BB23 Week 5 Recap: New Powers are (Officially) Rising


That was an awesome night of robot fighting action. I think it’s the best regular season episode in recent history. We had multiple fights that were legitimately great, and all fights had intrigue, except for the terrible exhibition match near the end. We’ll ignore that, it’s the least we can do. The rest was Gold.

The theme of this one is that several teams that had been middling for at least two seasons are suddenly emerging as forces. There’s also the theme of two contenders continuing to look like aces out there. And then some teams falling or at least having question marks, and then the whole Riptide-Madcatter debate. It was a night!

(Also I went 6-1 in my picks, so that was cool too. Mom established a new record for picks without a loss, after we threw out the Doomba result. It was definitely an exhibition and shouldn’t count for anything)

Minotaur: A

Free Shipping: D

Minotaur very well might win the title this year.

The “move” is just sublime. They’ve gotten so good at it now.

It’s impressive, and awesome-looking, but the most important is how goddarn effective it is. It’s a get-out-of-jail free card, when he’s in a tight spot or is not positioned optimally he can just fly up on one side and adjust in an instant. It requires no space to do. It’s incredible! There’s nothing else like it in the sport, certainly nothing like it from any comparable robot. If Copperhead attempted this he would break off a wedge.

Anyhow, I thought Free Shipping acquitted themselves well here against a strong and heavy favorite. More great driving (everytime) and durability, the weapon was overmatched and didn’t do much here. They weren’t going to win this one.

Claw Viper: A

Ribbot: D

Ok, we got two completely different narratives on our hands here.

Claw Viper – this is the breakthrough robot of the season to date, and also like, maybe the most surprising breakthrough robot in recent history. I went back and checked just to be sure; while they did have a tough schedule last season with Bloodsport and Black Dragon, they really did nothing of significance over their first two seasons of competition. They possessed incredible speed, yes, but they were often out of control and their design otherwise seemed antiquated and unlikely to hold up in the modern era. Last year Claw Viper was 1-2 while Kraken went 0-3, Defender did a little bit better at 2-1 before bowing out meekly to Hydra in the playoffs, and it really felt like this design was being evolved out.

Well, surprise! Now Claw Viper and Quantum are a combined 4-0! They’ve also looked dominant in doing so. Now, Quantum has fought middlers, but Viper just beat Ribbot, last year’s 2 seed and a definite pseudo-contender year in and year out. How, you ask? Well, Viper’s body is very compact and a thing target, and the arms are holding up somehow. I don’t even quite understand how the wacky design works, at times they look ridiculous, but they’re durable and they’re grabbing and lifting and that’s all great. But the advantage they have that makes the whole thing is SPEED. That has also been Quantum’s advantage too; it’s safe to say you need to have superior velocity to have success in the control game. And when you’re literally zipping around Ribbot then they can’t even line up an offensive hit properly. Umm, this could be a big problem for a whole bunch of powerful robots! I think it could go all the way to the top! I believe Claw Viper is for real, 100%. They can easily get to 3-0 (Big Dill) and then they get the very volatile Hypershock in fight 4, wow. Even if they lose that they should be a top 20 seed and someone to fear in most matchups.

Now, having effusively complimented the victor, let me shred the loser and the big-picture decision-making that’s going on with Ribbot.

I came into the season excited about the potential of the “anti-vertical” setup that Ribbot was running, as I discussed here(. And yes, of course, my perspective/options are completely negligible. But now look where we are! We had two fights where we had an opportunity to run with (and test out) the B configuration, one against an elite vertical spinner (that by the way, had a much tougher time today and didn’t look like world-beaters against Fusion). And in both cases, for their own reasons, they decided to use the Ribbot with the vertical spinner.

They’re 0-2, by the way.

Their two fights (losses) were completely different, and I would criticize them differently for not using the B configuraion in both cases. They probably thought the horizontal spinner would get pulverized by Witch Doctor (who, granted, is trying out a more powerful weapon), and had just seen what happened against End Game, and so they tried to fight fire with fire. It didn’t work! I would preferred to use the fight as research and kinda conceed that you’d probably lose, but whatever. This one was worse, because my only clear memory of Claw Viper last year is that they fought Bloodsport, and on the second or third exchange Bloodsport’s weapon went straight through Claw Viper’s main arm, and that was the end of that!

The broader point here is that most weapons run along either horizontal or vertical axis, and you can either match or go against the other axis, and the reason why CV is succeeded so far is that its weapon matches up correctly with vertical spinners and doesn’t get chopped in half! It goes “against the grain”, if you will. On the other hand – last year, when they went up against a qualified horizontal spinner, they get shredded. I think that’s how you kill Claw Viper, they are vulnerable to horizontals. Ribbot didn’t use their horizontal weapon. Also like, that configuration is quicker and faster! The whole proble here was speed! And a horizontal weapon is wider and more exposed, they would have a better chance connecting with shots even if they were less powerful (It’s not like Ribbot’s vertical spinner has hurt anyone yet in two fights).

(And yes – qualified horizontal spinners are hard to find these days! I get it! Someone get Rotator on the phone stat!)

Anyhow, disappointing season for Ribbot, both in results and approach. We’ll have a post coming up (probably need another week) to talk about the exciting 2-0 teams, and then the depressing 0-2 teams. Both of these fighters will be well represented.

Sawblaze: A

Lock-Jaw: D

Gonna be tough to decide who ranks higher in the next Power Rankings, Sawblaze or Minotaur. They’re 2 and 3 in some order behind End Game (unless EG somehow loses their next match). I mean, Sawblaze hasn’t really broken a sweat yet and certainly was not in any danger whatsoever in this battle. I guess his front got chewed up a little? Cosmetic at best. He looks GREAT, the best he’s ever looked, and it’s almost not worth throwing any more vertical 4WD spinners at him. He’s got those down-pat, he’s all set. Bring on the playoffs.

Lock-Jaw – he’s better than last year but the weapon doesn’t seem very potent, and my god did he get embarassed in the “fight for low ground” here. He’s got no chance against someone like Sawblaze. Still, he’s at 1-1 and probably squeaks into the playoffs with at least one more victory.

Huge: A

Blip: C

Big victory for the big boy.

It was evident early on for me, within 30 seconds – Huge is too quick and his wheels are too slippery for Blip to do their normal here. Blip needs to push up against a robot, wedge them onto the flipping arm, before he can take action (push them around, or flip them!). And there’s no wedging huge, not really. No robot is less glued to the floor than they are. It was a brutally bad matchup for our blue friend.

I loved this fight, I’m a huge Huge fan. It was really fun. I don’t know that I have much to break down, it’s a simple story really. It did give us the HIT of the Week, which lead to a stoppage in play.

HIT of the Week

Yeah that was cool. Huge’s weapon has been awesome so far, he said they can adjust the directional spinning mid-fight now? That was never a thing before, the addition will serve them well.

Umm, Huge is starting to smell like a contender, this is getting very interesting. Their weapon hits really, really hard, Blip is a suit of armor and we just saw them go against End Game. Huge dealt them more damage. Now, there’s plenty of fine print here (EG’s weapon didn’t work for 2/3rds of the fight), but the bottom line is Huge dealt them more damage, the most damage anyone has dealt the thick as a brick Blip. Stay tuned.

Witch Doctor: A

Fusion: A

First, before I say anything else – let me point out that this fight started with another incredible Witch Doctor Backflip, we’ve seen that before. Can this be their thing? Their custom move? Something about the weight is perfect cause they always land. Anyhow…

In terms of the scoreboard, and the emerging narratives of the season to date (Clampers are Back!), the Claw Viper upset over Ribbot was obviously a much bigger. But man, honestly, I think Fusion’s performance against Witch Doctor was just as incredible. It was stunning.

The thing was, clampers have had success before. No one has ever built a robot like Fusion before, and consider me, along with millions(?) of other viewers, as having made my judgment and decided that the Fusion was a supercool with no actual chance of being a contender. And then it went out and did THAT, against what I recently deemed the second best robot in the sport, and an absolute living legend.

Suddenly the vision was realized – this is how Fusion can operate and be successful. It hadn’t fully sunk how powerful the two weapon setup can be in that if you lose one weapon, you have a backup. Nobody has backup weapons in Battlebots! They don’t exist. And here, in the middle of an absolute war, Fusion suddenly lost the primary (vertical spinner) and immediately rolled over to being a low-budget Tombstone. And it was effective! Christ in a series of blows he tore off one of Witch Doctor’s wedges, then BROKE Witch Doctor’s spinner! With his horizontal! It was CRAZY! By the end I wanted Fusion to win, and they had done enough to win (hence the A performance), but I agree with the judges and the general belief that if the fight goes three minutes, if one robot is basically immobile than they lost (if everything else is comparable). It took a rare split decision to give WD the victory, and that should hardly matter to team Fusion. That was a winning performance.

Man, was this fight all about live adjustments. Also, a pre-game adjustment that I don’t think worked very well was Witch Dr’s wedges. They seemed to be a prime, easy to slap target for Fusion’s ferocious vertical spinner (also won the exchanges against Emulsifier in fight). Actually WD said it aloud – they wanted to use their wedge to combat Fusion’s horizontal spinner, and Fusion said he was going to counter that by leading with the vertical spinner and not letting them get to the horizontal. Gee, who won that tactical exchange? Fusion, by a mile! Anyhow – Witch might have regretted, or just realized they were getting killed going weapon-to-weapon, so they really focused on the driving (an arena they obviously hold the edge in) and on out-maneuvering the klutzy Fusion. It finally worked, they got to the side and checked Fusion, hard, Sent him right across the ring. Maybe WD’s weapon made contact, I’m not sure (there was a lot going on).

And Fusion’s vertical weapon was down. So we’re like, “ok, Fusion gave it their all, but that’s that”. That was not that! Fusion flipped over to the backup, started leading with the horizontal weapon that he had protected up to that point, and the fight was back on. In fact Witch Doctor was getting knocked all over the place again. They were clearly injured from the early going, they hit back ok, and then there’s a sequence where Fusion a) breaks Witch Doctor’s vertical weapon, b) takes off half of the front wedge (boy did those wedges take a beating), and c) took off WD’s right front tire.

Holy Moly!!!

The problem was that even without a weapon, even with half its front missing, even being a robot with no weapon against a robot that had one (at this point 2 of the 3 weapons that entered the fight were out), Witch is still a complete beast, with drive power to spare, and they kept pushing and shoving and clocking Fusion until they gave out. The match lasted too long for them, they would have won if it was called just 30 seconds earlier, but that final sequence showed they had nothing left. The horizontal was down at that point and they could barely drive. Witch basically had to pop a pillow over Fusion to complete the suffocation, and they still made the bell.

I’ve talked about this too much, I thought both these robots looked great and am very proud of Fusion’s turnaround in early 23.

Double Tap over “Doomba”

We don’t have time for “Doomba”. Not today. Not this time.

Which brings us to…

Riptide: A

Madcatter: D

After all the incredible contests early this felt distinctly anti-climatic, it was over pretty quick. I guess that wasn’t surprising given the power of the weapons involved. My thoughts on Riptide were correct, they’re a stallion, and they’re a true contender. They have yet to lose a fight because they had the lesser weapon, or were hit harder than the other one. Their two career losses are to Defender(!) and Sawblaze, both of whom feature those sick forks that cause Riptide to flip over backwards. So yeah, that’s the weakness, those forks. That’s it. Madcatter appears to be good but just outside the ring of true contenders. I’ve seen this movie before.

This is also interesting in that I’m noticing a new trend – within the world of vertical spinners, the drum and eggbeater spinners (Riptide, Minotaur, Black Dragon has an eggbeater but that’s close enough) seem to be generally winning over the disk spinners (End Game, Witch Doctor, Madcatter, Monsoon). Now, I’m omitting some names from that list to prove my point haha (Cobalt and Hypershock on the disk side haven’t really fought anyone relevant, Copperhead lost to Witch Doctor in the playoffs last year). They absorb and transfers energy differently, it’s interesting. Something to keep an eye on.

I’ll just make quick comment about the “controversy” here – if the Madcatter guys had the designs for Madcatter, and Riptide, and made one of them into a 250 pound Battlebots competitor – they chose the wrong one. Riptide is a cooler and (apparently) better design. It’s more fun to root for. It looks like it has a better chance of winning of title. So yeah, I don’t know, you should have made Riptide yourselves and let the other team steal Madcatter. That’s my opinion.

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