BB23 Round of 32 Part 1 Thoughts: Vertical World

This is interesting, because I’ve been harping on this theme all season, and now we’re getting to the “final exams” for all these robots, and here’s our first batch of results.

On the surface, yes – the robots with the vertical spinner weapons continued their domination, essentially winning every fight (Huge isn’t a traditional robot but they do sport a ton of vertical power). They swept the week!

But under the hood – I dunno, I was encouraged! Almost none of these fights were blowouts! We got to see the latest permutations of ideas on how to fight the verticals, and I think there’s a lot of meat on the bone here! There are wedges and wedgelets and forks and more. I don’t think the sport is doomed to a series of Vertical Spinner Kings like Macbeth saw in the prophecy. I think the alternatives are doing well, just not able to get over the final hump and win, for a variety of different reasons.

(And really next week we see the better non-verticals, Hydra and Sawblaze and Whiplash and Quantum and even Beta and Blip if you’re into that sort of thing. Rot and Tantrum both had technical issues all season, Bloodsport is just not on their level, and nobody doubted Lucky more than me. But I was wrong about Lucky, I will admit below!)

I mean, sheesh, two of these fights were dominated by the non-vertical weapon, and it took either a poor strategic mistake and no plan b for when the self-righting arm gets trimmed (Claw Viper), or good lord, the worst bad luck at the worst possible time, resulting in the most painful playoff loss I could imagine (Bloodsport).

Also impressive in defeat: Rotator, Lucky, and of course Tantrum. Even Shatter! gave us a good run. None of the Powerhouses in that region got off easy, quite the contraire. The ones that did get off easy were Huge, going against a poor helpless Skorpios, and Witch Doctor, who got to face Jackpot. Every other match was really competitive! And heck Huge’s was competitive for a handful of seconds.

I’m not going to do full recaps here, but will stretch my mind out, and see if there’s anything specific worth commenting on.


I predicted Skorpios could sustain 6-10 solid hits, that appeared to be right on the money. Skorpios is actually well armoured though. I think Huge is an absolute atomic missile coming from above to drop onto whoever gets sealed in the arena with them. It’s getting scary. I like them in this tournament the way it looks today.

Huge credit to Skorpios, who came in with a plan and executed it as desired, until they got interupted.

1) Use your high-reaching hammer-saw to attack Huge’s self-righting arm. Done!

That was easy, it turned out, perfect target for Skorpios. Take what you’re given! Take what you’re good at!

2) Attack the other self-righting arm. Done and done!

3) Then, do something to force Huge onto one of its side. Maybe this was more of an ad-lib, or maybe Skorp knew the front of his wedge would catch a tire pretty good. I assume the plan was to push Huge around and into the screws, and hope either the wheel gets stuck (it’s happened before) or he ends up on his side during the bouncy exchange and recovery.

That’s a pretty good plan!

The issue of course was that Huge is raining down haymakers while Skorp was doing his thing, and lol, when he caught Huge’s wheel in his wedge, it lined up the giant spinning blade with one of Skorpios’ wheels. He only has two. Whoops!

Huge is really slamming right now, and as I pointed out in the Picks column, I feel like he’s already faced the most durable robots in Shatter! and Blip? Skorpios is a defensive robot as well. Next time we find out how the other side goes – how he fares against a vertical spinner. I’m optimistic but the jury is out. Lots of verticals left on his schedule, if Huge is making a deep run he’ll be seeing little else.


“All my movies end like this”

What is there to say? Rotator punched above his weight-class, he rose to the level of the moment and brought everything he had to a superior opponent with a superior/more modern design, and he lost. This happens all the time. This is how every season ends.

I hope it changes, some day. This season was different because he struggled with mechanically issues the entire time (a rareity for these guys) and an extra loss to Bloodsport in the qualifiers knocked him down to the 23 seed, and now he’s out in the first round. He should be a top 16 seed again next year, if all goes well. But yeah, it’s the same narrative every goddamn time, no one else is so consistently, maddeningly close. He’s the only one stuck in it year after year. Maybe at least Copperhead gets annihilated by End Game in two weeks and Rotator feels better because he “wasn’t close at all”. Oh wait, that’s not better at all.

I will say, for Copperhead, a) they’re more durable than I/we thought, and b) the toughness of those wheels absolutely saved them. Rotator missed some shots but not all of them, that vicious spinner had a couple tries to wipe out a tire and really compromise Copperhead and they held up. Man, Rotator really had a gameplan and did their homework here, even if their driving was a little shakey, and even if the wedge idea didn’t work. They had a full backup strategy of quick thrusts and aggressive shots to make Copperhead work and hold up. Too bad it didn’t work, it was commendable.



We get treated to an average of one absolutely brutal, breathtakingly gut-wrenching loss a year in this sport. Off the top of my head

Last season: Minotaur, obviously (lol)

Two seasons ago: Gotta go with Uppercut losing in the second round to Ribbot, in a fight that feature, among many things, Uppercut deciding to drop its own hammer on itself…

2019: This one is tougher, I guess Hydra for going 4-0 and losing in 30 secs in the playoffs? They were a rookie though, eh. That season was weird and one-sided.

2018: Tombstone, losing as the 1 seed, of course! More here.

I guess Bloodsport somehow blowing a match they were 100% winning, and a 100% in control of, when they were an underdog, and historically a disappointing playoff team (this would have been their greatest playoff win easy), is this year’s installment. But it’s early! Maybe we’ll get one or two more! We all like Bloodsport but nobody thought they would actually win this, so…just their own personal hell. Brutal stuff.


You’ll get over the hill next time, buddy. I believe in you. If you managed to land a shot when they turned tail and ran…so close.

I still love you.

Hypershock and Lucky

Hypershock didn’t screw it up, but he didn’t win a blowout either, as I expected would be the case if he won. Lucky really put up an excellent fight! Their flipper is basically useless haha, so they were really just going with driving and durability and those wonderfully effective wedges that kept their adversary at bay.

Lucky, I doubted you, and I apologize for that. You belong here. Good luck next season (also figure out a better weapon please).

Hypershock, I’m just so glad you didn’t screw it up, and get to enjoy a playoff win. Well done.

And Claw Viper

Kind of a bummer…he gave us another great fight though. If he hadn’t raised the arm into Madcatter’s very active spinner, when Catter was up on the screws, and then subsequently couldn’t recover for the last 50 seconds or whatever…I think Viper wins going away. One mistake will do you in, when you’re a control bot going against a vert. It’s tough out there.

All the same, I guess I feel like Viper is still a work in progress, there will be more refinements (unlike Quantum or Huge, who feel fully realized at this point). This was a huge learning season for this robot. And like, it’s so encouraging that this design can work, that David CAN beat Goliath! Can this please spur on a new generation of Claw Viper and Quantum clones? PLEASE? I was very impressed with how well the arms held up, they got hit a bunch of times but never in a crisp way (until the mistake). Getting the pressure on them is tricky I think. But again, could probably be adjusted further, or maybe different arms for different opponents, that sort of thing.

Anyhow, speed is for real and can produce success, that is the primary lesson Claw Viper has imparted upon us. There are Other Ways. Thanks for a fun season, and hopefully we see a lot more of this type of approach next season and beyond.

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