BattleBots Beat: Building Bracket Bona Fides

Senor Weaselo

Senor Weaselo

Senor Weaselo plays the violin. He tucks it right under his chin. When he isn’t doing that, he enjoys watching his teams (Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers), trying to ingest enough capsaicin to make himself breathe fire (it hasn’t happened yet), and scheming to acquire the Bryant Park zamboni.
Senor Weaselo

Welcome back to the Beat! For those new to the site or returning for the first time in a while (we survived the off-season!), this is the BattleBots Beat, a weekly recap of the most recent episode of BattleBots. Yes, BattleBots is a thing again. As a matter of fact, the season’s almost over, and it’s been a hell of one. We’ve seen fire, we’ve seen destruction, we’ve seen robots cut in half and fly through the air, and even the arena has not been safe from robots’ respective wraths. And now we are getting to the nitty-gritty.

For fourteen episodes (plus USA vs. The World, which the final score was actually 4-3 USA due to a pair of cut fights—Petunia & Predator beat Bale Spear & Double Dutch, and Hypothermia topped The Four Horsemen) we’ve had robots (well, the people who build them, using their robots) fight for a chance at being selected as one of the top 16 teams, who would go on to compete for the BattleBots championship and the Giant Nut. We now have this week that I am currently writing about and next week to make those final impressions. Which means, considering this goes up on Thursday, the day before the new episode, by tomorrow night at 9 PM Eastern we should know who those top 16 robots are. Some are obvious, like the three current 4-0 robots (Tombstone, Bite Force, and Bronco), and one spot has been claimed (Lock-Jaw via winning the previously mentioned Desperado Flash Tournament), but the remaining twelve spots are still up for grabs, and every fight could have playoff implications. With that, onto the fights!

Warhead vs. Whiplash
Warhead: 3-0 (W, JD 3-0 over Sharkoprion; W, JD 3-0 over Chomp; W, JD 2-1 over Warrior Dragon)
Whiplash: 2-1 (W, KO 1:27 over Hypothermia; W, KO 0:52 over Mecha Rampage; L, KO 1:14 to Tombstone)

Like this one, for instance. Both of these robots would consider themselves in pretty good shape with a win, but could be on the wrong side of the bubble with a loss. Glancing at the record you’d think Warhead’s a shoo-in by going 3-0, but he hasn’t faced the greatest competition, and since two of those fights were with the dino-head (entertaining, lots of fire, but a control bot rather than a damage bot) and the one with the spinning dome led to breaking said spinning dome (still sad), it hasn’t won any fights by KO. There is another 3-0 robot that’s gone 3-0 with all three fights going to a decision in HUGE, and that’s probably assured a spot, so not all hope is lost for the old Brit. But a win and a 4-0 record would make it pretty difficult to exclude them.

Whiplash hasn’t had any of its fights go to a decision, and it’s been a more than respectable 2-1 by beating Hypothermia (nobody expected Hypothermia to have this kind of time of it but in getting the KO Whiplash did what Minotaur and Valkyrie could not) and Mecha Rampage (which salvaged its season by beating Double Jeopardy and Tantrum), and losing to Tombstone but at least briefly having the champ on the run before getting hit with the ol’ spin on a dime move. A win for either bot would count as that win over another bot in the discussion. Think of it as a top-50 RPI win.

One of the keys to this was Warhead’s weapon no-longer-a-choice. As I mentioned one or two dozen times, the spinning dome is gone, which means they are just the dino head. The dino head configuration apparently cannot self-right. I’m honestly a little surprised, I would think if they went wings up, maybe then they’d have a chance, but they’d probably tip over. It’s why they no longer attack with the spinner wings up like they used to do, and that was specifically so they’d tip over and easily self-right. It’s complicated things a bit. Either way it’s a bit of a problem having to use a set-up where you can’t self-right against a robot with a lifter. Who can tip you over. So yeah, definitely would have wanted to use the spinner in this one. To protect against the disk part of Whiplash’s weapon. they’ve used the bits of tire they had behind their neck and put it in their mouth.

Warhead started out the early aggressor, trying to get the more compact Whiplash in its maw, but Whiplash was quick enough to stay away from Warhead’s front and get to the side, able to use the lifter portion of their weapon to carry Warhead around and drive them into various walls. Whiplash was able to lift Warhead a couple of times, but was unable to get them over. Overall they were taking this more like the Mecha Rampage fight than the Hypothermia fight.

Unlike the Mecha Rampage fight, Warhead finally got the jump on them and had a chance to chomp down, but a brilliant maneuver by Matt Vasquez (I assume he operates the weapon too, not totally sure), using the lifting arm to actually push Warhead away, meant that Whiplash could wriggle away from the jaws and the metric fuck-ton of flames that would ensue. After the two reset, Whiplash was able to get under Warhead again and this time, using the wall to corral everything, was able to flip Warhead onto its belly, and gave it a bit of a tummy scratch. Hey, flamethrowing dinosaurs can still be good boys.

It was all well and good for Team Fast Electric Robots, except Whiplash was starting to smoke even from the little time being under Warhead’s inferno. But it didn’t matter, as Kenny said Warhead couldn’t self-right, and thus was counted out. Whiplash wins by KO in 2:09, moving to 3-1 and getting that win over a contender it desperately needed.

Mohawk vs. Reality
Mohawk: 0-2 (L, KO 2:43 to Gemini with Kraken; L, KO 2:07 to SawBlaze)
Reality: 1-2 (L, JD 3-0 to SawBlaze; L, KO 1:50 to DUCK!; W, KO 1:56 over Lucky)

Admittedly this fight has less of a postseason feel to it. Mohawk is 0-2 and playing out the string—it’s been a tough year for the Bales family, as HyperShock had its issues throughout, and Mohawk had its own issues in its rumble that it was dominating until dying, leaving Gemini as the only bot standing since Kraken had tried to eat the screws. As opposed to the SawBlaze fight, that was just SawBlaze being dominant. As for the Dutch drumbot Reality, it also lost to SawBlaze, in addition to getting the spinner’s curse against DUCK!. At 1-2 with the one being a win over Lucky, even with a win here I don’t see them being one of the 2-2 bots with a chance to get their foot in the door. The win over HyperShock, remember, does not count, although it would mean they managed to beat both Bales brothers, a feat only shared with Bite Force. And Reality would’ve done it in the same year.

Mohawk went for the box rush at the get-go, and Reality managed to damage the wedge. Which is how a crusher like Mohawk is able to get leverage to crush, so whether a driving error or a tactical one, this was already looking tough. Especially as they kept doing it, and as we all know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. So yeah, after a short time the top of the wedge was slightly trashed. So they kept going. And at some point the crushing arm came down, or they lowered it to act like a ram? Worked for Razer that one time, but less so when you’re getting your face chewed off and you can’t get under at any point, and now after hits you’re popping up into the air.

Finally, Reality hit Mohawk from a side angle and flipped them. And it was the crusher was disabled, because they would have been able to self-right, but that wasn’t going to happen. Reality wins by KO in 2:48, finishing at 2-2 (fine, 3-2 if you count USA vs. The World).

Free Shipping vs. WAR Hawk
Free Shipping: 1-2 (L, JD 3-0-0 to DUCK! and Mecha Rampage; L, JD 3-0 to HUGE; W, KO 2:26 over HyperShock)
WAR Hawk: 2-1 (W, KO 1:30 over Axe Backwards; L, KO 2:33 to Brutus; W, JD 3-0 over Overhaul)

Y’know what? A win here and WAR Hawk is certainly in the discussion at 3-1. They’ve shown pop in victories over Axe Backwards and Overhaul, though Brutus beat them. But Brutus is 2-2 and the loss to Gigabyte seriously hurt them, fluky as it was. So who knows? Free Shipping will not net Gary Gin a Giant Nut, which at this point I’m pretty sure is the only American championship he hasn’t won. The Big B was close, losing a 24-21 decision to Ziggo in the Season 4.0 lightweight finals, the third and last of Ziggo’s Giant Nuts, and it won RoboGames a couple times. Original Sin’s basically won everything else there is to win. Free Shipping wishes it could be a 250-lb. Original Sin, but the active weapon rule meant Gary Gin decided to come up with a forklift and a flamethrower, and though the flamethrower’s done good work, lighting Mecha Rampage on fire and smoking HyperShock’s tires in the not fun for Will Bales way, the forklift has mostly just gotten the shit kicked out of it by Mecha Rampage and HUGE. Also, cawing is not a hawk sound, Faruq.

Anyway, Free Shipping came out all flames blazing, and we even got to see the forklift actually lift, even if it was too slow to catch WAR Hawk napping. Or even WAR Stop. Until it drove over WAR Hawk while not in the fully down position, drove over the wedge, the blade, and already a fork was bent. And then at that point WAR Hawk could find an angle to attack the forks when the two clashed. And then Free Shipping was on its side, forks more mangled. And self-righted. And then it got more entertaining.

I mean, the forklift was beat to shit maybe by the 45 second mark, and since that was the wedge Free Shipping went flipping when the two bots went front to front, and then Gary Gin was in full “drive it like you stole it” mode. The BattleBots banner (sometimes replaced with ads) came off because Free Shipping bumped into it, Free Shipping was driving around trying to get off its back and ended up on its side, the whole forklift bit came off so it started using that like a flail (we have wedgebot protests, we have thwackbot protests, the works!). But it was successful in disabling WAR Hawk’s weapon!

And then Free Shipping, still using the flamethrower, decided to light itself on fire briefly. It went out, but jeez, that was an exhausting minute and a half. The latter stages of the fight were a pushing match once Free Shipping was back on its wheels, where WAR Hawk’s wedge got the better of the forkless forklift frame. And then some fuel dumped out of Free Shipping and it caught on some more fire. It was fine though, it was still moving, still pushing, a little fire truck came out of somewhere after the fight ended to put it out. Fun was had by all. Oh, and WAR Hawk won by unanimous decision, going to 3-1 and being definitively in the conversation. Free Shipping’ll go 1-3, which means Gary Gin’ll just have RoboGames for the bajillionty-first time.

And for the record, if there was one exception to the active weapon rule, I would want a 250 lb. version of Original Sin. The premier bot I’d imagine it would have the most trouble with is Bronco because as DUCK! found out, you can’t kill a robot using its own momentum if that robot sends you out of the arena. Other than that the problem is it would just beat everyone else.

Overhaul vs. Witch Doctor
Overhaul: 1-2 (L, KO 1:34 to SawBlaze; W, JD 3-0 over Chomp; L, JD 3-0 to WAR Hawk)
Witch Doctor: 2-1 (L, KO 1:24 to Yeti; W, JD 3-0 over Blacksmith; W, KO 0:54 over Ultimo Destructo)

For Overhaul, it’s the one robot out of the former “MIT All-Stars” that was JACD Robotics that doesn’t have a case for a spot in the 16, as SawBlaze is a virtual lock, and Brutus and Valkyrie (I guess we count Valkyrie? It’s just Frederick Moore from Danger 4, Dane Kouttron isn’t there and he was the guy actually on the original Overhaul team) have cases to make for some of the last couple spots. Meanwhile, for Witch Doctor, don’t hate me for this, but… glippity gloppity, glippity gloo, the voodoo princess needs a W here, or her campaign is through.

Thank you, tip the veal, try your waitress.

These two robots have actually fought before, but Witch Doctor had Shaman with it, and Nightmare won that rumble anyway, acting as leverage for Overhaul to flip Witch Doctor before wrecking the crushing jaw. Yes, I miss Nightmare, and you should too.

Back to the fight, Witch Doctor started off by trying to avoid a head-on moment, and it worked because the weapon quickly made work of Overhaul’s right side armor, flipping Overhaul in the process. Another solid shot flipped Overhaul again, and while taking Overhaul for a ride on that spinning disk, Overhaul’s lifter froze in the air, and the robot was immobile—a few nanometers do not count, Charles Guan. Witch Doctor wins by KO in 1:20, a big win for them.

Main event: SubZero vs. Minotaur
SubZero: 1-2 (L, JD 3-0 to HUGE; W, KO 1:52 over Captain Shrederator; L, JD 3-0 to Red Devil)
Minotaur: 2-1 (L, KO 2:22 to Tombstone; W, JD 3-0 over Hypothermia; W, JD 3-0 over Blacksmith)

This is a weird one, in terms of “why are they scheduling it?” because it’s not a sexy match-up (like Minotaur’s first fight against Tombstone), or rematch/grudge matches (in the case of Minotaur’s fights against Hypothermia and Blacksmith, though Touro and SubZero fought as middleweights in 2007). What we do have is a robot that’s yet to lose by KO even though it’s lost a fair bit (SubZero is 1-3 in the reboot—not sure how which methods lost in the 2009 Pro Championship, and before that it was a middleweight) taking on a robot that’s known for destruction, even if it hasn’t won by KO yet this season, since Minotaur went the distance with both Hypothermia and Blacksmith.

Minotaur looks a bit like hell, bearing the scars of previous fights instead of new parts and spares. This is a strategic decision by Marco Meggiolaro, who preferred to use the older parts, maybe because SubZero isn’t a spinner that can fuck up the parts more. They did put a “Tis but a scratch” label on that piece of armor, though. So Monty Python’s big in Brazil, and thank you astute commenters on r/battlebots for keeping track of these things. Also knowing they could use a KO, after turning the drum down for the two victories they’re turning it all the way back up for this fight.

And quickly into that fight, as Minotaur gets up to speed, we get that death hum. We’ve missed it. They got that grinding of drum on metal, and SubZero tried to flip them off, but missed and flipped itself. Minotaur kept the pressure on, and SubZero self-righted thanks to that pressure, as a hit from Minotaur helped re-right it. Which just led to a repeat of the same thing, where SubZero tried to flip Minotaur and get some space, missed, turned itself of, and then lost the entire top of the armor, and damaged the flipper. Drum, rinse, repeat, but somehow even with all that punishment SubZero was still mobile, still drivable. Minotaur was the one doing the flipping, whether by hitting SubZero with the drum, or like righting SubZero by driving it into a wall. But Minotaur got yet another flip, with SubZero on its side, by the screws, and that was it. They needed the knockout and SubZero couldn’t self-right, even though it was still somehow sturdy enough to be drivable. Minotaur wins by KO in 2:53.

That does it for the recaps.

Here’s what we know because as of writing (and publication) the full fight card for tomorrow hasn’t been posted. It will be soon, but here are the fights we know: Brutus vs. WAR Hawk vs. End Game, winner gets a spot. Maybe there’s another last-chance rumble. And the main event is Icewave vs. HUGE, where we get to see what happens when HUGE takes on a heavy spinner. There’s also supposed to be a decision that pisses everybody off and elicited boos from the audience. So there will be salt and/or jelly. With that in mind, let’s forge forward with a BattleBots Beat Bubble, uh, Boogaloo, for lack of completing alliteration. So, first things first.

Super locks: Lock-Jaw (4-2, Desperado winner), Tombstone (4-0), Bite Force (4-0), Bronco (4-0)

One is in, the rest are 4-0. We know they’re in.

Locks: Son of Whyachi (3-1), SawBlaze (3-1), Monsoon (3-1), Yeti (3-1)

These robots at 3-1 are gonna get in as well.

Now if you notice, we’re already at 8 robots. That’s half the field. This is going to be difficult.

Robots that should comfortably be in: Minotaur (3-1), Whiplash (3-1)

Minotaur seems pretty obvious, even if some of it might be based on its reputation preceding it, but after a brutal fight against Tombstone it did what it had to do, even if you want to argue going to the judges against Hypothermia and Blacksmith is a detriment, but they’ve both had reputations for being sturdy and Hypothermia was jacked the fuck up after that fight. Whiplash has the benefit of two quick KOs in its wins over Hypothermia and Mecha Rampage, exactly what it should do against lower-ranked competition. And it has that KO win over Warhead, another robot in the discussion.

Robots that should comfortably be in but have fights remaining: HUGE (3-0)

The reason HUGE is not a lock on par with the three 4-0 bots is because we now know its last fight. Obviously if it wins, it’s in and probably gets the 4th seed. If it loses though, then if you look at its profile, they didn’t exactly beat world-beaters—SubZero, Chomp, and Free Shipping have two wins between them, and HUGE didn’t score a KO against any of them. They’d still be in with a loss just due to the novelty of the robot, but just worth noting.

Win and you’re in: Icewave (2-1)

Obviously, the three compact wedge/vertical spinners fighting a win and you’re in rumble are in win and you’re in, lose and you’re done territory. Icewave seems like it should be in, due to breaking Vanquish in half and beating Yeti, but a loss to HUGE would put them at 2-2.

So, all that and there are three or four spots left. And a good number of robots vying for those spots. BUT! There are not one, but TWO last-chance rumbles, and they are:

Brutus (2-2) vs. End Game (2-2) vs. WAR HAWK (3-1)

And a real rumble. SIX robots enter, one gets the glory of a top 16 spot.

DUCK! (2-2) vs. Gigabyte (2-2) vs. Valkyrie (3-2) vs. Red Devil (2-2) vs. Lucky (2-3) vs. Bombshell (0-4)

So surprise, Bombshell! As for these, anything can happen pretty much, but I’m going to say that End Game is the best of the three wedged vertical spinners (that’s why they’re fighting, right?). And for the six-bot rumble, I feel like the brick-ness of DUCK! will prove itself useful.

That’s fourteen spots. Therefore thanks to basic subtraction, there are two spots left. So here’s the remainder of the bubble, in alphabetical order. I will also be borrowing this RPI ranking from r/battlebots commenter ptrcknthny, which is your standard RPI calculation except record is worth 50% and opponents’ win percentage and opponents’ opponents’ win percentage are 25% each. So thank you, that guy, you did the math so I don’t have to.

RotatoR (RPI: 13)
Record: 3-1, 1 KO
Record vs. other playoff/bubble bots: 1-0 (W, 3-0 over Skorpios)
Best win: 3-0 over Skorpios
Worst loss: 3-0 to Petunia
Thoughts: Can I make a joke about how the robot that reminds me of 13 Black is #13 in the RPI as of this point? No? Fine. RotatoR’s surprised everyone this year with its 3-1 record and okay reliability. They still try not to spin both weapons at the same time to prevent strain on the weapon motor but the design proved extremely effective in their decapitation of Skorpios. I would say the thing that might hurt them most is the win over Predator, on account of Predator having the difficulties it had all season, but what can you say? They could go either way.

Skorpios (RPI: 14)
Record: 2-1, 0 KOs
Record vs. other playoff/bubble bots: 1-1 (W, 2-1 over Icewave; L, 3-0 to RotatoR)
Best win: 2-1 over Icewave
Worst loss: 3-0 to RotatoR
Thoughts: As of this second Skorpios hasn’t done enough. Sure, beating Icewave was a big thing, but that loss to RotatoR stings a bit, especially because we all expected Skorpios to waltz in there and go to 3-0. It looks like it fights HyperShock, so it needs to win by KO.

Warhead (RPI: 11)
Record: 3-1, 0 KOs
Record vs. other playoff/bubble bots: 0-1 (L, KO to Whiplash)
Best win: 3-0 over Sharkoprion
Worst loss: KO to Whiplash
Thoughts: This is a toss-up. On one hand, they netted zero KOs against Sharkoprion, Chomp, and Warrior Dragon, which isn’t exactly DUCK!’s schedule (which according to that RPI was the toughest schedule, thanks to Tombstone and Bronco). On the other hand, nobody KOed those robots (Warrior Dragon should have its retirement fight in the final Card) and against Sharko and Chomp it was a control bot. And the tiebreaker for producers if need be, the robot still is really goddamned photogenic, though I’d say maybe a little less with the ridiculously large dinosaur head. I wouldn’t be surprised either way, but if I got to make the call I’d have them in.

Witch Doctor (RPI: 10)
Record: 3-1, 2 KOs
Record vs. other playoff/bubble robots: 0-1 (L, KO to Yeti)
Best win: KO over Ultimo Destructo
Worst loss: KO to Yeti
Thoughts: I think Witch Doctor should get in with a little room to spare. Though the RPI says that quick KO over Ultimo was the best win (and it was a quick KO as they took Ultimo apart, literally) you could make the argument that the win over Overhaul was Witch Doctor at its best. Either way it’s been a steady upward trend since the opening loss to Yeti, and I think Yeti’ll be somewhere around the #7 or 8 seed, depending on what happens with HUGE and Icewave. So it’s not an awful loss, and somebody had to lose that fight.

So, I think Witch Doctor’s in. So that last spot is either RotatoR, Skorpios, or Witch Doctor—well, if Skorpios wins, because if not it’s a moot point. But if that happens, RotatoR still has the advantage of beating Skorpios, so it might not be enough, and Warhead has the photogenic… I’m gonna say, RotatoR. Interestingly enough I might say Warhead if Skorpios loses because then the win over Skorpios doesn’t look as good for RotatoR, and again, fire makes you look good and entertaining and that is actually part of the selection criteria.

Now watch me go like 9/16 or something. We’ll find out soon enough. See you next time!

Senor Weaselo
Senor Weaselo
Senor Weaselo plays the violin. He tucks it right under his chin. When he isn't doing that, he enjoys watching his teams (Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers), trying to ingest enough capsaicin to make himself breathe fire (it hasn't happened yet), and scheming to acquire the Bryant Park zamboni.
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Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

Also, Witch Doctor looked as good as I’ve seen it look all season.

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

The flailing action by Free Shipping was so much fun. I wish there was a robot that did that as its primary mode of attack, though that would probably be against the rules due to entanglement issues.