BattleBots 2020: Episode 12 in Review

Good afternoon, evening, whenever you’re reading, my dear comrades, and a warm welcome to the only review of the latest episode of BattleBots that really matters – this one! At least that’s why I hope you’re here. Thursday night’s episode offered us so many thrills, spills, and distinct lack of drills (R.I.P. Rusty), and now we, as unqualified fans, get to critique the sh*t out of it for our own amusement. Hot-dang I love this sport.

Instead of going to finish my beetle, join me on an adventure through the gargantuan tussles of the other day, including Mammoth swatting away the third seeds Copperhead, the second seeds Bloodsport sporting their self-proclaimed most-powerful bar configuration, and a real clash of the titans between Skorpios and Witch Doctor, making them both appear normal-sized. There’s all to play for, and only an hour and a half to play it in.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s dive straight in. 

Lockjaw (14) vs Shatter (19)

Even though we’re starting off the episode with a massive L on the predictions front, I’m just happy I guessed Lockjaw’s strategy to a tee. Extra armour on top, forks round the side, Bob’s your uncle. Except I hadn’t factored in two key variables – that Shatter would arm itself with front forks of its own, and that Lockjaw’s extra armour would be completely f*cking useless.

For lack of a better word, Shatter, well, it shattered the extra layer of lexan that Lockjaw had put on its top, landing blow after blow as little bits of plastic went flying through the air. Lockjaw never really got going in all honesty, failing to land a good shot of its own, and somehow managed to end up killing its spinner by gyroing itself over, being left on its back in a big ball of flame, in true Lockjaw fashion. Another final shot to its underbelly was the final nail in the coffin for Donald Hutson, who ends up outside the top 16 for the first time in four years.

Full credit to Adam Wrigley and Shatter though, a virtuoso display of driving against a bonafide legend, and ensures that we won’t just be watching another celebration of spinners come the top 16.

Lockjaw’s so plastic they may as well be one of my exes

Jackpot (11) vs Rotator (22)

Poor Jackpot. After a 3-0 regular season that saw victories over some top quality opposition, they really deserved better than an eleventh-placed seeding and a fight against one of the best spinners in the whole competition. But, just their luck, so be the universe, that’s what they got.

I thought it was a bit harsh of Chris and Kenny for judging Jackpot’s strategy of adding the wedge to the back of the bot, because, well, what else would you do against a bot like Rotator? That blade just doesn’t stop spinning, so taking the ol’ Beta approach of stalling it with the wedge before getting to work with its weapon makes perfect sense to me. And, unlike Beta, they actually used their weapon! The wedge worked a treat for the opening part of the fight, Jackpot picking up Victor Soto’s bot and shoving it into the wall, before landing some massive shots of its own.

Sadly, Jackpot’s high ground clearance proved to be its own worst enemy, much as I thought it might turn out to be. Rotator recovered from those early hits to lay into the front wheels of Jeff Waters’ bot, leaving it sluggish and lumbering, before Rotator finished things off with a massive hit of its own, with Jackpot finishing the fight upside down in the corner.

KER-CHING!

A result I didn’t really have too many doubts about, but it’s nonetheless sad to see things end this way for the team from Vegas. They’ve captured many a heart with their cost-cutting approach, love of their home, and overall spectacular showings. Even though it’s Rotator who advances, Jackpot is still one of the real winners of the season.

End Game (6) vs Perfect Phoenix (27)

There will come a time when Tyler Nguyen, the eleven-year-old driver of Perfect Phoenix with the one and only Ray Billings at his side, lifts the Giant Nut with some sort of insane death machine that he has conjured up over the course of the next few years. For now, this is the ultimate learning experience.

Perfect Phoenix had a decent regular season, but the reality of the situation is that it’s a bot that’s almost as old as the boy driving it, and has undergone minimal upgrades since its glory days of circa 2009. It never really stood much of a chance against End Game, which has looked vastly improved this season, and the fight went almost exactly as I’d anticipated. A slightly cagey start, before a huge shot from End Game that sent Perfect Phoenix hurtling towards Chris and Kenny, probably leaving them seeing their lives flash before their eyes. A couple more shots and the Phoenix did the exact opposite of rising from the ashes, turned upside down on the screws

Another quick KO for the New Zealanders this season, meaning they’ve now beaten both Ray Billings and his protegé. Perfect Phoenix’s run, meanwhile, comes to an end, but has left a lasting impression on us, the twenty-somethings who have nothing better to do than complain about fighting robots on the internet, leaving us to think about what exactly it is we’re doing with our lives.

What you can’t see here is Chris and Kenny evacuating their booth

Copperhead (3) vs Mammoth (30)

AN UPSET! AN ACTUAL UPSET!

For all my knockings of how the bracket is set-up, which I still completely stand by, we’ve just seen the number three seed being knocked out by the number thirty seed. What a moment, and it’s a completely deserved win as well. Despite taking damage from the awesome drum spinner of Copperhead, Mammoth came back storming to toss Zach Goff’s bot all about the ring, rendering said drum a non-factor for much of the fight, and claiming a win on a split decision.

I understand why the outcome might be controversial, seeing it’s debatable as to whether Mammoth actually caused any damage to Copperhead. Conversely, Copperhead took out Mammoth’s forks, caused damage to one of their wheels, and, if you look closely, actually snapped one of the bars on their spinner/lifter. This is actually something Rob Cowan has covered in his latest post-fight deep-dive, and can explain what happened to Copperhead way better than I can, him being on the team and all. But for now, we can savour the most unlikely of wins, as Mammoth moves on to the top 16 to fight Shatter, something I never thought I’d be saying this season. Seeing Ricky’s emotion at the end of the fight was something else as well. He looked like a guy who’d been up all night getting his bot ready for one of the biggest mismatches in the whole bracket, and then he only went and won the fight. His emotion made me emotional, which, if you knew me, isn’t an easy thing.

This is why we love BattleBots.

Images that make Mammoth look anime

SawBlaze (7) vs Kraken (26)

I honestly feel so bad for Matt Spurk and Kraken this season. They’ve had a truly punishing schedule against some of the best robots in the field. For them to then be “rewarded” with a 26th placed seeding and a fight against none other than SawBlaze, well I’d almost be tempted to break down the doors of the production team if that happened to me.

In all honesty it was a fight that Kraken never looked likely to win, and from the get-go SawBlaze was able to dictate the pace of the fight and land some big shots to the top of the sea beast. Kraken’s best moment was definitely when they were able to get a bite down on the hammer-saw, whether by luck or judgement, and drag their opponent around the box. However, after a clear case of “nice editing bro”, the two were separated, and Kraken lost a wheel. A fairly innocuous hit revealed to be a complete decapitation of its left wheel, and fro m then on it was SawBlaze’s fight to lose, even if their weapon gave in after the hit. They were still able to shove Kraken about the box, which somehow made it to the buzzer, though the judges’ decision inevitably went the way of Go and co.

So, Kraken’s brutal run ends in the round of 32, but they can still take solace in how many fans they’ve endeared themselves to with their love of robot fighting, and never-say-die attitude toward even the toughest of opponents. For SawBlaze, it’s an expected place in the top 16, and another run at the Giant Nut is to be expected.

As Jonathan Pearce would say, “Kraken has been… re-tired!”

Bloodsport (2) vs Gruff (31)

I mean, I don’t even know where to begin with this fight. The second seeds against the thirty-first, but another battle of two top-tier bots, one that some were having a hard time calling. I don’t think anyone could’ve guessed how it transpired, though.

If anyone guessed that Bloodsport’s bar, supposedly their strongest configuration they were rocking, was going to break upon first contact with Gruff, well done, your psychic abilities are well beyond comprehension. Because that’s exactly what happened, and from then on, it looked as though it was Gruff’s fight for the taking. However, the team were clearly a little bit premature with the celebrations, because Gruff began struggling with its drive for the rest of the fight, as we’ve seen more than once this season. They managed to get the flame going a couple of times, with minimal effect, and the most notable thing they did was destroy the BattleBots sign, which sadly doesn’t contribute toward damage points.

Because of Gruff’s drive issues, Bloodsport was able to push them around the box and control the fight, ultimately winning a tight split decision – so tight that the judges needed to clarify their decision at the end of the fight. I personally think it was the right decision, since Gruff’s drive appeared to falter after a slam from Bloodsport, rendering it semi-useless for the rest of the fight and giving Justin Marple’s bot some crucial damage points, on top of its clear control and aggression points. 

You can actually pinpoint the second that the bar rips in half

So Bloodsport doesn’t so much storm on to the top 16, more a gentle meander, but the important thing is that it’s through to face the winner of the next fight. As for Gruff, hopefully they’ll be back next year with a new and improved drive system, ready to roast some smores for Chris and Kenny.

Fusion (15) vs Tantrum (18)

If there was any proof needed that these two bots rankings are bogus, it’s this fight. How Fusion managed to nab itself the fifteenth spot ahead of Tantrum, a bot that’s dominated every one of its fights up to this point, is beyond me. Safe to say I’m pretty glad how the fight panned out.

Tantrum was all over Fusion from the start, landing a nice punch to Fusion’s side, though a heavy weapon-to-weapon exchange left Aren Hill’s bot unable to punch for the rest of the fight, knocking the drum at an angle. Still, they kept at it and tried to kill the weapon of the Whyachi clan, staying tight to them regardless of how much damage they were going to take. Lucky for them, as it was starting to look as though they were having drive issues (much to my disdain), Fusion hurtled its way on top of Tantrum and literally exploded. Like, there was a big fiery flash and all of a sudden its hopes were over. The humiliation of being counted out whilst on fire and being carried around the arena on top of your opponent isn’t something you probably experience very often, but it was one of the moments of the season. To clarify, I don’t have anything against Fusion, but Tantrum has had the better season and deserves its spot in the top 16.

An intriguing tie against Bloodsport awaits for everyone’s favourite little orange bot in the next round. For Fusion, maybe time to go back to the pits and sort out the mild issue of self-combustion. 

when you find the exact frame to make it look so much more dramatic

Skorpios (10) vs Witch Doctor (23)

Finishing out the episode, and the top 32 for that matter, is the, as the two teams have billed it, “double date” fight. The Gellatlys and Witch Doctor, Zach and Diana with Skorpios, fighting for the title of who is the most wholesome pairing, for this year at least. 

Realistically, Witch Doctor totally dominated the fight, and that always looked the most likelyoutcome of the fight. But f*ck me, Skorpios can take a hit. After three minutes of ramming itself headfirst into Witch Doctor’s weapon, especially after having to put itself back together after the fights against Bloodsport and Tombstone, how it came away almost completely unscathed (or so it looked), is beyond me. The main issue was the weapon going down early on, meaning it couldn’t really do anything to counteract the hits it was taking to its front. It did flip Witch Doctor over at one point, but that srimech is bloody rapid. And its new weapon looks like the catalyst to spark its season into life. It was a dogged, bruising affair for both parties, but the voodoo dudes took the fight after a judges decision.

So it’s SawBlaze against Witch Doctor in the top 16, a fight we saw last season, one that Witch Doctor totally dominated. Whether it’ll be the same this year remains to be seen. As for Skorpios, it’s a tragic early exit, but at least they’ll always have that fight against Tombstone.

This image shows Skorpios entering the fifth dimension

And that just about rounds up the top 32, and this article subsequently comes to a close. Two cracking episodes, sixteen awesome fights, some unprecedented upsets, some truly awesome performances, another eight mouth-watering ties to look forward to next week. SawBlaze vs Witch Doctor, Black Dragon vs Tombstone, a surprise appearance from Mammoth, and Hydra’s latest ungodly attachment to keep Gigabyte at bay. May God have mercy on us all, and if you don’t see a review of it from me, it’s because my heart will have given out due to anger/excitement/confusion/all of the above. If not, then stay tuned for a write-up of whatever sh*thousery comes our way.

Thanks for reading, comrades, and I hope you all have an awesome day.

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