BattleBots Beat: From Fight Nights to Tournament 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.
Senor Weaselo

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Hey there, and welcome back to the Beat! Last time, we had our hexadectet of hexadecimal destruction. Not to be confused with HexaDecimator. (That would be Hexy D to his friends, by the way.) Anyway, let’s look at that bracket again:

Week 1 of the tournament covered the left side of the bracket, featuring matchups such as a rematch of the 2016 championship (Tombstone vs. Bombshell); and a fight between two of the most respected teams in robotics history (Son of Whyachi vs. Lock-Jaw; Team Whyachi Robots vs. Mutant Robots). Hell, the potential quarterfinals we could get could also be insane, like if we get Tombstone and Son of Whyachi—run. Or we could get one with an international flair between Monsoon and Minotaur. We’ll just have to see, won’t we? Onto the fights!

Oh, before that, a note: we have confirmation that Warhead was offered a spot, but as they preferred to use their spinner which no longer worked/didn’t want the dino head to get totally destroyed against a bevvy of spinners they declined. That makes me a sad panda because I love me some Warhead, as we know. Some think that considering they wanted to put on a show first and foremost that this could be it for the great Team Razer, but I’m not so sure just yet.

Now onto the fights!

(5) SawBlaze vs. (12) Monsoon

How they got here:
Both robots went 3-1 with their sole losses coming to top-tier bots—SawBlaze lost a 3-0 decision to Bronco while Monsoon got smashed in an all-out kinetic showdown with Son of Whyachi. For SawBlaze it’s a definite rebound after the decision against Razorback in Season 2 (you tell me who won this fight), while for Monsoon it’s definitely a marked improvement from Tauron in the Robot Wars reboot—Monsoon is essentially a re-skinned version of the Brewsters’ Tauron Mk III that fought in the live circuit in the UK after Mk I and Mk II were both eliminated in the first round of competition. A British robot has never won at BattleBots, though Razer won the heavyweight rumble at Long Beach ’99. SawBlaze is probably at this point in the discussion for best saw bot in BattleBots history, though I think it would need to make a bit of a run before definitively giving the nod over S.O.B.. Interestingly enough both S.O.B. during its magical Season 5 middleweight run and SawBlaze this season lost to Inertia Labs bots—S.O.B. lost to T-Minus in the championship, while SawBlaze lost to Bronco in their fourth fight.

As for the fight…
SawBlaze had their trident setup on, surprisingly. Against a big vertical bar such as Monsoon I would’ve expected that we finally would have seen the plow attachment, which we swear does exist—here’s a picture of the plow from Maker Faire NYC that I was unable to go to because I had gigs that weekend. (If anyone at BattleBots is reading this—cue Ron Howard “They aren’t”—once again, do you need or want a violinist for Season 4? I’ll play, I can get a bigger group of people to play—I will definitely nerd out in the pits.) Where was I?

Oh yeah. Also interestingly SawBlaze cam in with full box rush rather than try to outflank Monsoon. And it led to a bit of an impasse in that opening exchange, because Monsoon wasn’t getting that big uppercut shot but it was dealing sparks to SawBlaze, but SawBlaze was taking the sparks and pushing Monsoon back. So it was an interesting power vs. power moment, and it was curious to see how it would play out. the drive power on SawBlaze vs. the weapon power on Monsoon. I’d say the drive power was winning strictly due to Monsoon’s bar not being able to get up to full speed, but three minutes is a long time for status quo.

Believe it or not it was Jamison Go who made the first real driving mistake of the fight because somehow Monsoon was able to spin away to SawBlaze’s back, taking out one of the double tires on the right side and also hitting and possibly damaging the saw arm. It must have done something as SawBlaze finally got a chance to ram Monsoon into the wall weapon-first. It was quick thinking by whichever member of Monsoon controls the weapon to turn the weapon motor off before that happened—if the motor’s on, that’s how the weapon motor fries, but since it’s off, sure, the momentum’s gone but the weapon motor’s not fighting against a giant thing of whatever the side rails are made of, probably insanely thick steel. This means that as SawBlaze pinned, but could not bring the weapon arm to purchase on Monsoon, basically the point where you go “aw fuck, we’re screwed” if you’re on the team. With this Monsoon knew they were in good shape, but it didn’t hurt that after they got off the wall they took out one of the other side’s tires, and then the other right tire, meaning that SawBlaze was down to one good wheel. And they were still mobile, believe it or not, but less so after Monsoon got one last shot in, knocking off a dragon head on the saw arm and jamming that remaining wheel, which meant SawBlaze was out. Lucky for them there were about five seconds on the clock so it went to the judges, but it was a formality. Monsoon wins by unanimous decision and moves onto the quarterfinals.

(1) Tombstone vs. (16) Bombshell

How they got here:
In two very different ways. Let’s do the simpler one first: Tombstone went 4-0 with 4 KOs, beating Minotaur, Gigabyte, Whiplash, and DUCK!, earning its third straight top seed. And considering it’s made the last two finals, so far that top seed’s been well defended. Meanwhile, Bombshell’s gone from wild card to contender, back to complete wild card. After last year’s wild card run Bombshell earned itself a dance card against top-tier bots in the forms of Lock-Jaw, Bronco, Yeti, and Bite Force. All four are in the tournament. Lock-Jaw’s the lowest seed of the four, and it’s 9th. Anyway, Bombshell lost all four fights, but ended up in the Last Chance Rumble, where it eked out a controversial last-second unanimous decision via the rumble rules being different for count-outs. People were a bit salty on the ol’ Intarwebz.

As for the fight…
Well, first things first, obviously. This is a rematch of the 2016 championship. We know how it went, but just in case:

Bombshell isn’t modular this time, but the wedge and vertical disk was a spinner killer in its run (granted it was more of a drum killer), and that’s what the Chaos Corps doubled down on. Except the wedge is bigger, and if RoboGames has taught us anything, Tombstone (fine, Last Rites) can be beaten by a really good wedge or a really strong plow—I mean we saw it for about 2 1/2 minutes with Tombstone against BETA until the hammer got hit. So the Tombstones of the world were in Mike Jeffries’s mind with the rebuild, yes. The wedge has been scuffed to hell, but if it’s the same one that Gigabyte went after than that’s totally understandable.

The two met in the center of the box, because of course, and as you’d expect the wedge sent Tombstone flying. This was going okay for Bombshell which could move and go at Tombstone from the side, and instead of going for the wheels like everyone seems to do, then Ray Billings comes and turns on a dime and slices your robot from the side, they went after the weapon mounting and more importantly chain, already slackened to hell thanks to how Tombstone’s frame shortens during an event (source: Ray Billings). So Bombshell was getting into the weapon radius, and took another big shot.

And it was mission accomplished. Both bots went flying and there was a weapon chain on the floor, and that was Tombstone’s weapon chain that Bombshell had finally gotten in the second go-around. (They put a half link in, and that’s where it sheared, naturally. Bombshell’s belt had also slipped off, but with the big horizontal bar a non-factor it was a pushing match, and that gave Bombshell the advantage, as it uded the wedge to push and flip Tombstone, then pushing it into the wall.

Tombstone drove out of the corner fine and tried to ram Bombshell, but that weapon chain reared its head again, as after getting other robots stuck on things it was suddenly Tombstone’s turn to be the unlucky one, as it was high-centered, stuck on its own weapon chain, unable to move. Which was all the better for Bombshell which was faintly smoking. But not moving loses to smoking.

Down goes Tombstone! Down goes Tombstone! Bombshell gets revenge with a KO in 1:57, and the Mt. Rushmore of BattleBots champions able to successfully defend the crown—Minion, Vlad the Impaler, Hazard, and BioHazard—will not have a fifth join them this year. Ray did hint at a whiteboard fight during the finale, that he said was pretty awesome, if it’s real. Wink wink.

Meanwhile, it’s been a banner year for 16 seeds, right?

I can no longer find the tweet, which is unfortunate. That is a solid tweet. Also yes I use military time, I like the numbers.

(8) Son of Whyachi vs. (9) Lock-Jaw

How they got here:
For an 8-9 matchup, these two robots got here in totally different ways. After losing its opener to Brutus, Son of Whyachi went 3-1 with KOs over Lucky, Monsoon, and End Game, and doing serious damage to all three. Meanwhile, after winning its first fight, Lock-Jaw was sitting at 1-2 before the Desperado tournament, until it strolled in and took the automatic bid the tourney offered by beating Kraken, Valkyrie, and Lucky. In all their time it looks like the only time these two teams fought was the 2004 NPC Charity Open where middleweights Easty Beast and Red Square fought, with Whyachi’s Red Square getting the win. But Son of Whyachi never fought Tazbot or Diesector in the halcyon days. Between these two teams there are, lessee, four one-on-one championships (two for Diesector, one for Karcas 2, one for Son of Whyachi), plus whatever rumble wins. That’s how they say Donald Hutson has six Giant Nuts, because of the rumbles and the awards for Best Driver with Diesector and Coolest Robot with Tazbot. I mean, it’s an accomplishment, but it is not the championship. It’s still really fucking impressive and what have I done in the world of combat robotics again? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

As for the fight…
Well, this was the Discovery highlighted fight, so it was the Science Channel exclusive. Lock-Jaw had on the plow that we saw was so effective against Valkyrie, except Son of Whyachi hits harder. And Son of Whyachi actually got up to speed at the beginning, as Donald Hutson deemed it unwise to box rush, so it turned around and started leading with the plow. And the plow absolutely worked, sending Son of Whyachi spinning, flying, whatevering, all around the arena.

In the moments while Son of Whyachi was reeling and tried to get back to spinning, Lock-Jaw tried to see if it could get a hit on the overhead spinner, but the time it took to turn around was spin-up time for Son of Whyachi, which meant that Lock-Jaw turned back around to jam up the weapon. And after a minute or so, they were successful, as there was heavy smoke coming out of Son of Whyachi, and that was the weapon motor. So this meant Lock-Jaw could come and use the front spinner to attack.

Crazy enough, Lock-Jaw couldn’t get its lone lifting fork under, which meant that the disks couldn’t do the damage that they ought to have done. And if anything Son of Whyachi was pushing Lock-Jaw around a little bit as they went back and forth. There were some sparks but it was mostly a stalemate. It went to the judges, who gave the unanimous decision to Lock-Jaw.

(4) Minotaur vs. (13) Witch Doctor

How they got here:
Both robots lost their opening fight to robots that would later end up in the tournament—Minotaur lost that insta-classic to Tombstone, while Witch Doctor lost to Yeti. After that they followed similar enough paths, as both robots won their last three fights, neither could KO Blacksmith, which is absolutely a sturdy bot so it’s understandable, but especially needing KOs in their final fights, they got them. Like Great Britain, a robot from Brazil has never won a BattleBots championship—as I mentioned last week or so, the only foreign robot to do so was Canadian Derek Young’s Son of Smashy at Long Beach ’99. Meanwhile as they mention from time to time, no woman has captained a BattleBots team to a title, which is what Andrea Suarez could do with Witch Doctor.

As for the fight…
Well both robots did a lot in the pit, but with Witch Doctor it was totally formulating new stuff, like coming up with a new wedge/plow so their spinning disk could stick out more. Meanwhile with Minotaur it’s a bit spiffier than its final Fight Night appearance. For one, that’s a new drum on it, which since it’s win or go home from here on out they’re planning on revving up. And with Tombstone out of the picture they’d be guaranteed to be the higher seed from now until the finals, if that means anything. (Not really.)

The two robots met in the center, weapon to weapon, and it was Minotaur pushing Witch Doctor back. Minotaur’s just so compact and powerful, and it didn’t help that it seemed like Witch Doctor’s plow got pushed back on one side enough to bend a wheel, limiting putting power down. Then Minotaur clipped the wheel off, the front right.

This then somewhat repeated as the two bots went nose to nose until Witch Doctor lost the front left. Well at this point you figure Minotaur’s going to try and get to the back and do what they did against Bronco. And that was a success, as they did that, took out the other two wheels and/or tires, somehow sent Witch Doctor bouncing off a pulverizer, which was coming back up, and tore a hole in the back of Witch Doctor, which started smoking as apparently that hole damaged a speed controller. Granted, you can’t go anywhere anyway without any wheels. Minotaur wins by KO in 1:39 and faces Monsoon in the quarters.

So that does it for this side’s first round. The quarters:

(16) Bombshell vs. (9) Lock-Jaw

I like how everyone was excited for Tombstone vs. Son of Whyachi for this quarterfinal, self included. Think of the kinetic energy being dissipated! It would be a lot, in the realm of shit-tons, if not fuck-tons. So naturally, both robots get taken out and instead we get Bombshell and Lock-Jaw. Well, to borrow from the inimitable John Sterling, “It is high, it is far, it is caught a step from the warning track” “That’s BattleBots, Suzyn.”

The interesting thing about this fight is that it’s actually a rematch from earlier this season. Bombshell vs. Lock-Jaw was the first fight for each of these robots, which Lock-Jaw won by KO after flipping Bombshell not once, but twice, helping it back onto its wheels to do the exact same thing a second time.

And guess what! It happened a third time, too! No, seriously. The first hit, Lock-Jaw was able to get its forks under Bombshell’s wedge, which the replay showed in glorious slo-mo, and using the combination of the lifting arms and the vertical disks sent Bombshell flipping over. And this time it started smoking too, as apparently one of the drive ESCs caught fire. So one hit, and just like that, Lock-Jaw wins by KO in a whopping 36 seconds, joining Tazbot, Diesector, and Karcas 2 as Mutant Robots robots to make the semifinals (Tazbot in Season 4, Diesector did it four times including two super heavyweight championships, and Karcas 2 when it won the 2004 NPC Charity Open heavyweight division). I’m fairly sure this makes Mutant Robots the second or third team to have four different robots make BattleBots semis—Inertia Labs has four as well (Rhino, Toro, T-Minus, and Bronco), and it depends on what you want to call Alpha/Beta/Gamma Raptor regarding Team Raptor since they’re just each remodeled version of the same robot (plus Carnage Raptor and Ghost Raptor), in which case they have either three or five.

As for Bombshell, they survive and beat Tombstone only to get KOed in one hit by Lock-Jaw in the next fight. Once again, that’s BattleBots, Suzyn.

I also want to note that Mike Jeffries, captain of the Chaos Corps, will be stepping down as captain and stepping away from combat robotics completely for an indefinite time as he recovers from Bell’s Palsy. I wish him a speedy recovery, and hopefully some day soon we can see him back doing what he loves.

(4) Minotaur vs. (12) Monsoon

We are guaranteed to have a robot from outside the United States in the BattleBots semifinals for the first time since, well, Minotaur last season. But there will be a robot representing the rest of the world in the semis no matter what, that much is assured. Whether it’s the British bar spinner or the Brazilian Bull, we’ll see.

Crazy enough, both robots want weapon to weapon showdowns in this fight. And according to Marco Meggiolaro, the RioBotz captain, the vertical bar has the weapon advantage over their drum, which I think we saw to an extent in last season’s Bombshell taking down the two drum spinners Poison Arrow and Minotaur. There’s a kind of weapon triangle between horizontal spinners, vertical spinners, and drums—I can’t call it rock-paper-scissors because there’s an advantage but it isn’t an automatic win after all.

I can’t find just spinners and their advantages, but here’s the full version of advantages and disadvantages, according to the RioBotz Combat Tutorial. The book is 367 pages, and available online here. Yeah, when they said Marco Meggiolaro wrote the book on combat robotics, they meant it.

Minotaur was able to get under when the two robots met nose to nose, and they were quickly able to flip Monsoon over. Monsoon’s weapon can pivot but it’s still less than ideal, showing your back to Minotaur’s never an excellent option unless it’s meant to be a plow.

After getting under a second time, Minotaur was able to drive Monsoon around to boot, driving it into the wall, and somehow getting Monsoon stuck sideways on the rail, with the spinning bar wedged against the ground. Monsoon was stuck in an impressively precarious position, and as that familiar death hum that is Minotaur’s drum started revving Tom Brewster tried to call out to have Minotaur hit it again to knock it off from its perch. But Minotaur was fine letting Monsoon stay wedged, letting sleeping dogs lie and setting their sights on the semis. Minotaur wins by KO in a minute, setting up one semifinal as Minotaur vs. Lock-Jaw.

Coming up tomorrow is the other side of the bracket, so let’s look at those match-ups.

(2) Bronco vs. (15) WAR Hawk
I imagine Bronco will return with its anti-vertical pwangers, the ski-tipped armor that we’ve seen them use a whole bunch of times this season. And obviously if they’re 4-0 it’s been so far so good with those. And WAR Hawk’s had some issues with self-righting, so I think as long as Bronco’s working fine they should take this one. But then again, Bombshell beat Tombstone so take everything with precaution.

(7) Yeti vs. (10) Whiplash
This kinda makes me think of the Yeti–Petunia fight, where Whiplash can try and attack Yeti from the top. Of course, it didn’t work so well for Petunia as Yeti smashed through it. But I think this’ll be a really good fight, and it could go either way, maybe just depending on who gets that advantage first.

(6) Icewave vs. (11) RotatoR
This is another interesting one, and I think that whether RotatoR can pull off the upset depends on just how high that top weapon is (I believe they’d go with the bars instead of the disks). We know that it’s higher than Icewave’s bar since it was able to do damage to Skorpios where Icewave could not. But is it high enough that it can get a shot on the engine?

(3) Bite Force vs. (14) HUGE
We learned that HUGE does not like facing spinning bars—I actually think they’d fare okay against Son of Whyachi depending on where the hammer is when the weapon arm makes impact. But I’m curious about how it’ll fare against the compact vertical spinner bots—I like Bite Force to win the fight and I think it has the power to do damage to the wheels, even if not to the extent of Icewave due to having less of an attack radius.

So with that, by this time next week we’ll see who these final fearsome four are, and handicapping those final fights. See you next week!

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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Senor WeaseloLow Commander of the Super SoldiersMoose -The End Is Well Nigh Recent comment authors
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Low Commander of the Super Soldiers

I really hate that Bombshell lost every single match they played in this year, but still got included in a chance for the playoffs in some random rumble. It’d be like the 2017 Browns making the playoffs because all the other AFC wild card contending team’s planes crashed into each other.

And apparently I missed all of those Science Channel fights. So that’s cool.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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