BattleBots 2020: Episode 13 in Review

Good afternoon, evening, whenever you’re reading my dear comrades, and welcome to the penultimate write-up of the season. I know, just as we were given something to live for with some robot-fighting goodness,it suddenly comes to and end, and we’re left to squat in existential dread waiting for the announcement that season six will indeed happen. It’s not like we could watch old episodes of BattleBots or Robot Wars or even Robotica, and it’s not like we could tune into a live event like Norwalk Havoc, or catch up on Bugglebots in the meantime. Nope, we need new BattleBots, and we need it now.

Anyway, that tangent aside, what an episode we had last week! So many surprises, so much action, enough to keep me awake until about 4am in the morning questioning what I’d just witnessed. Obviously for those of us playing the predictions game it was a bit of a nightmare, but in a world of uncertainty and unpredictability, it’s actually thrown us a treat for once. I know I’ve needed a day or two to digest things and really think about what happened, and I feel just about ready to share my views on the top 16 with the world.

Without much further ado then, let’s hop right into it.

SawBlaze (7) vs Witch Doctor (23)

The top 16 kicked us off with the only fight I decided to flip-flop over and ignore my gut instinct for straight facts and logic, as the seventh seeds SawBlaze sought revenge over the team that ended their Giant Nut hopes last season, Witch Doctor. 

The logic I threw forwards was that because SawBlaze were going with the same three-prong set-up that cost them dearly last time they faced off against the voodoo gang, instead of a dustpan setup that I feel would’ve seen them scoop up Witch Doctor and dominate it all over the box. Sadly, I was put resoundingly in my place, as someone yet to even start on their beetle, let alone finish it.

Even if Witch Doctor landed a fewgood hits to SawBlaze, and gave us the impression this was going to be a real back-and-forth affair, whatever they did to their three-prong to make it some sort of ground-scraping god, it worked a treat for them. Even without my incredible suggestions they got right under the Gellatly’s bot time after time and wailed on them with the hammer saw before the inevitable – Witch Doctor went up in smoke, and their hopes of making the top eight were over. They lost a front wedge, lost their weapon, lost any hope they had of a place in the top eight.

I don’t think that wedge is supposed to be there, Chris

And so, for the second season running, SawBlaze finds itself in the quarter-finals, but this time looks in a great position to go for gold and win the whole thing. For last year’s runners-up, however, we still have a Bounty Hunters episode to look forward to, but that’s the end of their hopes of going one step further. What a fight to end with, though.

Uppercut (4) vs Ribbot (20)

I’ve watched this fight like five times now and I’m still at a loss as to what happened. Like what even was this fight?

All I can really say about it is that Ribbot ended this match missing two wheels, its entire top plate, massive chunks of armour, and was also down a weapon. Uppercut, on the whole, looked relatively unscathed, barring its front wedge, and even took out parts of the arena wall as well as demolishing Ribbot. And yet, here we are, with Uppercut out of the competition, breaking down after all those big hits. It looked as though something was knocked loose when the two of them were going at it over by the pulverizer, but even so, Ribbot had no right to still be working looking the way it did. But, by hook or by crook, the twentieth seeds find themselves in the quarter-finals, and have sent one of the most powerful spinners in the competition panicking.

I share the same feeling as Madeline from the HiJinx team did when I saw Uppercut being counted out. So much to digest from this, but still, what a fight, what an upset.

Literally how

Bloodsport (2) vs Tantrum (18)

Three fights in and I’m already at 0-3 on the predictions. May the Lord have mercy on me for the rest of the episode. 

This was the one I was most confident on as well. Bloodsport, seeded second and looking near-unstoppable, against the plucky underdog Tantrum, on paper it didn’t look like much of a contest, even if Tantrum is one of the most durable and most-improved bots we’ve seen this season. In another case of “oh, how wrong I was”, Aren Hill’s lil’ orange brick controlled this fight from beginning to end. Taking the Gruff approach of “whack some steel on the front and hope for the best”, they absorbed everything Bloodsport threw at them, and even though they couldn’t take full advantage with their weapon being down for most of the fight, Tantrum still slammed Bloodsport into every available hazard, doing some serious damage in the process. Even though Justin Marple was the one with the functioning weapon at the end of the fight, it didn’t show. Bloodsport had lost its wedgelets, a wheel, and had its srimech bent all out of shape by the pulverizer. Tantrum looked pretty much the same.

So, in another stunning turn of events, Tantrum moves on to the quarter-finals, and we see the third of the top four seeds get knocked out before the top eight even begins. As if this bracket couldn’t get any more broken.

My new laptop wallpaper

Hydra (1) vs Gigabyte (17)

At last, a correct prediction! And it only took the number one seed to get us there!

Making sure we have at least one of the top four seeds in the quarter-finals this season, Hydra, fortunately not bearing its anti-Gigabyte bike rack attachment, turned in yet another virtuoso performance against everyone’s favourite full-body spinner that’s going through a bit of an emo phase. In fact, Hydra just seems to keep getting better with every fight, and the big steel wedges it actually attached to its front worked an absolute treat, flicking Gigabyte up into the air before launching them into orbit. Much like the Hypershock fight, another thirteen flips were dished out, and a Gigabyte drive belt was lost, as well as their weapon by the end. Also that pinball shot was f*cking glorious. 

Even though this is arguably the best Gigabyte has looked since its first appearance on BattleBots, Hydra was just completely dominant throughout the fight, never giving them an inch to work with, save for a couple of shots. Hydra moves on to the quarters, marking an improvement form last year and looking in really good stead for a shot at the Giant Nut. As for Gigabyte, here’s hoping they carry their momentum from this season into next.

Gigabyte in the upside down

Black Dragon (5) vs Tombstone (21)

I’ve never seen a bot make such good progress after being so spectacularly unremarkable than Black Dragon this season. Don’t get me wrong, they won me over last season with their aggressive driving and awesome egg-beater, but the fact they’ve looked so off-pace for most of the season and are still making it through to the quarter-finals is beyond me.

I should say that Black Dragon set up much as I expected them to, looking to take out Tombstone’s bar with their wedge. They did exactly that, but kept sort of nudging their wedge into the blade instead of going for a full-on box rush, as we’ve become accustomed to from them, and also lost their weapon in the process. Meaning we had two minutes of pushing on our hands and, seeing as Tombstone is set up for a pushing match about as well as a kettle is set up to achieve a world record speedrun of Dark Souls 3, we were treated to two minutes of the boys from Brazil bumping Ray Billings’ bot into the wall before inevitably claiming a win via the judges. 

So, there we have it, after four matches featuring a lifetime of adrenaline, Black Dragon brings us all back down to earth and makes its way through with another underwhelming win. I should clarify that in no way do I think Black Dragon isn’t quarter-final material, but the lack of gusto and conviction its shown in getting there is more than a little disappointing. As for Tombstone, the former champ goes home looking to regroup after a season full of OOTA’s, wheels falling off, and weapon failure. Here’s hoping for a triumphant return next season.

This was like the only interesting thing that happened

Whiplash (8) vs Valkyrie (9)

On paper this was the most evenly-matched fight of the top 16, given the two bots are literally right next to each other in the seedings. However, given that Whiplash has already kicked Valkyrie’s arse once this season, it didn’t seem there’d be any other outcome here. There wasn’t.

Setting up with the near-same configuration that worked so well for them last time, Whiplash went straight for Leanne Cushing’s bot, slowing down their weapon and performing some pretty awesome moves, balancing it on top of the lifter, hoisting it up and placing it perfectly behind the screws, and even sending it hurtling across the arena. Valkyrie definitely put up a better fight this time around, with its weapon lasting for much longer and dealing out some hefty blows to Whiplash’s front plough, but, ultimately, it never really looked destined to win here. It tried its best, it did not succeed. It got what it wanted (a place in the top 16), but not what it needed (another Whiplash-inspired beating).

So Whiplash finds itself in familiar territory, this marking the third quarter-final appearance out of three for the Vasquez clan’s bot. Valkyrie, meanwhile, goes home off the back of its most successful season yet, but will be left to contemplate how far they would’ve gone if it weren’t for Whiplash.

When BattleBots becomes Cirque du Soleil

Mammoth (30) vs Shatter (19)

In this most unlikely of seasons, we were given the most unlikely of top 16 match-ups. Shatter finds itself here courtesy of an awesome upset over the experienced Lockjaw, whilst Mammoth could be mistaken for wandering in here accidentally, such was the unlikeliness of it making this far at the start of the season. But it’s here, and here on merit as it turns out, after a stunning victory over third seeds Copperhead.

I actually had Mammoth down to win the fight, and after flinging Shatter all over the arena in the opening exchanges, it looked as though, for once, the biggest bot in the field wouldn’t let me down for once. That was until Shatter swung its hammer to perfectly slice the weapon chain of Mammoth’s spinner-lifter, at which point things turned dramatically. Shatter suddenly started wailing on Ricky Willems’ bot with its hammer, landing a nice shot on its wheel hub, but Mammoth was still able to dictate control of the fight without its weapon, and, up to the klaxon sounding, looked as though it had still won the fight.

Then, literally as the fight ended, Mammoth’s wheel gave way and completely detached itself from the bot. What had looked an even fight that Mammoth could well win suddenly swung to a clear victory for Shatter on damage alone. And that’s what happened. Shatter claimed a split decision and Mammoth’s Cinderella story came to an abrupt halt just as it looked to be getting started. A memorable season nonetheless for Ricky Willems and his team, as they made it further than pretty much everyone expected them to. But it’s Adam Wrigley and Shatter who advance, and the prospect of a quarter-final tie against the winners of the night’s last tie awaits.

yah YEET

End Game (6) vs Rotator (22)

We started the night with one of the fights of the season, and we end with one too. Honestly, most of the fights this episode are up there with the season’s best, but this duel between Rotator and End Game was different gravy.

An opening exchange which saw some hefty hits dealt out, End Game’s weapon decided to give way, which looked to hand Rotator a golden chance for a knockout. However, thanks to some awesome driving from Jack Barker, End Game kept their front plough pointed at Rotator, and negated any impact the deadly spinner had on them. Then, we saw the impossible happen – Rotator’s weapon went down. For something that’s looked near-unbreakable this season, this was completely unexpected – almost as unexpected as End Game still working come the end of the fight! The New Zealanders kept themselves on the aggressive, maintained control of the fight even without their spinner, and claimed the third split decision of the evening.

Now looking in a much better position to have a title run than their previous two campaigns, End Game can head into their fight against Shatter full of confidence, their bot never looking better. Rotator might feel aggrieved at the result, not for the first time this season, but that’s just how things are with split decisions. They go either way, especially in a fight this tight, and sadly they landed on the wrong side of the coin.

It’s just a little weapon belt, it’s still good!

And there we go, folks, the last 16 has drawn to a close, and the rest of the bracket awaits us on Thursday. I still can’t quite believe how we’re at this stage already, but the cruel mistress of lockdown combined with the cruel passage of time sees things go way quicker these days. But let’s just be grateful that we saw an episode full of shocks, drama, sparks, and like four or five of the best fights of the whole season. Even if my predictions turned out to be pretty shocking, coming in with a 3-5 record, which is the worst it’s been since the start of the season, at least we can take pride in the magnitude of upsets we bore witness to.

Just to recap, here’s how the quarters have ended up looking:

Hydra (1) vs Whiplash (8)

Ribbot (20) vs Black Dragon (5)

Tantrum (18) vs SawBlaze (7)

Shatter (19) vs End Game (6)

That means that three of the top four are out, seeds 18-20 are still going strong, and the entire right side of the bracket isn’t what I had predicted. That’s the magic of fighting robots I guess.

If you enjoyed the write-up then fear not, because tomorrow there’ll be predictions for the Witch Doctor bounty, and then soon after that there’ll be predictions for the final episode of the series. Like if you cry every time.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and see you all tomorrow.

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