BB23 Round of 32: Part 1 – Heating up the Engine

Here we go!

I took almost all favorites, honestly this feels like a warm-up round for what’s to come. There’ll be more intrigue next week, and then the final two weeks, wahoo. We have a lot of elite bots this year, it’s awesome. But yeah I’m expecting chalk in Part 1 of round 1, we’ll see

Shatter! (31) vs Riptide (2)

I mean, hahaha, the only possible chance here for Shatter! is that they did fight this match at the start of last year’s playoffs, and they took a quick loss. With that bad taste in their mouths…maybe they went home and focused entirely on a strategy against Riptide? Maybe they’ve got something up their sleeve?

I doubt it! They’ve been mostly terrible this season. But heck, if you want an explanation for the 2% of the time where they win this match, that would probably be your narrative. They have fought this match before. It shouldn’t matter though, Riptide in under 60.

The Pick: Riptide by KO

Witch Doctor (3) vs Jackpot (30)

This should be an easy one, with the athletic and robust Witch Doctor easily triumphing over the awkward and rickety Jackpot. Jackpot was 2-2 but really did not impress, they got lucky in their first win over Ribbot (where Rib kept exposing his right side wheels to the weapon over and over again) and their second win was against someone awful (Capt Shred maybe?). When they faced…nothing more than good competition in Skorpios and Rotator (both 2-2 and seeded in the 20s) they lost decisively. Jackpot was the 10 last year and hadn’t lost a regular season match until now, so when of many typically good robots just having a bad 2023 season.

Anyhow, I will say, this does potentially fit the parameters of a theory I’ve been working on, working titled “The Vertical Spinner Theory”. The idea is that while Verts have a generally strong matchup advantage going against any other weapon type, any matchups where both robots have vertical spinners are inherently competitive and closer than they might appear. Thus – even though Witch Doctor has been great and Jackpot has been trash, they both have similar weapons with similar amounts of power and thus it could potentially go either way.

The issue with the theory (I’m still developing it) is that it doesn’t account for cases where the other design features are heavily sided for one robot over the other. Here Witch Doctor is much more durable than Jack, and much, much faster and more mobile than their foe. WD will almost certainly outdrive Jack ten ways from Sunday. But heck, if it somehow goes the other way and we get a huge upset, then I have more data to put into my theory!

The Pick: Witch Doctor by KO

Hypershock (18) vs Lucky (15)

Ok, so…haha there’s a lot I could say here.

On paper this seems like a no-brainer, a slam dunk. If you took away the names, the “jerseys”, and just described to me the two robots – one is very dangerous and very fast, and while a bit out of control at times is a killer, and the other is a well-armoured but punchless flipper that benefitted from an incredibly easy schedule – it seems like the easiest pick in the world.

The reason it’s not is because the better robot is named Hypershock, and while he’s always had a bit of a flair for underperforming and “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”, his opening round playoff loss last year, in a matchup that HIGHLY RESEMBLES THIS ONE, was downright unbelievable. I talked about it here.

“Yeah, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got into this”
This brings tears of joy to my eyes, even a year later. Wow

So like, Hypershock should win this, and I can’t get over how incredibly soft and weak and doormat-ty Lucky looked in their last fight against Cobalt. Cobalt is better than Hyper, I suppose. But man…again, I keep saying this – if it goes the other way, we know why. Will Bales slipped on a banana peel. Again!

The Pick: Hypershock by KO (come on man!)

Madcatter (22) vs Claw Viper (11)

I guess I’m not really in a upsets mood this week, I feel like these Picks columns are generally about following the analysis. And I’m taking another favorite here. But man, it isn’t often you get a very potent vertical spinner as an underdog to…whatever delightful thing Claw Viper is!

Catter had a pretty good season and was unlucky to end up at 2-2 in the end. Beat Whiplash in a big surprising win, then lost to Riptide in what in hindsight was Riptide’s best challenge of the year by far. They won a decision against Big Dill who turned out to be really good, despite finishing at 1-3. And then there was the delightful, the marvelous, the beautiful Madcatter and Lock-Jaw match that Catter somehow lost with 1 second left on the clock. I can’t fault them there. Catter hits very very hard and outside of Sawblaze I think can’t of any cases where he faced a control-type bot and struggled.

Claw Viper’s season was a lot different, they started 3-0 and essentially dominated every moment of those three fights. The robots they fought were not very good, a down-year Ribbot being the strongest, but two had vertical spinners somewhat comparable to Catter, and Viper just drove right around them. Speed was everything, and not just speed but the crispness of their movements and ability to stop in an instant. Viper is really fun to watch and root for. Sadly they caught a bad matchup against Hypershock, who is lower and has a huge spinner and is fast enough to keep up. Hypershock controlled the entire match and knocked them out.

Look, here’s the bottom line. This season has been the season of Quantum and Claw Viper Magic. It often looks pessimistic before the fight starts, and then our speedy grabbers take care of business. Only against Hypershock did either falter, and I think Hyper matches up better with Viper than Catter does (more speed and low ground). I believe Claw Viper keeps the party going into the Sweet Sixteen. If Catter can get a good shot in early they can win, Viper has to be close to perfect, but they should really own the driving category and I think Catter is a good size and shape for their arms to grasp.

The Pick: Claw Viper by Judges Decision

Copperhead (10) vs Rotator (23)

I think Copperhead wins here, going away, because I don’t trust Rotator this season (multiple fights affected by technical difficulties) and Copperhead has buried all horizontal spinners they have faced in recent memory. However…I am curious to see what configuration Rotator rolls with here? They are the most creative in the sport these days, what does he plan when he goes against an all-weapon bot like Copperhead, where the only thing to make contact with is the massive drum?

I’m intrigued! But yeah this would be an awful, awful loss, even by Copperhead standards. It feels more like their (annual) downfall is more likely a total non-competitive whitewashing by End Game next week.

The Pick: Copperhead by KO

Lock-Jaw (14) vs Bloodsport (19)

How the mighty have fallen!

And uh, how the once mighty have fallen, and then regrouped, and are now mighty again!

I was excited about Bloodsport after they pulled out a very big win against Rotator, but they followed that up by getting absolutely owned by Beta, so now I’m back on the fence. Or maybe I’m just done with them, and all horizontal spinners until further notice, with an unlikely but possible exception for Rotator (let’s see how they do against Cop). It’s just not happening against any robot with vertical weapon, or a really good front wedge…and that’s pretty much everyone these days. It sucks! But it’s true.

Meanwhile Lock-Jaw had a fun and plucky season where they squeaked out 3-1. You can be optimistic or not – they somehow finished last season 0-4 overall – and certainly got lucky or faced mediocrity at times this year. And yet, they are obviously the right kind of bot for the current age (vertical spinner, 4wd drive, wedges, and pretty durable), and the driver is the veteran of all veterans and has a million Giant Nuts himself (just not with this particular robot). I’m feeling that Lock-Jaw is due to make some noise! Due for a run! We’ll see how they look this week and reasses in their big Round of 16 fight, I’m certainly confident taking them here.

(Also I just remembered these two foughts two seasons ago and LJ won with relative ease, so there’s that too)

The Pick: Lock-Jaw by JD

Huge (6) vs Skorpios (27)

I feel bad, cause I like Skorpios a lot, they usually deliver a fun and interesting show, and they looked so good to start the year! But they really didn’t look great in any fight after that, and the last two were losses. Meanwhile Huge has been ROLLING on those big wheels and has a ton of momentum right now.

You know, this is normally the spot where I try to make it interesting and play devil’s advocate…I’m not really seeing the angle here? I’ll put it this way – if Huge is the robot I and we think it is, and the robot they have shown to be so far this season, I think this should be a pretty easy fight for them. While Shatter! had a weak year (1-3) and Blip was only 500, both those robots are extremely durable. I honestly think the amount of damage Huge will inflict on their average opponent is closer to how they looked against Fusion (three shots and they were dead) rather than the longer, more punishing brawls against Shatter! and Blip (Huge’s first two fights). I think Skorpios will take…maybe 6-10 very solid hits before succumbing? Maybe a little more? They’re durable as heck too, I just think Huge is that strong, and also don’t like how Skorpios’ weapon will do against their tall opponent. It can reach up I guess, but it doesn’t seem very sharp and dangerous, it’s nothing close to Sawblaze’s in terms of deadliness IMO.

Now, watch me be wrong haha, after being so open-minded in all my other analysis this week. I’m just not seeing it. Skorpios’ large wedge will only serve as a larger target for that monstrous blade, and I don’t think he’ll be able to push Huge around very well either. But we will see! I’ve been wrong before.

The Pick: Huge by KO

And then, we have this Historical Matchup to close things out, even if it is unlikely to be a historically good fight.

Tantrum (26) vs End Game (7)

Round 1, WCV semifinals: Tantrum is controlling the entire fight, getting under End Game with stunning ease (especially in retrospect and how basically no one has done it since). But he makes a bad decision using the weapon with End Game literally on his head, it breaks, and that kind of kills Tantrum’s momentum and their nerve. From there End Game delivered shot after shot to a reeling Tantrum, won the match, and won the title.

Round 2, Golden Bolt playoffs in 2022: They start with this great face-to-face showdown, with both pushing as hard as possible to get under the other. Honestly I don’t remember the details after that very well, End Game won, and Tantrum put up a valient effort in defeat. Again their spinner was busted and they were resorted to hurling themselves desperately into End Game’s godlike weapon, hoping in vain it would break. It did not.

Anyhow, it’s an awesome rivalry of the two most recent champs, but it has been one-sided, and this year one robot was excellent while the other suffered all kinds of maladies. Sadly, it’s the robot that keeps winning this matchup that had a great year, and the one that keeps losing has looked bad all season. Darn! It would have been better the other way. Ah well.

I’m not big on picking robots that have displayed technical trouble, I don’t have any appetite for Tantrum here. It’d be great if I felt differently! I love Tantrum! But nay, the best I am hoping for is they make End Game work, and sweat. This upset isn’t impossible but it would be unbelievable, and a huge bucking of recent history.

The Pick: End Game by KO

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