famous durability didn’t hold up in the end. It was exciting how they messed up Hydra’s flipper, for a moment there it looked like it was disabled, but then suddenly the flipper returned.

Ok, I’ll speak my mind – Ribbot beat themselves. Or at least set themself up for potential failure. They chose the horizontal spinner instead of their typical vertical one…beyond the fact that horizontal spinners have fared VERY POORLY this season, and the fact that robots that change their approach/design at the last second usually don’t fare well either (look at Madcatter’s new asymmetrical setup) – were the Ribbot boys watching earlier in the night? Blip (a flipper) had just gone to war with Valkyrie (a vertical spinner), and the result was a blowout for the flipper. Essentially we ended up watching that fight again in the main event. Ribbot, was turning yourself into Valkyrie a good idea? Hm?

I’m not saying that was a crucial mistake, because I had issues with their gameplan during the fight (but yeah, the cumulate result: Ribbot screwed this up. Stylistically they ended up in a battle that mirrored the Valkyrie-Blip romp from earlier. They kept spinning the blade and getting knocked around, they must have been suffering internal damage the entire time (they’re tough but you don’t want to lean into just taking damage needlessly), and Hydra didn’t have to do much! They played the role of P1 (also victorious over Valkyrie this season!), their driving/mobility wasn’t tested, they didn’t have to wind up and hit him, and then when he wanted to launch the flipper, Ribbot was literally sitting on top of it! Sure, the flipper still worked when most were doubting that it did, that was a cool transcending moment Overall though – Ribbot did not fight Hydra the proper way. They ended up in a bad matchup and a bad gameplan. All credit to Hydra for doing the opposite, for letting the fight come to him and handling the (possibly surprising circumstances, did he know the undercutter was coming) with aplomb. Hydra stayed cool, embraced a fight style that’s a little different and less aggressive, but it was there in front of him and it would get him the win. That’s some great work in a tough fight.

I did say last week when thinking about this fight – somebody has to lose. It was going to be a tough and early end to one of these robot’s season, bummer for Ribbot. They’ll be back.

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