Battlebots Season 2021* Finals Preview: “Everybody Dies”

The seeds of the remaining robots are just unbelievable









I’ve been talking about how certain weapon types are actively faring (here and here), here’s how I would rank the weapons on the eight remaining robots.

1 Super Vertical Spinner, on a bot that at times reminds me of Matthew McCounaghy’s character in Dazed and Confused

  • Cobalt

1 regular Vertical Spinner

  • Witch Doctor

1…I don’t know what they call Riptide’s weapon. A Massive Drum Spinner?

  • Riptide

1 regular Drum Spinner

  • Minotaur

1 Hammer-Saw

  • Sawblaze

1 Baby Vertical Spinner

  • Tantrum

2 Flippers (different in mechanics but the result is the same. Powerful, but cannot hurt anyone on their own!)

  • Hydra and Blip

That’s the weapon lineup in the final eight…wow. Just wow. I can’t believe this is how the 2021* season turned out, after all those powerhouses vertical spinners cruised through the regular season.

That tells you that success in the playoffs, at least this year, is contingent on much, much more than the robot’s weapon type.

My picks having not been going well (we’ll have a post on this when the season is over). You know why? You really wanna know why, Jack? It’s because I noticed warts, weakness, on a few on the robots in the field, and I pick against them because I assume the weakness will cost them, eventually. I’m talking about Tantrum (so many silly and/or risky mistakes in recent matches), and Cobalt (seems to give his opponent a 20 second start before he gets going every fight), and even (Gritty) Hydra, who doesn’t make mistakes so much as they can barely move half the time! Somehow these robots keep getting away with these mistakes, and I don’t know how to handicap it.

But you know what, you KNOW WHAT? The truth here is I properly recognized this pattern, but did not interpret it correctly. Tantrum is GREAT (and possibly a future champ) because they can make one terrible mistake/decision in every fight, and they are resilient enough to STILL WIN. They can overcome the clownery or complete recklessness, because the bot is close to perfect. That’s the truth, as I see it. (similar story for Cobalt, who has the most powerful weapon in the sport/ever, and Hydra, who is pretty much the lowest robot in the sport/ever)

Anyhow, a few thoughts while there’s still time left in the season, it’ll all be over soon. Here’s my breakdown for the four fights that are definitely on the schedule, then some speculation and analysis on the Semi-Final and Final matches in the 2021* Battlebots Season.

…I said I wasn’t going to cry, but I am often a liar. Here goes

Sawblaze (4) vs Riptide (21)

This happens to be the spot where Sawblaze tends to check out, where things get too tough for Mr Slash and Burn. Quick Career Recap

Season 3 (2018):
Regular season 3-1
Playoffs 0-1 (lost in Round of 16)

Season 4:
Regular season 3-1
Playoffs 1-1 (lost in Round of 8)

Season 5:
Regular season 2-1
Playoffs 2-1 (lost in Round of 8)

Season 6:
Regular season 2-1
Playoffs 2-0, and counting…

Pretty much the same season every single time, except for that opening playoff loss in 2018. The seeding has always been top-notch too, I think it’s (in order) 5-7-7-4. Very good but not great! Every time. Unless the script changes this year.

This isn’t a layup against Riptide, vertical spinners are generally Sawblaze’s downfall (of 7 career losses 4 were to vertical spinners). The weapon hits very hard, Huge and Duck! and Shatter! and Uppercut will all attest to that. Riptide is pretty much just that weapon on a very fast chassis – if Sawblaze scoops him up then Sawblaze will almost certainly win. That opening exchange is going to determine everything (probably).

And yet, while this spectre of a Brutal Sawblaze loss hangs over us (and I think an Uppercut-shaped ghost just sidled up next to him), I’m feeling pretty good about their next matchup. Why? Here is a picture of the only robot Riptide loss to this year

Those forks remind you of anyone?

It’s not that Defender was able to catch Riptide in its forks, but more that it exposed Riptide’s real weakness – no self-righter. Well, no self-righting procedure that doesn’t involve, you know

But anyhow, what seemed to happen is Riptide drove hard into Defender and, while it landed damage, the impact kicked Riptide backwards and onto his head. That’s called a weakness! And I think Sawblaze is well positioned to have the same result from their interaction and they will have a good time against an upside-down Riptide, or just a Riptide who is stunned and can’t drive into them at top speed with the weapon blaring. Then you scoop him and you go to work. Should be easy cuttings for the hammer-saw on the top of Riptide’s dome.

(I love, love, LOVE the idea of the intellectual, polished Sawblaze sitting around before this next fight, watching the bonkers matchup of Riptide and Defender over and over again. I discussed it several times here. That’s Riptide’s only loss in his very young career, really the only thing to go on right now)

The Pick: Sawblaze by Knockout

Hydra (31) vs Blip (7): The Flipper Bowl

Let’s walk through the angles here, and which robot appears to hold the advantage. This is based on my opinion, as is everything on this site (dur)

Toughness: Blip
Speed: Blip
Mobility: Blip
Durability: Blip
Flipper Potency: Hydra
Flipper Durability: Blip
Lowness: Hydra? I think? Not sure

Yeah, so I think Blip holds most of the advantages robot to robot, but none of that really matters. It’s all about which flipper gets under the other one. We’ve seen a lot of Hydra and their very long, very sleek forks that attempt to slide under the opponent. Blip is new to us, obviously (5-0 and borderline untouchable in their rookie season) and they seem to use a few different configurations. We’ve seen low pointy forks, we’ve seen more of a ramp/wedge thing, and maybe there’s more in the closet.

There’s no way Blip doesn’t have a “plan” for Hydra and fighting its fellow flippers. He’s got some novel configuration ready to go. Maybe Hydra has a wrinkle as well (less likely) but they’re having plenty of issues with their robot working correctly anyhow. If Hydra gets hung up and Blip gets to its side Blip should be able to muscle them around and make things very unpleasant for Hydra. They’re so dense and thick and strong. Basically I’d say overall the match will go to Hydra if “everything works properly”, and if there’s any issue at all or bad luck than Blip will win.

I’m taking Hydra one more step, to the Final Four, before I have them going home. Here’s the crazy part – if Aaron Hill really cares about winning the title for his team, which right now requires getting by Hydra – he can use the Blip match as a borderline trial run, and if they lose they have Tantrum waiting in the wings, basically the same robot, ready for another crack at the mythic beast. They can afford to run two different designs if they have two options. Overall, I think this angle majorly works against Hydra and for the sprawling Blip/Tantrum team, these robots are both super low (the only dependable way to match/beat Hydra) and stronger and hungry and they have two lives where Hydra has only one. But we’ll see.

The Pick: Hydra by Judges Decision

Minotaur (16) vs Witch Doctor (24)

Another historic matchup: two Championship runner-ups that both lost to the same champion in consecutive seasons.

Witch Doctor is probably a little more durable and reliable (did you see that backflip though?). Minotaur’s weapon is probably a little more dangerous. I generally put both of them in the Top Four Best Drivers in the sport, but man, you gotta say that the driving edge right now goes to Minotaur, without question. They are on a major roll.

Here’s where Minotaur’s most recent seasons ended:

2016: Lost in Final Four
2018: Lost in Championship match
2019: Lost in Final Eight
2020: Missed due to COVID

Here’s Witch Doctor’s season outcomes

2018: Lost in Sweet 16
2019: Lost in Championship match
2020: Lost in Sweet 16

One of those is more impressive than the other. Minotaur has true Championship pedigree, they always have, and the fact they haven’t won yet just means it’s coming (IMHO). And how could you doubt it now??? They just knocked out End Game, it’s hard to fathom they’re going to follow that up with a dud. Maybe they won’t it all the way but I think they make it another round at least. Witch Doctor’s weapon is more exposed than End Game’s was and should be more effective but there’s still plenty of front for Minotaur to chew on. On the other hand I think Witch Doctor’s driving and quickness usually gives them a leg up on opponents (look at how they danced around Copperhead after that first hit, or even worked End Game for a while with unpredictable driving) and that advantage is completely mitigated here. Minotaur is still plenty tough and their weapon plays defense for them, and Witch Dr’s spinner is just not as good as EG’s. There won’t be a problem with wedges being in the way in WD’s case, I think that gives them a chance here, but I like Team Brazil. This match is going to be a wild brawl, think the potency of Minotaur-End Game but played like Tantrum-Rotator, if you will. I can’t wait.

The Pick: Minotaur by JD

Ummm…what’s the other match? Aw right.

Cobalt (14) vs Tantrum (11)

I think the party ends here.

Cobalt has shown a propensity for delivering bone-throttling hits so lethal that it only takes one or two in most cases. Looking back on it, I’m kind of proud that Gruff withstood seven or something like that! Good job man!

Anyhow, it’s been a Wild Ride this season, I’ve enjoyed writing about it tremendously, but I’m pretty certain this is the end. They need to get under Tantrum to hit him with the spinner monstrosity, and NOBODY gets under Tantrum. Last year Sawblaze was humming along when he ran into Tantrum, and Tantrum got under him the whole time in an easy win. A match later Tantrum was getting under End Game repeatedly in the early going. That’s one of his super powers, he’s also lightning fast and incredibly strong! He’s a perfect robot! And he’s my pick to win the whole thing at this point. Anyhow I think this is actually an easy match for him, Cobalt is very clumsy and jerky and generally takes a little while to get going. Tantrum will be all over him from the start and should be able to deal some damage (I question Cobalt’s durability too). If Cobalt ever got under Tantrum than we might have a problem, but even still he’s really damn durable and the drive only faded during that wild Gigabyte fight, it didn’t falter last week. I riding high on Tantrum right now and it’s a great feeling. Give me the Orange, we’ll even give them a KO since we’re really feeling it.

The Pick: Tantrum by KO

Ok! From here on it’s speculation, I won’t spend too much time (it always depends on how certain robots look in previous matches) but will throw out a few thoughts.

If I’m Right so far…

Wow, that first one is a doozy, and I’d be going against my own bracket (some call that a hedge). Still, when you’re hot you’re hot, and it does feel like Sawblaze’s hard-to-swallow-season-ending-loss is lurking out there, just out of sight.

Minotaur (16) over Sawblaze (4) by KO

I think Minotaur learns from the season-opening loss and adjusts. They hit Sawblaze repeatedly and his forks get bent and he gets damaged and Minotaur avoids the scoop and the saw never comes into play. Minotaur wins again to makes another Finals and Daniel Freitas breaks into the ring to dance and celebrate with the robot itself.

Tantrum (11) over Hydra (31)

Hydra finally runs out of gas, maybe the drive breaks early, maybe the flipper, maybe the forks get stuck on the floor. Tantrum gets to the side of him and drags him around for a while, spiking him several times into the air with the spinner. He is clearly the lower robot and it gives him the win.

The Hypothetical Finals

Tantrum (11) over Minotaur (16)

Minotaur’s magical run comes to the end, as Tantrum peppers them with a million blows and drives them into the screws repeatedly as the lower and strong bot. The Tantrum/Blip Era officially begins in the Battlebots Universe.

Anything else we’d like to see?

  • Obviously they have been alluding to a Blip-Tantrum interteam battle, which would be awesome. I think Tantrum is likely to be there, depends if Blip can beat Hydra or not (gonna be close!) Umm, this matchup would be crazy…I guess I’m just of the mindset now that Tantrum is a perfectly designed robot, and if the occasional reckless mistakes of the drivers can’t kill it I’m not sure anything can! So I like Tantrum here as the bot with a weapon, of course if Blip gets under them consistently than they’ll almost certainly win.
  • Sawblaze and Witch Doctor have fought the past two postseasons! I just realized that! They’ve split the first two, this would be the rubber match, and would be to reach the finals (the highest stakes yet). I love it! Witch Doctor can beat Minotaur so very possible.
  • Riptide meets his Daddy, Minotaur? They’re both drum spinners, Riptide’s is a lot bigger but Minotaur’s is kind of the gold standard. I guess that would be cool, I’m trying to involve Riptide in a scenario.
  • Hydra makes the final: they fought Minotaur in the first round of the playoffs in 2019, it turned out to be Hydra’s first career loss. Minotaur won a big upset (they were seeded 14th due to a crazy regular season). I would lean Minotaur in the rematch, that’s the kind of weapon Hydra has to hate. Hydra beat Witch Doctor last year, I would lean Hydra again but it would be close. I don’t believe Hydra has ever faced Sawblaze, that would be very interesting.
  • Cobalt goes on a run – would the Hydra-hating Battlebots community find anything more cathartic than Cobalt cutting Hydra literally in half?
    I think Cobalt would struggle mightily against either Aaron Hill robot (Blip or Tantrum), both block his path to the finals. If he somehow makes the finals…meh, I don’t like Cobalt’s chances against anyone here either. I think they need more seasoning and more consistency. But hey, if Cobalt can shred Hydra before a national audience they might win a Nobel Peace Prize!

Ok I think that’s it for now. I can’t effing wait for Thursday. Should be good and interesting no matter the outcome, it’s so much fun that End Game is out now. Let the Robot Battle Begin, for the last time…(sad face)

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