Battlebots Sweet 16 Recap: Paradigm Shift

I guess the canary in the coal mine was last week, when Black Dragon went against the mega-spinner of Madcatter. (If you want to go back even further, you could see the canary in the canary’s coal mine was Hypershock’s wild loss to P1, a case where a robot with a dangerous weapon lost to a robot with no weapon. Overall though, I think that’s more of a case of “Hypershock being Hypershock”, sorry bud)

It wasn’t so much that Black Dragon won as they just…somehow…avoided getting pulverized by a weapon that was at least top five this season, winning HIT of the Week once, and doing this to Yeti in week 2.

Black Dragon is certainly a high-level opponent, but still. How did they not get slammed somewhere in there? Suddenly it’s possible to be agile and evasive enough to avoid the most dangerous weapon type in Battlebots?

The answer to that question? A resounding Yes! It is possible!!!

(We also saw two more matches where the more powerful weapon lost in Witch Doctor over Copperhead and Tantrum over Rotator, though those aren’t vertical spinners and the circumstances were a little more nuanced. Still! If you were picking the most powerful weapon in every fight you had a truly terrible week! Though I suppose you were all over the Cobalt upset)

For an entire season (and more, considering End Game won the title last year) I watched the robot with the more powerful weapon usually win, and the robot with the insanely powerful weapon pretty much always win. And then, suddenly, it stopped! And that brings us to the Vertical Spinner Crisis, discussed here. I certainly didn’t see that coming.

It was an incredible night, with incredible fights, a whole pile of upsets (one more stunning than the last) and Battlebots 2021* is really rounding into form, right at the right time. One more week to go. Let’s bring it home.

Riptide (21) over Uppercut (5):
“A Game of Inches”

Let’s just double back and re-read some of my recent Uppercut coverage, shall we? I talked about them here

Still, there’s this comical and blunderous cloud that this robot cannot escape…first there was the BRUTAL upset loss to Ribbot ending last season (looks better now with Rib in the 2 seed) and then he’s barely moving after the Free Shipping explosion (thankfully the other guy got it even worse), and here he’s essentially has the fight against Huge locked up and yet manages to let an immobile robot pin him.

Then again here…

“As I detailed in another post – every match that Uppercut fights in, every second they’re on the floor, the chances of something terrible happening to them get worse and worse over time. Uppercut is a stick of dynamite, imminent destruction is always a shout/spark away. Look at this last match for god’s sake, they are essentially the winner, drive into Huge for a final shot and end up on their back fully disabled. I’ve seen enough, it’s not just random good/bad luck, they are inherently caustic and chaotic. Every appearance by Uppercut is a coin flip and I don’t think they can flip heads 5 times in a row.”

And finally, HERE (love the question in parens at the end)

“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.

“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?).”

Yeah, I mean, it was waiting to happen. It was a matter of time. I thought it would happen last week, and then I thought they’d make it one more week – wrong on both points. Oh well.

They lost (and Riptide won) because on the first bump it was Riptide’s weapon against Uppercut’s body, visible in the photo above. Uppercut just completely botched the initial angle on that first pass. And that’s all it takes! It was a tiny error, a matter of inches, usually Uppercut’s matches up and this time they were a hair off. They never recovered, they never had a chance to.

At least we were treated to some wild visuals when the sand(???) came gushing out of Uppercut’s wheels and sprayed all over the arena.

Tantrum (11) over Rotator (6):
“Absolute Carnage”

How do you describe a War?

Chris began the post-fight by saying something “I have no idea where to begin here”, a sentiment I can surely echo. There was a ton of crazy action. Here’s the bottom-line though: the thesis of my pre-fight analysis was dead-wrong. I thought Rotator could control things with their wedges and use their weapon to slash up Tantrum. Nope! Not really! Tantrum completely controlled the pace and action for most of the time here.

Then they got high-centered on a piece of debris, I guess, after a crazy exchange where the weapons collided while Rotator was swinging around wildly. Rotator went in for the kill and cut up a punch of stuff! Including their self-righter. Then he went in again – at this point the judges were threatening to count Tantrum out – and it seemed that Rotator helped bump him back into driving competence and Tantrum immediately resumed dominating the action again. They punctuated the win (they would have won had it gone to the judges) by punting Rotator out of the box and getting a countdown with 1 second left on the shot clock.

Here’s the deal – could Rotator have won if they just backed off and let the unfortunate Tantrum be counted out, because they get caught on a random piece of metal? Probably? It looked like it was heading that way. But Rotator isn’t in Tantrum’s box and had no idea what the ref was saying to them. What I saw when both robots were moving properly was no contest – Tantrum completely owned Rotator. That’s how it went, and any other outcome would have been against the truth of the matchup.

(at some point we’ll have to talk about Tantrum’s meteoric rise to power, in depth…maybe next week after they’re hoisting the trophy)

Blip (7) over Jackpot (10):
“You’re my boy Blip, you’re my boy”

I mean, yeah, Blip won again. Shocker. Not many flips here, more just pushed him around and did the P1 wedgebot thing. It worked great. Everything Blip does works great. The fight was short.

Man, I love this running gag of the highly frugal Jackpot having these cheap and ineffectual self-righting mechanisms. Here’s how the loss to Blip ended.

The lifting arms can’t reach the ground, and the mini-bot is trying his best but isn’t strong enough!

Here’s them trying to right themselves in the Bounty match last year.

Their self-righting…stick (lol) is on the wrong side! Curses!

They don’t lose much, of course, but when they do it’s usually funny!

Blip has absolutely soared in their young career (5-0, and it didn’t take very long, either). Will it continue next week, when they face a very serious test? Let’s watch!

Hydra (31) over Black Dragon (18):
“The Definition of Insanity”


I get it, they wanted to go at the flipper until it broke. Well we didn’t have enough time for that, three minutes and 17(?) flips was not enough. Maybe six minutes and 30 flips would have done the job, maybe by then Hydra would have been jostled and stopped moving.

But fights are three minutes, and getting yourself flipped constantly while landing no shots and doing no damage to the opponent is not really a recipe for success. So that’s that. So long Brazillians. I said at the beginning of the night, as long as one Brazillian team wins I’ll be happy. Well, I ended up happy, but not because of the team of the duck. We’ll get there. Hydra keeps the party going and has really turned their season around. The mobility remains a concern though.

Witch Doctor (24) over Copperhead (8):
“Did you see that backflip though?”

(AKA The Couples Bowl)

Did you see that backflip though?

Out of anything this pretty much went exactly the way I thought it would. Copperhead delivers bigger hits but Witch Doctor has better durability (and still hits super hard). WD had to endure that first serious shot, and they did. With a back flip! Then they drove some circles around Copperhead and surprised them, one good pop and Copperhead went flying. They ended up on their back and were soon out. That’s again the magic of Witch Doctor: Driving plus Durability plus Very Strong Weapon.

Though I’ve been riding WD correctly for a while now…I have no idea what to make of their ceiling. How do they far in the new crowd of ‘Bruisers and Flippers’ that remain in the Final 8? And how do they match up against Minotaur? Right now I have no idea. They made the finals in 2019 before losing to Bite Force, who is not present in the remaining tournament (nor is his son End Game). Witch Doctor’s season did end last year to Sawblaze, so that fact is pretty relevant now, and they lost to Hydra last year in the regular season (it was a split decision and I think a rematch could go either way). But seriously, how will they do against Minotaur? Would they have a chance against Tantrum or Blip? I don’t know!!! They’re old school (vertical spinner and speed), the new school has arrived and its short and tough and very unrelenting. We’ll see.

Did you see that backflip though?

Sawblaze (4) over P1 (20):
“The Fight”

I don’t really have anything to say here, this fight I also predicted with great accuracy. It was predictable. Um, yeah, Sawblaze looks good, but P1 isn’t a real test of lowness, which will be coming in the final (The Low Side now features Cobalt/Tantrum/Blip/Hydra). But the next two tests are against high-powered weapons, so that’s they’re story. P1 had a great season (really, really great) and we’ll see them next year.

Cobalt (14) over Whiplash (3):
“It (Still) Only Takes One”

Here it is, please watch it.

That’s the toughest luck you’re going to find – an ace like Whiplash getting his fine, long forks stuck in the wall for a moment. Cobalt knew what to do, and delivered, ONCE AGAIN…

HIT of the Week

Maybe we can just pin Cobalt to this space until further notice.

(Apparently he won the Most Destructive Bot award before? It must have been in 2019 his rookie year…he was fine then but this is a much, much better robot. Run it back! Four more years!!!)

Anyhow, I’m surprised it was even a split decision, the knockout artist landed an single early punch and Whip was not the same after that (was heading for a crab-walking ruling even before he got stuck in the screws, again). That’s Whiplash, one of the toughest and most well-made bots around! I haven’t seen him take a hit like that since maybe Tombstone years ago. The fact that Cobalt spontaneously croaked was just random, I don’t know what happened there. Oh wait, yes I do. WILDCARD Baby! The Cobalt roadshow rolls on.

For Whiplash, that sucks. That’s a very tough (and early) playoff loss, I’m sure he’s devastated. Doesn’t change his status as an elite bot though. It’s just a bad day that happened to end his season.

Minotaur (16) over End Game (1):
“The Bull”

Fight of the playoffs, fight of the year, Match of the Century, call it whatever. It was undeniably great. A home run.

History will frame this match better than I or anyone else can right now (it really depends on how the rest of Mino’s tournament goes, of course). Because…man, it looked like one robot was a lot better than the other, and that robot was Minotaur. Minotaur landed 2/3rds of the hits (at least), they were in control and dictating the pace and style and overall cruised to a victory. Who saw that happening? Mr Minotaur seemed so amped up, so ready to go, he seemed unstoppable. Maybe EG was a little intimidated, to see such a passionate display. Maybe not, it’s not like they made a mistake. They just got taken. Still, in the grand scheme of things, was End Game beaten by the next champion? Or was this a more random occurrence? Will End Game’s dominance resume next year or are they in a more level playing field now? (They did get a lot of favorable matchups in the playoffs last year, but this regular season seemed to prove their legitimacy)

Following the recent pattern, End Game had a tough time landing solid hits with that giant spinner on the opponent. Like Madcatter whiffed on Black Dragon. Or Uppercut on Riptide, or Jackpot on Blip. I still don’t get it, but it’s an awesome turn in the plot late in the season here. In this specific case Minotaur’s weapon was so low that End Game couldn’t really get under him, and he started carving up the forks, and the design mismatch pretty much kept End Game at bay for most of the fight. Minotaur could hit and slam the forks or bottom of the robot without having to touch the spinner. That ground-scraping drumspinner should benefit him well against many of the remaining fighters, there’s a lot of low guys out there…

Anyhow, some great driving, some incredible moving with precision by Minotaur…he just flat out beat him. End Game had no chance, because Minotaur was fully prepared for him, and his performance was that good. Let we finish by highlighting the two best moments in the fight. One was this.

End Game has lost twice in two seasons now, and both times the other driver stood on his head (see Bloodsport vs End Game from Xmas Eve 2020). This was the one time that End Game hit him good two times in a row and had the Brazillians on the ropes. And they responded by…driving away on two wheels like a madman and completely evading him like a master. Incredible.

Then there was this

They were nose to nose, and suddenly Minotaur fired up the weapon, growling right in the face of the champ. Letting him know the torch was being passed.

The toughest thing for Minotaur is they have to follow it up. They have to win three more matches! It’ll be tough to get the intensity ratched up so high again, here’s hoping. Even if they don’t they’ve etched themselves in the history books now. What a win. What an upset. What a paradigm shift.

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