The BattleBots Beat Midseason Roundtable! And Your Desperado Friday Evening Open Thread

Senor Weaselo
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Senor Weaselo: Welcome to the first ever BattleBots Beat midseason roundtable show! I am, as always, your friendly neighborhood Senor Weaselo, and since we’ve had this two-week midseason break I thought it would be nice to have a discussion about the season so far, and about what might happen in the future. Joining me for the festivities are friends of the Beat, Rikki-Tikki-Deadly and Low Commander. And then also joining us, we have a BattleBots legend, appearing in every previous televised BattleBots event, Combat Robot Hall of Famer, the one, the only, Nightmare!

And we also have a second legend, the super heavyweight designed to be what people would have first visualized from the word “BattleBots,” another Hall of Famer, Mechadon! Hey? Guys? Where’s Mechadon? What? Couldn’t fit in the door? Too big? You mean nobody took the hinges off? It’s a close to 500-lb. robot, of course he’s not gonna… fine.

Okay, Mechadon is unable to attend this event, unfortunately. But we have Nightmare. Nightmare, it’s an honor. But I’m sure you’d rather be the subject of conversation rather than another voice, you’d rather be fighting, right?

Nightmare: It’s definitely felt weird watching on TV like everyone else. I guess I know how Backlash has been feeling these last few years watching me now, right?

Senor: How about how you’ve felt from watching Wrecker in China? It was essentially Wrecker over you.

Nightmare: I know, but the green light from BattleBots was late because they had to get picked back up, so Jim Smentowski was already committed. As for watching, finding a stream in English has been difficult, but I feel for him. He was a wild-card challenger or whatever they called it, so he didn’t get much of a chance to show his stuff in his loss. And then in the rumble he got flipped up by Two BBQ and landed on Megabyte, and that’s not a good combination.

Senor: Ooh, yeah, that’ll hurt a bit. Anyway, let’s begin with the roundtable. Actually, one thing first:

Bonus fight from E10: Axe Backwards vs. Ultimo Destructo
Axe Backwards:
0-2 (L, KO 1:30 to WAR Hawk; L, JD 2-1 to Deviled Egg)
Ultimo Destructo: 2-0 (W, KO 2:04 over Valkyrie; W, JD 3-0 over Parallax)

Well, an interesting pair these two make. On one hand, Ultimo’s 2-0. That sounds really good, as it’s joined the lofty heights of the Tombstones and the Bite Forces and the SawBlazes and HUGEs of the world. On the other hand, if you were to go by the ol’ strength of schedule metric, they would not be the highest ones on the list. Valkyrie’s blade kind of just fell off and they got high-centered, and Parallax has two losses where the highlight was being stepped on by a CGI dinosaur. Meanwhile, Axe Backwards’s two fights have made TV, because it got beaten down by WAR Hawk, and then lost a rumble to Deviled Egg after doing some damage early to it and Basilisk but then fading in the second half.

Ultimo is a modular bot. Their press photo is their vertical bar, but they also have a vertical spinner, flipper, and hammer, which is what they used for this fight. Each setup actually has a different name, the flipper’s pays homage to the team’s flagship bot, super heavyweight Techno Destructo, for instance. (Fun fact: Some of Techno’s old drive motors were used in Sharkoprion.) The hammer’s name? Bozo. They also had 24 “projectile missles” to fire at Axe Backwards, which it did as the fight started.

They were fireworks. They weren’t very effective, and they missed. The hammer was swinging though, but it didn’t swing very fast or very hard, leading to a bit of razzing from Chris Rose. Meanwhile, Axe Backwards wasn’t very mobile, which means that the hammer could line up hits if it didn’t take an eternity to come down. Axe Backwards’s drum was working though, and damaged Ultimo’s front wedge, nearly ripping it off. Then it got wedged under a wheel, and Ultimo lost a tire before the wedge totally came off. Axe Backwards faintly started to smoke, but the fight was already over since Ultimo wasn’t working. Axe Backwards wins by KO in 2:15.

Senor: All right, we’re good now. So, first things first. The new “Fight Night” format. Good or ungood?

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly: I’ve really enjoyed it. In particular I like that the main event fights are based on matchup, not retroactively chosen based on fight quality. It’s a lot more fun watching the undercard fights not having any idea whether they will be disappointing or not, rather than expecting each fight to get better until the main event.

Low Commander: There’s only been one main event that has disappointed me so far. I’m blanking on the specific one, but the format makes so much more sense this year, especially getting 5 per night without all the filler bullshit, and I’m absolutely loving it.

Nightmare: I’d have to say that’s been the best thing for fans of the sport, more fights, where you’re getting 5 or sometimes 6 fights per hour show. And not to speak for all the bots there but speaking for myself, it’s more fights, more chances to get out there and do your thing, and that’s great. Remember that outside of the televised shows, most big tourneys are double elimination just so if something goes wrong or a weird matchup or whatever, you’re not done for. The tourney’s still single elimination for the thrill of it, but it at least gives those extra chances. I would say it’s tough on builders though, not because of time constraints but because of materials. You’ve gotta be smart with your spares and what extra things to bring because you could lose a couple of those fights, too. But for the fans, for growing the sport, for people watching, I think they’ve got something here.

Senor: Yeah, ABC could get a little filler-y with segments to make it a four-fight episode, but you could also just fill that with more fights. And yeah, as Low Commander said, thanks to the main event being based on reputation and not retroactively, a lot of those extra fights have been really good, though on the other hand some, especially early, were marred by electrical problems or other glitches because of the quick turnaround from green light from the network to design to build to competition. I think it was like six weeks or so?

Nightmare: Something like that.

Senor: Yeah. So yes, Fight Night good. On the other side, anything you haven’t liked from this season? For me I’d say those early-season gremlins, but I imagine for next season (and considering it’s like the highest-rated show on Discovery, I’m pretty confident in saying that) there’ll be more time for teams to build and test and get it all figured out.

Low Commander: Maybe a little more clarity on the rules and how bots move onto the bracket rounds. I’d like to see more of a breakdown in the show of who is leading the pack or going to miss the next round, and not just when the bots are getting ready to fight.

Rikki: I think a “power rankings” leaderboard would be pretty nice. Perhaps I’ve gotten attached to Balls’ breakdown of the Australian Football League standings, but it would be nice to see how robots have progressed during the season.

Nightmare: I think as we get later in the season especially some version of that could take shape, either talking with the judges, or with Greg and Trey. I don’t know yet. As for me I remember they posted all the unaired fights onto YouTube the previous two seasons. That hasn’t happened yet and there are some robots, like Double Dutch and Parallax, who haven’t gotten TV time yet. I’m pretty sure they’ll get a fight on at least the Science telecast in the second half of the season but I’m sure people want to see those fights no matter what.

Senor: Nightmare, I remember you had a fight on YouTube last season…

Nightmare: Yeah, the Icewave fight, that was… phew.

Senor: As for the power rankings, I don’t know if you could get a straight answer about it yet, to be honest. Record’s part of it, but then you have Ultimo at 2-1 but its wins were kinda meh and its loss it didn’t look too good either. One of the members of the Brutus team said it would be based on record and who you fight and producers’ discretion, so maybe you’d have a top part and a bottom, but the middle could be…

Low Commander: And we can just keep all the full body spinners at the bottom of that. Have any of those even won a single match this year?

Senor: I’m going to guarantee Gigabyte wins at least two fights between the desperado tournament and the regular-season fights. Megabyte was 3rd in King of Bots and they have top masts that aren’t made of cast aluminum outsourced in China that the company they contracted lied about the material used now. Granted, Shrederator Tiger Claw did well in This Is Fighting Robots this past spring, finishing 4th, and Megabyte lost to Team Apollo’s Vulcan after one of their bolts sheared off, so… who knows really. But I think Gigabyte’ll do better than its result against Tombstone.

Next. Who’s impressed you the most? For me I’m going to say Bite Force. I mean, yeah ho hum Tombstone’s 2-0, Icewave ripped Vanquish in half, but Bite Force’s new vertical bar didn’t last last season. Its fight against The Ringmaster was a pushing match when they both lost their weapons, and it ultimately lost to Chomp’s chain-sniping skills. Now the weapon’s been working, it’s been KOing bots, it’s been doing damage even in the fight against Blacksmith where it didn’t get the KO.

Nightmare: I don’t see why you can’t say Tombstone, even if it is expected that he’ll be one of the top bots. A Tombstone-Minotaur fight’s a toss-up, but just seeing the damage it dealt, cracking Minotaur’s chassis in two, and being able to take the recoil from all those hits, it’s still impressive. Maybe the Gigabyte fight was less impressive due to Robotic Death Company’s Chinese metallurgy issues, but that’s still impressive to knock the shell off, it’s a big piece to knock off the bot, it’s what, 110 lbs.? So I’m gonna say the champ’s still the big dog.

Low Commander: HUGE has definitely the most impressive to me of bots that I thought would do nothing and has just been on a tear. DUCK! is right behind him, as the literal bot version of Homer’s boxing career. It can take a hell of a beating, but without any weapons, there’s no way it stands up to one of the heavy hitters that’s not fighting for a sandwich.

My favorite right now is SawBlaze. How well they are able to scoop up their victims with the dustpan up front has really impressed me so far, but that tactic will not work against a horizontal spinner unless they can get behind them. I’d love to see Icewave face off against him.

Rikki: I like HUGE a lot too, though I don’t see it lasting very long against a lawnmower like Icewave or Tombstone. I’m with Low Commander that SawBlaze has been a revelation. I think they might be able to do better against a horizontal spinner than most people would think, though if they keep things up we’ll find out soon enough.

I think End Game is my dark horse for a strong run at the Nut—their one loss against Bite Force really could have gone the other way if they had pressed their advantage.

Senor: DUCK! didn’t do as well as I thought against reality but Whoops! did well in Robogaems ’18, but it lost to Touro Maximus. But the arena broke first. I was going to ask next if anyone’s surprised way beyond a low expectation, like HUGE or SawBlaze, and I agree with Rikki. I’m not sure against HUGE and the plastic holding up against spinners, and to answer that SawBlaze does have a plow attachment for spinners that it hasn’t had to use yet. For me it would be those two and Skorpios. Really, sawbots in general. It’s not a common design but S.O.B. was effective as a middleweight reaching the Season 5 final, and this year Red Devil, SawBlaze, and Skorpios are a combined 7-1, with the one loss being Red Devil’s split decision to Monsoon.

Rikki: Yeah, sawbots have been lighting it up this year—both in terms of victories and in terms of watchability. I feel like people are deploying flamethrowers with more success this year as well.

Senor: Flamethrowers have been more successful, drones have continued to be useless at things that don’t involve spectacularly dying.

Nightmare: Yeah, pour one out for Spitfire.

Senor: On the other hand, who’s disappointed you? I’m gonna take HyperShock, sadly. If it works right it’s absolutely bonkers because it’s fast and it’s got the vertical drum and that color of yellow that either causes or cures blindness, not sure which, and Will Bales is absolutely insane and I love everything about it… but it hasn’t worked right. I mentioned the Bite Force problems where it became its own Van der Graaf generator (which is pretty cool but doesn’t help fighting), and then I’m not sure what was up against Free Shipping but the drum wasn’t keeping its energy, but 1-2 with a win over Battle Royale with Cheese is not where I would have predicted them at this point.

Rikki: As I mentioned in one of the threads, they should call Battle Royale with Cheese “Tomato Can with Cheese.” It’s not like I had any expectations for it, but my God has it had the stuffing beaten out of it each time it has ventured into the ring.

For me the biggest disappointment is Bombshell. It seems to be a well-designed bot—they went 4-2 in 2016—with a competent crew, but this year it has been completely worthless. Sure, there’s no shame in losing to Bronco, and their last-minute burnout against Yeti was unfortunate, but they seem to have built a Cleveland-esque culture of losing and I can’t explain why they keep getting beat.

Low Commander: I can’t waster this opportunity to say that Battle Royale with Cheese, from the bot design, performance, appearance, and even the team’s costumes, just complete top to bottom, is the dumbest and worst robot this season and just needs to go away.

As far as disappointing, I completely agree with RTD on Bombshell, but I would also say that Blacksmith has been surprisingly awful too. For another veteran team to be 1-2, and their only win against The Three Four Horsemen mini-bots… I had higher hopes.

Senor: Doesn’t help Blacksmith that they’re fighting Minotaur again. There are also pictures of them fighting Warhead, so that covers their fights. Nightmare?

Nightmare: I’m going to say Chomp. I was hoping after last year’s bit of success she’d be able to build, maybe just be a bit steadier to keep herself upright more, her main weakness. But the planned srimech actually made things worse as shown with the fight against Warrior Dragon, and then things went haywire with the Overhaul fight and HUGE wrecked the hammer. The hammer still hits with authority when it lands, but I expected fewer bugs this year.

Rikki: The more I see Chomp’s “auto-targeting” lidar crap the more I’m convinced that the chain-sniping was nothing more than an incredibly lucky shot.

Nightmare: I don’t know, they’ve gotten more than a couple at this point. Bite Force’s weapon chain, nicked Overhaul’s drive chain, stopped Captain Shrederator dead in its tracks. Still not sure about Warrior’s motor, I think that was self-inflicted, but it’s been more than the one isolated incident. When it plays nice.

Senor: Pretty big “when” though. And the other robot for “robots haven’t done anything,” Predator, who might have traveled the length of the arena in their two fights combined. At least Apex moved before self-destructing the way it did in Robot Wars.

On the other hand, any team, regardless of robot performance, that you think’s been a lot of fun? For me, and maybe it’s being on the site and the social medias and seeing them interact, but the Sharkoprion team’s been really enjoyable. Ed Robinson is a man who’s lived a diverse life, the robot’s made of recycled metal and parts, and you can tell in the Warhead fight they’re just having a blast and love being there. And then the box-kart, which is a go-kart that looks like a cardboard box. So yeah, they’ve been a pleasure and it’s a shame the Warhead fight was the first one on Discovery since their first fight was a Science rumble.

Low Commander: It’s funny that you mention Sharkoprion, because the captain really stood out to me. After the fight with Warhead, I saw him give the other team a fin, presumably from the bot, as a reward for winning, and just seemed like a cool, if not a little odd, dude. Otherwise, I can’t really say a whole lot of others are that memorable to me. Ray Billings of Tombstone has a big personality, and I find him entertaining. The group of Yeti definitely look like they’re having fun competing, but it might just be the bot doing tricks.

There are quite a few teams that annoy me though. I’m just gonna say that most of them look like they spend to much time on they’re costooms, and not enouf on there bots, smgdh. It’s BattleBots, not BattleBlouses, ppl forget that.

Senor: Ah, the rare storng taek. Rikki?

Rikki: While I’m not really a fan of DUCK!, I am a fan of the father-and-daughter pair of Hal and Hannah Rucker. It’s just really sweet to see them working together.

Low Commander: Agreed. They are a pretty memorable pair. You don’t get to see many other kids driving, outside of The Four Horsemen’s wedge. And does that really count?

Senor: Because it’s a Watts kid, no. Though all the Robot Wars fans, like me—what, Nightmare, I can like both!—all the Robot Wars fans would want to ask where Joe and Ellie are these days. Speaking of, Nightmare, you have a favorite team in the pits, through all your years fighting?

Nightmare: Oh, the Tilfords and Mauler, not even close. Always a fun show, win, lose or draw. Even if they did beat me in Season 1.

Senor: Lost a wheel in that fight, right?

Nightmare: Yeah.

Senor: Okay. Time for the big questions. Fight of the Year? I’m gonna say Tombstone-Minotaur because it actually managed to live up to the hype. Sure, Minotaur’s drum broke early but it kept withstanding and charging, and with the recoil, both of them took some serious shots, the floor was a mess, and the only reason it didn’t go the full 3 minutes was because of hazards they were making up as they went along because Tombstone’s blade fucked up the floor.

Low Commander: Yeah, that was a hell of a fight and I really like to see Tombstone get challenged rather than just tearing through whoever is haplessly drawn to face them. To me, the most interesting and all-around thrilling fight was Skorpios and Icewave. Skorpios played an incredible game for their driving and doing well to keep Icewave’s spinner from getting to fiull speed, and yet Icewave still landed some serious hits. Going to a judges’ decision doesn’t usually make for a better fight in my opinion, and despite your great analysis on it a couple weeks ago, I still think Icewave should have won a close thriller.

Nightmare: Son of Whyachi and Monsoon gave me flashbacks, does that mean anything?

Senor: That’s probably not a good thing, Nightmare.

Nightmare: The hellraiser ended that fight. I was in the air instead of turning to get the perfect angle, and, well, that happened. Funnily enough it was right after the Slam Job fight.

Senor: Weren’t you immobile for that fight too, even though the announcers said otherwise?

Nightmare: Oh yeah, that hit jarred my receiver loose too. But you should have seen the other guy, right?

Senor: Point taken. Who wins the Desperado tournament and with it, an auto-bid to the final 16? Let’s take a look at the bracket.

Personally, I think it’ll either come down to Lock Jaw and Gigabyte. Working for Lock Jaw is if it’s working it’s sturdy and Donald Hutson can drive with the best. Gigabyte depends on if Double Dutch is any good, because that undercutter counters full-body spinners, but considering it’s had two fights that haven’t made TV (the tag-team win and a KO over Gamma 9) I can’t expect much. So Lock Jaw and Gigabyte, with Lock Jaw controlling the fight enough to tank the blows and get the nod.

Low Commander: I have no confidence in a full-body spinner to win one match, much less three in a row. I like Lucky and Lock Jaw to meet in the finals of this bracket, with Lock Jaw moving on to the big dance.

Rikki: Man, that’s kind of a sad bracket. I’m going to have to go with Lock Jaw by default.

Nightmare: Call it 4 for 4. Remember this year Donald Hutson brought two Lock Jaws, like how Inertia Labs brought two Broncos.

Senor: I’m okay with all the pieces being there, but you shouldn’t be able to have two fully-made versions of the same robot, that needs to be a rule.

All right. Who wins the Giant Nut? Rikki?

Rikki: I’m going with my heart and picking Minotaur. They already demonstrated they can hang with Tombstone (hopefully they’ll be on the other side of the bracket), and with as good as Bronco has looked, I think one missed flip vs. a spinner will spell disaster. I don’t think any of the sawbots have what it takes to go all the way, despite how much fun they have been to watch this year.

Low Commander: I hate to make the boring pick, but Tombstone continues to look pretty unstoppable to me. I want to give SawBlaze the nod pretty badly, because I love the design, speed and their weapon, I just can’t see it topping a horizontal spinner.

Nightmare: There are three robots in BattleBots history who have successfully defended their title the following season. They are Vlad the Impaler, Hazard, and BioHazard, and they’re all icons of the sport. I think Tombstone joins that pantheon with a second straight Nut.

Senor: I think I’m also going to say Tombstone, but considering its last two fights, I’m going to say to watch out for a dark horse, the former champ. Not Bite Force, but Son of Whyachi. If those two square off I’ll be very intrigued with how it goes, and the winner of that I think should take the Giant Nut.

All right, thanks gents, thank you Nightmare, hope to see you back in action soon.

So I guess you know what my suggestion to watch tonight is. It’s either that or Yankees–Red Sox, and considering last night’s game and Luis Severino’s struggles, can’t say I’m not concerned. And someone’s pitching Saturday and nobody knows who, so there’s that. Fuck it, maybe it’s me! (It’s not me.)

Goddamn, this is the most frustrating 30-games-over-in-early-August team ever. Yes, I know that’s playing to the stereotype. But 6-6 against the Orioles, and something like that against the Rays? There’s your 6.5 games right there.

And maybe some other sports are on. Maybe some AFL late at night, maybe some CFL? I don’t actually know. Maybe other baseball, if available? Beats me. I say watch BattleBots. And post things. And (responsibly) partake in the items of your choice, it’s Friday!

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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