Good Morning World!!!!!
Hypershock (Preseason Power Ranked 15ish) vs Sawblaze (Power Ranked 4th)
Hypershock has always been up and down but last year put together a terrific season, if you ignore the horrible and laughable playoff loss. The weapon appears to be one of the hardest hitting in the sport and they combine that with an insanely aggressive approach. Weaknesses include no self-righter (why is this happening, why does it seem like more robots are going this route?) and a decadent history of disasterous GOB Bluth-style losses whenever things seem to be going well. Sawblaze is a perennial contender that made it further than ever last year (Final Four) and is probably the best control bot in the sport right now. It catches robots on the forks and owns them from there, with the ability to drop in an overhead vicious hammer shot whenever he likes.
So, the truth about Sawblaze right now is that he’s virtually unbeatable in a match of any significant length. In any fight where things get going and there’s a bit of back and forth he triumphs. Where the vulnerability appears to be is in the first fifteen seconds or so, wherein he’s either misdriving or choking or just having bad luck getting his bot oriented properly. Whatever the case it’s cost him 3 matches in the past two seasons (Uppercut, End Game, Witch Doctor), 3/4 of his losses came this way, in matches that were over before they started.
I still think Sawblaze is better than Hypershock, in fact I picked SB to win the title this year. But Hypershock’s trick right now is blitzing the opponent with a giant vertical weapon running at full tilt. That’s the exact recipe to beat SB, apparently. It’s a toss up but I’ll take the upset and the trend to continue.
Upset Pick of the Week #1: Hypershock by Knockout
Fusion (1-2 regular season last year) vs Emulsifier (rookie)
Hmmm, this is a tough one, it’s a rookie going up against a robot that isn’t very good
Fusion has a unique two-weapon approach, both vertical and horizontal options. The outcome sadly is that by going for two instead of one they ended up with weapons that have distinctly less power than that of a standard issue weapon. And they also have weaker drive and armor to boot. They did beat Cobalt last year in probably the most confounding upset of the season (Cobalt is really good).
Emulsifier is a rookie who I’ve seen compete in NHRL competitions, this is a much larger version of the 12(?) pounder they have used before. Looks pretty much like primitive End Game right? Big vertical and compact flat body design.
Dang, rookies often sputter and don’t perform well, and Fusion often sputters and doesn’t perform well. In a vaccuum I think Emuls has the edge design-wise. But rookies tend to be bad and disappoint me, at least in their first match (see Ripperoni last week). I’m at least confident Fusion will be able to move and (at least one of their weapons) will work, they’re good for one good hit even in the losses. They were ready in the opener last year against another team that wasn’t (Fusion). Put down the W for Team Whyachi.
The Pick: Fusion by KO
Mammoth (1-2, 33 seed last year) vs Valkyrie (2-1, 26 seed I think?)
Mammoth is a behemoth that uses size and an overhead flipping arm to knock smaller bots around. Valkyrie is a vicious horizontal spinner that has suffered recently the way most horizontals have. Both had weaker 2022 seasons and took a step back from success the previous year.
Mammoth’s approach is better suited for verticals I think. They fought Tombstone last season, who is pretty similar to Valkyrie, and they lost. It also resulted in one of the most inexplicably explosive hits of the year. I think Valk wins easy and looks pretty good doing so.
The Pick: Valkyrie by KO
Madcatter (2-1, 15 seed last year) vs Whiplash (3 seed last season, Power Ranked 6)
Another test of the Anti-Vertical Approach!
Whiplash is awesome, extremely fun to watch. Whiplash is the epitome of a great control bot, I think Sawblaze is slightly better but Whip is has the lifter and the exciting driving and the different configurations and it’s just a blast. However they have not faired great against the verticals outside of completely owning Black Dragon to a laughable degree. But Madcatter is several notches below an End Game or even Uppercut (RIP) and can be had. Last year they went up against the aforementioned Black Dragon in the playoffs, I thought they would cruise to victory, and instead they were largely outmaneuvered and out-calculated and could barely land a good shot. It was weird and kind of magical but the point remains: Madcatter looks great against middling competition and struggles mightily when punching up and even horizontally.
The Pick: Whiplash by Judges Decision
Banshee (rookie) vs Switchback (1-2 as a rookie last year)
Looks like we have a Hydra-imitator in Banshee, a new flipper? Cool!
Switchback has a big drum that can be swung around, it’s a wacky and exciting design that hasn’t yielded much fruit yet. The swinging doesn’t seem to happen fast enough to be effective. But heck it’s a new year maybe they’ve got something figured out.
I’ll continue my trend of not beliving in rookies in their first match. If I were Switchback I’d get the drum as low as possible, point it at the flipper, and wait for contact. We do have a history of drum spinners working against flippers (Hydra’s losses to Minotaur in 2019 and Glitch last season).
The Pick: Switchback by KO
Hijinx (2-1 last year, 29 seed in playoffs) vs Big Dill (who knows)
Hijinx is a very low undercutting horizontal spinner, Big Dill is a awkward lifter that seems to fall apart easily.
Ugh I barely even want to talk about this one. I don’t think much of either bot here. But I’ll take Hijinx, they seem to always pull these things out, these matches against weak opponents. Dill will probably get his lifter messed up when he goes for a flip and that will be that.
The Pick: Hijinx by KO
Blip (3-0, 7 seed last year) vs End Game (3-0, 1 seed last year)
Umm, I feel myself hungry to take a risk, to make a bold pick. I actually thought Hydra looked good against End Game, in the 20 or so seconds before their weapon stopped working?
Blip is faster and more mobile than Hydra, they are more durable than Hydra (by far), they are probably not as low and their flipper might be less powerful (that doesn’t really matter). We haven’t seen a lot of End Game getting flipped on its head lately, at all, if Blip lands any shot that will happen. How is their self-righter game? What if End Game goes with long forks and Blip is able to slide under and flip those direct, without getting closer to the weapon? (I’m deeply curious with how End Game plays this fork-wise).
Let’s get crazy. Blip for the kill.
Upset Pick of the Week #2: Blip by KO