BattlBots 2021: Episode 12 Review and Top 16 Predictions

Good afternoon, comrades. The newest season of BattleBots is winding down before we’ve had time to process half the action that’s unfolded across our screens over the past few weeks. At least that’s how it feels. To think we only have two more episodes of the main tournament left before we find out who wins this year’s Giant Nut. It will probably be End Game in all honesty, but who knows, it’s a wide open field with endless possibilities!

And that’s what we’ll be discussing in the here and now. Last week’s episode threw us plenty of curveballs (or not, depending on your worldview), as we saw the return of Hydra, a controversial JD that wasn’t actually that controversial compared to the other JD in the episode, the falling of a King, and proof that you don’t need a spinner to have a competitive bot. As if we needed proof of that, but the people in charge of naming videos on the BattleBots YouTube channel make it seem that we do.

Today, we’ll be going over the nine fights we saw last week, ranking how well each bot did, and then doing some predictions for the top 16. I’ll try and be as terse as possible with these, we have a lot to get through after all, but if I need a ramble, we may just have to accept that I need a ramble.

Without much further ado then, here are the eight winners from the past week, ranked on their Giant Nut potential.

8. Jackpot

It might seem a bit harsh putting Jackpot as the “weakest” winner from the most recent episode, given it literally just KO’d Tombstone, but honestly it’s more a reflection of how strong the field of competitors is.

We can argue all we want whether Jackpot had to work for its win, given Tombstone broke itself after about ten seconds, and that if its batteries (it had something hanging out of it at the end) hadn’t have just about held together we’d be talking about Tombstone going through after another double-KO. But, that’s how robot fighting be, and Jackpot managed to get the better of the King of Kinetic Energy by taking the huge weapon-on-weapon impact with more gusto. It means that Jackpot, which only made its debut last year, now finds itself in the top 16 after bringing down one of the most feared bots in all of robot combat. How far it’ll go after this week, well we’ll touch on that in a bit.

As for Tombstone, this defeat brings to a close what has been a really disappointing season. Ray’s ground-up rebuild hasn’t paid off, and out of its four fights we’ve seen a defeat to Captain Shrederator, two self-KOs after massive impacts, and its weapon failing after about 20 seconds to Free Shipping. Is it past its peak, as many would have you suggest? Maybe the glory days are behind it, but that won’t stop Ray coming back with a vengeance next year.

7. Tantrum

When I read that there was a controversial judges’ decision to expect this week, I honestly expected this to be the one everyone had an issue with.

When Tantrum was awarded the win unanimously, despite being reduced to spinning in circles by the end of the fight, I was very surprised. I can understand why it won the fight – control and aggression-wise it was superior, and although I’d say it suffered more damage, as was evident by the end of the fight, it still managed to stop Gigabyte spinning and also tore off its feeder attachment. But it still took a heck of a beating, and was lucky not to be counted out by the end. But it’s a decision that could have gone either way, and Tantrum now has a second successive year in the top 16 to look forward to. But it will need to stand up to the bigger hits better if it has a chance of going through.

As for Gigabyte, it’s a shame we won’t be seeing it go any further, because I think over the past couple of seasons it’s come on leaps and bounds and has become a truly frightening robot. It’s spinner is lethal, it’s well-driven, and it looks cool as f*ck. Here’s hoping they get a better time of things next season.

6. Black Dragon

Fight of the season? I think so.

This was what BattleBots is all about. Two quality bots going head-to-head in an epic encounter. The fact it was so close and has caused this much debate over who won is testament to what we got treated to. I think the decision was the right one, though. Mad Catter definitely won the damage category, but, and the producers can try and argue this all they want, damage isn’t always the most important thing, regardless of what the subtle changes to the rules may occur. Black Dragon largely dictated the fight, and although Mad Catter did get the better hits in, Black Dragon delivered them more frequently, and consistently used the arena hazards to their advantage, as well as flipping the Cat over multiple times. It was tight, but I think the right decision. After that clash of the titans, it’s the Brazilian boys who march on, even if they still don’t appear to be operating to their maximum potential. They’ll need to be in the top 16, that’s for sure.

All I can say for Mad Catter is: “Oh Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh!” It’s a shame to see it fall in the top 32 for the second year running, because it’s looked so impressive since a faltering debut campaign. Here’s to you, Martin Mason, you wonderful ol’ crackpot.

5. Cobalt

That spinner is f*cking lethal. It’s still too high up, but boy does it pack a punch.

What a recovery Cobalt has had since being destroyed by Fusion in its opening fight. Splitting Ghost Raptor in two, setting Gruff aflame, and now charging into the top 16 after taking care of Yeti. Admittedly Yeti did sort of play to its strengths, bouncing up over its long forks straight onto the weapon, but you still have to take care of your opponents, and boy did Cobalt do just that. Not much else to say about this one, but whether or not Cobalt will be found out in the top 16 remains to be seen. I think other bots are stronger, but who knows.

It was also great to see Yeti back this season, but it may be what made it so successful in the past is now its biggest weakness.

4. Rotator

Gliding into my YouTube subs box was perhaps the easiest win of the top 32 this week. Not that it takes anything away from how good Rotator looks.

Shrederator’s teeth came off. Like clean off. The whole shell looked cracked and it was left to the mercy of the pulverizer. Shrederator had a game plan, but Rotator looked sturdy, robust, and totally in control, capable of causing heaps of damage with its spinning weapon. It made what could have been a very difficult fight look easy, and it looks very well set up for the round of 16 against Tantrum.

Shrederator bows out after making the bracket for the first time in six seasons, and it can claim a win against Tombstone from this year too. It looks as though things may be slowly coming together for the team, but we’ll have to wait until next season to find out.

3. Hydra

Welp, Hydra’s back, everyone. Time to duck and cover!

In all honesty its play-off match against Defender went pretty much as we all expected, but it was still great fun to see Hydra tossing it effortlessly about before leaving it stuck on the upper deck. But it was the Ribbot fight where it truly shone. I was expecting a pretty straightforward victory for the froggy boi, but Hydra stomached all of the heavy hits, even when its flipper end was torn off, and Ribbot became the first frog in history to sprout wings and fly away. Its front wheel then became locked up, and Hydra marched into the top 16 to set up a date with Black Dragon. What a story it would be if they came back to claim the Giant Nut from here.

Ribbot, meanwhile, for all the promise it showed in the regular season, just couldn’t get the better of Hydra’s low ground clearance. I was surprised they went with the undercutter, but I get why they did, it was just ultimately a gamble that didn’t work out in the end. But to have claimed the second seeding is a great achievement for them, and they may well end up being one of the favourites going into next season.

2. Whiplash

“Can a control bot EVER beat a spinner?” asked the BattleBots YouTube channel in presenting Whiplash’s fight against Icewave. As it turns out, as if we needed any clarification, yes, it absolutely can.

To suggest that one of the best robots in the field, last years runners-up no less, were in danger of losing because they were facing a spinner, is pretty ludicrous. Especially one that’s been as inconsistent as Icewave has over the years. So when Whiplash took the first few hits with its front plough before sending Icewave tumbling on its head courtesy of the screws, I wasn’t exactly surprised, and I’m sure most people weren’t too surprised either. After that easy win, Whiplash goes into the top 16 to fight Cobalt, which I’m sure will be a real clash of the titans to make them both seem normal-sized.

Icewave, meanwhile, returns home after a less-than-impactful return to the BattleBox. Who remembers the glory days of 2015 when it nearly won the whole thing? They seem a lifetime away now.

1. Blip

Performance of the week, and, dare I say, performance of the round, hands down goes to Blip.

Admittedly, it’s true that Valkyrie definitely helped its cause after its weapon broke after like, the second impact. But you still have to go and win the fight from there, and Blip did that in the most extravagant manner possible. I might be wrong, but I counted twenty-three flips on Valkyrie before it was KO’d TWENTY. THREE. Those numbers are just silly, and Blip also now seems to have the knockout factor that was sort of eluding it in the regular season. If Valkyrie’s spinner had been working properly it could easily have been different, but it do be like that sometimes. If Blip can get past Jackpot in the top 16, as it has every chance of doing, it may be lined up for a collision course with Hydra in the last 8, to truly decide who the king of the flippers is.

Also Valkyrie’s had a pretty poor season and will need to do some tinkering to get back to their best. But I honestly can’t get over what I watched. What a robot Blip is.

And yeah, that about rounds off another week of, as Craig Charles would say, “hot robot action.” If we needed any confirmation about how open this year’s tournament is, we got it and then some this year. End Game, SawBlaze, Whiplash, Blip, they all seem to be the bots with the best chance of winning the whole thing this year, but even then the likes of P1, Riptide and Jackpot have all proven capable of upsetting the odds. It really is a case of best of the best this year.

And now, a cheeky set of top 16 predictions before I leave you:

Top 16 Predictions (winners in bold)

End Game vs. Minotaur

Copperhead vs. Witch Doctor

SawBlaze vs. P1

Uppercut vs. Riptide

Hydra vs. Black Dragon

Blip vs. Jackpot

Whiplash vs. Cobalt

Rotator vs. Tantrum

Debate away. Thanks for reading, everyone, and see you all next week.

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