BattleBots 2020: Predicting the Whole Tournament

As I’ve mentioned several times previously, this 2020 season of BattleBots is going to be the most unpredictable on record. So many teams missing, so many newcomers, so much room for shocks, upsets and Cinderella stories, all in a big 32-way knockout bracket to cap it all off. So why have I decided to sit down and try and predict the entire tournament? That’s a really great question.

For this to work, it means I have to attempt to predict which of the 32 competing teams will make it in to the Championship bracket, and I don’t even know if there’ll be any Desperado Tournament, any qualifying rumbles, and I haven’t even seen half of the bots in action, meaning I’m essentially basing my predictions on their look, and what I’ve seen on the internet. It’s almost like Tinder for robots.

I’m also not sure what structure the bracket will take, but I’m going to assume it’s the one that’s been taken in every series of the reboot, whereby the top-ranked bot meets the lowest ranked (i.e. 1 vs. 16), and we work our way inwards from there. It will essentially be based on the seeding bracket for the 2016 championship, which also had 32 teams. Personally, I’ve found this structure to be problematic, making it easier for the big names to have an extended run in the competition. Yes, upsets can happen (see Red Devil against 3rd seeds Witch Doctor in 2016), but these are few and far between, and it’s usually the higher seeds who make it to the latter stages of the bracket. This is why I personally advocate for the battles to go from 1 vs. 17, 2 vs. 18, and so on. Regardless, that’s what we’ll be rolling with here, and it also means I have to rank these 32 bots on the basis of their hypothetical performances in the undercard matches, and I don’t even know who they’ll be facing. Essentially, this will be a hot mess from start to finish.

First up, and apologies to any competing teams who happen to be reading this, here is my selection of bots who I don’t think will get near to the knockout tournament.

The No-Hopers

So in this section, my sincerest apologies go out to the teams of; Axe Backwards, Bale Spear, Black Widow, Captain Shrederator, Chronos, Extinguisher, Gemini, Ghost Raptor, Grabot, Mad Catter, P1, Rampage, Rusty, Sharko, SMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, and Tantrum.

Now, it goes without saying that none of these bots are, or look, inherently bad. They’re all fine pieces of engineering in their own right, so allow me to explain why I don’t think they’ll put up much of a challenge for the Giant Nut.

First up, I guess I’ll start with the returning bots. Robots such as Axe Backwards, Gemini, Chronos, Extinguisher, and P1 all appeared last year without making much of an impact, and it doesn’t really look as though any of them have made significant improvements or upgrades that will change this. I suppose Gemini has had a small redesign, but it still looks pretty much the same as it has done for the previous two seasons. 

Bale Spear is also back, but somehow its weapon looks even less effective than it did in 2018, so I’m not holding out much hope for its chances here. Tantrum looks as though it might improve on its showing from last season, and it’s probably still as compact and durable as before, but I can’t see it making it to the top 32. And as much as I love that Mad Catter and Sharko are coming back, and as much as I love the zany antics of Martin Mason and Ed Robinson, while I think both these teams are going to give us plenty of entertainment, I don’t think they’ll be making enough of an impact to advance that far.

Please don’t hurt me for my bad opinions

You might also think that I’m a bit crazy for sticking Captain Shrederator and Ghost Raptor in this section. You’re right in thinking I’m a bit crazy, but I swear there’s method to the madness here. Both these teams have over twenty years experience to their names and both have had impressive runs in prior competitions. However, I feel that with Captain Shrederator, there’s a tendency to base its capability on its 2016 battle against Death Roll, as well as Brain Nave’s impressive reputation, but for a bot that’s fought in every season of the reboot, you’d think it would have a better record than 2-9. It’s got power in it for sure, but it just seems to get more and more unreliable each year, and with it looking like the team haven’t done that much to upgrade it (externally at least), I think it will suffer a pretty similar fate to the ones it has before. As for Ghost Raptor, yes, it made the semi-finals in 2015, but the last time we saw it on television it was getting torn a new one by Son of Whyachi. That was four years ago now, and it doesn’t look as though a whole lot about it has changed, even with this extended period of absence. A lot has changed with regards to the show, a whole lot of awesome new bots have emerged in Ghost Raptor’s place, and I can’t really see it making much of an impact on this year’s competition. Prove me wrong, though.

When your career highlight came five years ago

As for the newcomers, I don’t want to sound completely pessimistic about their chances, but I don’t really know what else to say about them. Black Widow’s design looks awesome, there’s no question about that, but the weapon doesn’t look very powerful to me, and the rest of the bot looks pretty open to attack, so I don’t know about its chances. Rampage looks like it might have a potentially powerful weapon on it, but the robot itself looks way out of proportion and looks like it could possibly break apart. As for Grabot and SMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, I think it’s great that we’re seeing new types of weaponry at the tournament, but I have a lot of questions about how effective they’ll be. I’m sure it’ll still be great to see them in action, though.

And Rusty. Yes, Rusty is fantastic. Rusty is what we needed this year. Rusty is my new best friend and the new best friend of countless people across the world, bringing peace and good vibes wherever it goes. But is it going to make it to the top 32? No, it absolutely isn’t.

Long live the king

The Near-Misses

Again, at risk of offending any participating teams who are reading this, I don’t think your bots are at all bad, it’s just within my very unprofessional opinion to predict that you haven’t made it to the top 32. At least if you prove me wrong you’ll have eternal bragging rights over me, a humble internet blogger, and as for those in the ‘No-Hopers’ category, I can personally buy all of you a round for making it through. Anyhow, my sincere apologies can be extended to; Atom #94, Axolotl, Deadlift, Gamma 9, HiJinx, Kraken, Malice, Mammoth, Pain Train, SlamMow!, Slap Box, Sporkinok, Uppercut, and War? EZ!.

I guess I’ll start at the most surprising inclusion, which is probably Uppercut, a bot that made it to the top 16 in 2019 before being demolished by Bite Force. What’s one of the top bots from the previous season doing here? Well, it’s because, to be honest, I didn’t think it was that impressive. It’s victories against Mammoth and Breaker Box were a bit underwhelming, and while I admit that it looked convincing in its victory against Skorpios, it’s place in the top 16 was helped out by a bit of good fortune in its rumble against Bloodsport and Railgun MAX, which in my opinion are two superior bots. And although Bite Force is the elitist of the elite at this competition, it was noticeably out of its depth the whole battle. I think this season will catch up to Uppercut’s awkward, unstable design and see it fail to make it to the top 32, but I admit this could just be an outlandish theory I’m throwing out there, and it could easily have come back a beast of a machine that will go on a stellar run this year.

An observer of chaos

In terms of other returning bots, I’ve also picked Kraken, Gamma 9, and the mighty Mammoth. In the cases of Kraken and Mammoth it’s a bit tricky to judge, because both have proven themselves capable of winning battles in the past, and Kraken especially has a potentially fierce weapon. However, for me it’s the inconsistencies in Kraken’s performances that mean I can’t be sure it’s going to qualify for the Championship bracket, and while Mammoth is sure to put on a good show as it always does, I don’t think it’s design is strong enough to carry it through. Gamma 9 on the other hand is a bit of an enigma to me, as it didn’t have a whole lot of success when it competed in 2018, but this time out looks cool. I mean, really cool. I’ve seen people compare it to the 1960’s Batmobile and I can’t really disagree. If it’s as compact and robust as it looks, I think it will give some bots a hard time. However, I thought the same thing back in 2018, and look how that panned out. So I won’t be pinning all my hopes on it just yet. But I seriously hope I get proven wrong here.

Now for the new bots that I have no idea how good they are or not. I’ll start with HiJinx, since some people might be surprised I’ve put it here. And yes folks, I’m now aware that it is not, in fact, the successor to Battle Royale with Cheese, so that won’t be impacting my judgement here. The main reason it’s here is because I’m unconvinced as to how well its weapon will hold up to others in the competition. I’m reminded a bit of PP3D from Robot Wars, which I remember having a tendency for losing wheels and getting undone by wedges. HiJinx follows a pretty similar design, but to me looks less compact and more vulnerable to heavy impacts. The weapon certainly looks like it could pack a punch, but for now, I’ll have to be convinced.

At least it ranks no. 1 in my list of owl-themed fighting robots

For the others, I’ll try and be as terse as possible, because the bracket itself is going to take up about two thirds of this whole post. Malice looks like it has a powerful weapon on it, but also looks like it could fall apart from minimal contact. The same applies to Atom #94, but I have more faith in it to prove me wrong and make it to the top 32. Axolotl looks like its weapon is too small and too far into the robot to cause any real damage, and I think a similar argument can be made for Pain Train as well. Deadlift looks like it has an effective wedge to it, but without seeing how effective its lifter is I’m going to have to put it here for now. The same applies to Slap Box, which, from the snippet we’ve seen of it looks to have a decent weapon, but I’m not sure how effective it will be against bots of a higher calibre than Sharko. SlamMow! also looks like it could put on a good show with its suplex-weapon, but given the notorious unreliability of Craig Danby’s previous entries Foxic, Foxtrot and Predator, I can’t put it in the top 32. But who knows, maybe this will finally be his teams’ year?

There’s also War? EZ!, which reminds me too much of 2018’s overly-bouncy and uncontrollable Hypershock to convince me to put it in the top 32, and while I think there’s a lot to admire about Sporkinok, I don’t think the weapon looks strong enough to carry it through.

And now, for the nitty gritty of the piece.

The Top 32

Ok folks, this is where things get messy. I’ve selected my own personal top 32, and now I have to rank them, and come up with a bracket, with little to no information about who they’ll face or how they’ll perform in their undercard rumbles. I’ve basically just done a whole load of guesswork, basing each ranking on a mix of performance history and how effective they look for this upcoming season. Saving you all from some unnecessary ramblings, here’s the first round of fights I’ve conjured up.

Tombstone (1) vs. Big Dill (32)

Fusion (16) vs. End Game (17)

HUGE (8) vs. Perfect Phoenix (25)

Hypershock (9) vs. Valkyrie (24)

Whiplash (4) vs. SubZero (29)

Hydra (13) vs. Chomp (20)

Black Dragon (5) vs. Copperhead (28)

Son of Whyachi (12) vs. Ribbot (21)

Witch Doctor (2) vs. Claw Viper (31)

Gruff (15) vs. Bloodsport (18)

Icewave (7) vs. Skorpios (26)

Bronco (10) vs. Gigabyte (23)

SawBlaze (3) vs. Tracer (30)

Beta (14) vs. Jackpot (19)

Lockjaw (6) vs. Aegis (27)

Rotator (11) vs. Shatter (22)

Yes, I’m aware of how outlandishly wrong all this probably is, but at least when the tournament has finished airing we can all look back and have a good old laugh about how bad these predictions were. Anyway, I’ll try and explain myself the best I can, starting with the first bunch of battles;

I’m pretty sure former champ and crowd favourite Tombstone will take the no.1 seeding, unless anything wild happens during its undercard battles, meaning I’m predicting a face-off with new control bot Big Dill. I can’t imagine it being a very fair fight, but Tombstone should make it through to the last 16. There, I have a feeling it will be up against End Game, in a battle we know will already is headlining the opening episode. The New Zealanders will have tough opposition in the form of Team Whyachi’s new beast Fusion, but I think they’ll survive a close encounter to make it through.

Next up there’s HUGE, probably my personal favourite bot in the whole tournament (in the absence of DUCK!), but I think it’s going to have a decent run in the undercards and put itself in contention for a high seeding. My Top 32 bracket sees it paired against Perfect Phoenix, which, while it looks decent on paper, is a bit of an archaic robot at this point, and I think HUGE’s long bar will be too much for it. In the Top 16, I have them squaring off against Hypershock, in an epic rematch from 2019. They’ll have battled past Valkyrie in another rematch from 2019 to ensure this awesome showdown.

Da-da-da-da Da-da-da-da DA-DA-DA-DA

Starting us off in the bottom left of the bracket, we have number 4 seeds Whiplash. It was a difficult decision on who was going to occupy slots 2-4, but I think Whiplash will take fourth on account of me predicting it will lose its opening battle against SawBlaze. But more on that later. I think it will still make it into the top 16, despite the best efforts of SubZero, who has finally done enough to make it into the Championship bracket. The top 32 will be as far as it goes here though. Meeting Whiplash in the top 16 will be Chomp, meandering its way through the undercards with its mighty hammer and dealing a deadly blow to Hydra in its top 32 bout.

In a battle of two vertical drum/egg-beater spinners, fifth seeds Black Dragon prove too powerful for Copperhead, and there’s a shock as Ribbot deals a killer blow to Son of Whyachi to progress, leaving Team Whyachi with three defeats from three in this hypothetical top 32. I don’t have anything against the team or their bots at all, that’s just the luck of the draw sometimes.

People always ask Whyachi but they never ask Howachi

Moving onto the right-hand side of the bracket, and we start with last season’s runners-up, Witch Doctor, who I’ve given the number 2 seed. They should make it into the top 16 after disposing of newcomer Claw Viper, but of course there’s so much room for surprise this season. I’m setting it up with Gruff in the top 16, who will use its wedge to good effect and dispatch Bloodsport, even though it does look pretty deadly this season.

In a repeat of the infamous 2018 battle, I’m also predicting Skorpios to stun Icewave through use of skillful driving and ‘keep-Icewave-away’ technique. I do really like Icewave, but things just never seem to work out in its favour. Maybe its new paint job will help change things though. They’ll be squaring off against an improved Bronco, who I believe will use the extended bracket to their advantage for a place in the top 32, and will just about be able to overcome Gigabyte. But they have a new paint job as well, so who knows how they’ll get on.

Gigabyte leaves the ring in a past life

In the final part of the bracket, we start things off with number 3 seeds SawBlaze, who I think will bully Tracer about to secure a path into the top 16. No surprises among the top 4 in this universe. They’ll go up against Beta in the top 16, who I think will edge a close contest against Jackpot, with their hammer dealing some killer damage out. 

Sixth seeds Lockjaw, who have gone from very average to Giant Nut contenders over the course of the past five seasons find their path to the top 16 lying beyond a battle against Aegis, which I think they’ll be able to win. And finally, in a tight battle against Rotator and Shatter, I think the hammer of Shatter will have enough to make it through.

And now, the Top 16.

The Top 16

From now on I’ll try and keep all the battles in the same section, and to try and make the bracket as clear as possible. We just need to pick up the pace a bit, for those of you who have managed to make it this far.

Tombstone (1) vs. End Game (17)

HUGE (8) vs. Hypershock (9)

Whiplash (4) vs. Chomp (20)

Black Dragon (5) vs. Ribbot (21)

Witch Doctor (2) vs. Gruff (15)

Skorpios (26) vs. Bronco (10)

SawBlaze (3) vs. Beta (14)

Lockjaw (6) vs. Shatter (22)

First up is Tombstone against End Game, and in a sneak preview of my prediction of their fight in the opening episode, I think Tombstone will come out on top. End Game will definitely give them a run for their money, but Tombstone should have too much for the New Zealanders. In the quarter-finals, they’ll be facing the winners of HUGE and Hypershock, and, in another glorious repeat of 2019, I foresee HUGE coming up trumps. I think Hypershock would have the common sense not to bring a rake into the arena with it, but I personally think HUGE will still have too much for it, setting up a mouth-watering quarter-final.

*gets excited in binary*

Whiplash and Chomp square off in the next bout, and I think this is where Chomp’s run will come to an end. Whiplash is nimble, powerful, and ruthlessly effective on its day, and unless Chomp can get in an incredibly well-placed hit that takes out Whiplash’s drive entirely, I can’t see any other outcome. They’ll be going through to face Black Dragon in the quarter-finals, coming through a close encounter with surprise package Ribbot.

Witch Doctor and Gruff go squaring off against each other next, and although I reckon Gruff will put up a decent showing, it’s the drum of Witch Doctor that will be moving on to face Bronco, victorious in its respective battle against Skorpios. That just leaves SawBlaze against Beta, and Lockjaw against Shatter. To keep it brief, I think that SawBlaze and Lockjaw would both go through. I know, what a surprise.

“We came here to stop the good hits and by gum that’s exactly what we did”

The Quarter-Finals and Beyond

Tombstone (1) vs. HUGE (8)

Whiplash (4) vs. Black Dragon (5)

Witch Doctor (2) vs. Bronco (10)

SawBlaze (3) vs. Lockjaw (6)

Yes, I’m aware the lowest-ranked bot still left in here is ranked tenth, and even that’s Bronco, but to be honest, when you have a knockout bracket tailored toward the best robots making it far, that’s exactly what you get. Anyway, let’s rattle our way through this mess and see who I’m predicting to take home the Giant Nut this year.

So we have Tombstone against HUGE in our first quarter-final, and I think we can all agree that this is a match-up we’ve been longing to see for at least two years now. I think it would be one of the battles of the season, but Tombstone’s mighty bar would probably be too much for HUGE to take at the end of the day. Think Carbide vs. Gabriel from Robot Wars, but with things flying literally everywhere. They’ll be up against Whiplash or Black Dragon in the semi-finals, and I honestly have to go with Whiplash here, regardless of how close this clash would probably end up being. Black Dragon would cause no damage, no doubt about that, but I think Whiplash’s driving will just about get the better of the Brazilians. Only just.

On the other side of the bracket, Witch Doctor faces off against Bronco, and for anyone who remembers the final of the BattleBots RE:MARS competition in 2019, you’ll understand why I think Witch Doctor is going to go through here. Once again, close but no cigar for the Bronco boys. And just for the sake of mixing things up, Lockjaw beats SawBlaze in the other quarter-final. I do think either bot has a legitimate shot of winning this tie, but I think Lockjaw is more likely to get in round the sides of SawBlaze and cause damage to its wheels, ultimately sending it through.

OK wrong fight but my point still stands

Tombstone (1) vs. Whiplash (4)

Witch Doctor (2) vs. Lockjaw (6)

In robot semi-final fighting time, we have yet another battle between Tombstone and Whiplash, making it three consecutive seasons the two have squared off against each other on television. Although Tombstone has been triumphant over the last two seasons, I have faith that this is the year Whiplash overcomes Ray Billings’ mighty bot to make it through to the final. It’s been shown, especially in 2019, that a few good hits to Tombstone can shake its internals up badly, and I have a feeling Whiplash will have learned from the two previous seasons to book its place in the final. Joining Whiplash, in an epic tussle between Witch Doctor and Lockjaw, I think it’s going to be two finals in a row for Witch Doctor. 

More of the same please

So the two bots last in the alphabet are the two bots who we’ll be seeing in the final fight of the show, or so I predict. And sadly for the Witch Doctor team, I see a second successive defeat in the final. These two played out an epic clash in an undercard match in 2019, with Witch Doctor coming out on top. But, as I said about the semi-finals, I think Whiplash will have learned a lot from the previous season, improved on their driving and ability to box rush and disable destructive weaponry such as Witch Doctor’s, and I can see them wearing down the drum until they’re able to freely push Witch Doctor around the box at their mercy.

WINNER: WHIPLASH

Turns out it’s a decent bot and a decent film about drums

And there you have it folks, a long, pointless, arduous expedition through the upcoming season of BattleBots. For anyone reading this who happens to have been competing, feel free to quietly mock my delusions and take solace in the fact that, as usual, I most likely am wrong about all of this. And I really don’t mean to cause offense to you or your contraptions.

If you’ve made it to the end of this, then thorough congratulations. Remember that BattleBotsis back on Thursday 3rd December on Discovery, and remember to support the show in whatever way you can. See you for some predictions for episode one!

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