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IT’S HAPPENING

A new season of BattleBots is literally right around the corner. By the end of this year we’ll be botting it up so hard you’d think we were trying to snipe Xbox Series X listings on Walmart.com. Is that still a topical reference this late in the year? Are people still scalping the big vape box? Anyways who cares about Xbox because we’ve got new BattleBots season 11 predictions inbound! (And yes, I am going to adhere to calling this “season 11” because one of these days the Comedy Central era will be showcased on this website and the last thing I need is two season 1’s. This is BattleBots, not Lost.)

I used to write “event report” articles where I talked about my experiences at the BattleBots events and also discussed some robots, for better or worse, worth keeping your eyes on. These were always spoiler-free and mostly served as a way for readers to maybe get a bit of vicarious living through my own experiences doing things like roaming the pits, paying too much for food truck food, and having Ian Lewis compliment my handshake by saying my grip was “like Razer’s”. That shit’s on my fucking resume.

And being in Vegas naturally there were a ton of neat souvenirs for me to miss out on.

However now that I am no longer in attendance at BattleBots, but I still want to support the show and community, I’ve pivoted to writing articles that give a breakdown of every single competitor, their potential strengths and weaknesses, and then finally I end each miniature segment with a letter grade that represents how likely I think this robot is to win the Giant Nut. Keep in mind I think I gave End Game a B-something last season so take these with a grain of salt because there’s a very real chance I’ll be way wrong about something (especially if you’re reading this and you were at the taping and know I’m wrong, just keep the snickering to yourselves and don’t ruin it please).

That said, going in alphabetical order we’re starting with the B’s because I guess Aegis was destroyed so wholly and completely by Fusion that the team decided to pack it up and not come back. It also means Axe Backwards is gone and now I almost feel kind of bad like I bullied the robot into not coming back. I sort of feel bad about it. Now who am I going to give an “F” to?

(Click on any competitor’s picture to enlarge it for a better view.)


BIG DILL
Team Food Fight

Not a strong start to the list of competitors. Big Dill’s massive lifting pickle spears seem like they might be formidable weaponry but we were privy to the opposite last season when the spears were blown out sideways and bent up. Big Dill did manage to scrape by with a victory over the now-absent Atom #94 by jamming its lifting forks so completely down Atom #94’s gullet that the two robots became conventionally inseparable. Much like Quantum getting its tooth stuck in Blacksmith a couple seasons ago the fight was called and sent to a special judges’ decision. From this fight we know the serrated edges of Big Dill’s lifter can do their job, perhaps a little too good, and that’s a plus for this otherwise lackluster robot.

STRENGTHS: Emmanuel Carrillo is an experienced bot builder and driver. No matter how much power his robot has or doesn’t have, he knows its limits. He knows a good opening for an attack when he sees one, just re-read the paragraph above summarizing the Atom #94 fight. Despite its flaws Big Dill is also a stout machine, capable of absorbing a lot of damage so long as that damage is focused at its front end. In the past this caused its lifting forks to understandably get bent the fuck up but its front plows held strong. It looks like Big Dill has newer plows for this season that are more rounded, so hopefully they will do a much better job of deflecting oncoming attacks and either spin opponents away or direct them into the pickle spears of death.

WEAKNESSES: Last season this robot really struggled to lift its opponents, and I mean really struggled. Even with the best case scenario where Atom #94 was right in Big Dill’s face all the way up on the forks this robot struggled to get the appropriate leverage to raise Atom #94 off of the ground. Big Dill’s inability to properly “suplex” its opponent may have played into why the two robots became so entangled as well, Big Dill’s jittering and twitching probably only served to make a bad situation worse. Unless this robot is running a much more robust lifting motor and a better gear ratio we might see a repeat of Big Dill’s inability to… ahem… get it up.

GRADE: C

BLACK DRAGON
Team Uai!rrior

They say two things are certain in life: death and taxes. Well make that list three points long because “Black Dragon showing up to BattleBots” is the next big thing. A robot that has always been in Minotaur’s shadow – because both robots hail from Brazil – Black Dragon showed that it was the true bot to beat by defeating Minotaur in a Desperado event and making a deep run last season that ultimately ended in the semifinals. Mind you, just prior to this fight Black Dragon burst into flames in the quarterfinals and burned for a straight two minutes and still won the fight. Very few robots have the power to get in Black Dragon’s way; it’s taken Whiplash and Lock-Jaw to knock Black Dragon out of the running. With a proper trajectory we could very well see another deep run.

STRENGTHS: Black Dragon is engineered like a game of 5D Chess. I mentioned that the robot was able to survive being on fire for over two minutes to tough out a quarterfinals win and that’s precisely because if you looked at Black Dragon’s inner chassis when the robot was stripped down you’d have noticed that the explosive batteries were corralled away into their own separate little nook of the robot with just one tiny hole drilled in the separator wall for the wires to run through. Black Dragon can just burn and act like nothing is wrong and this is a major intimidation tactic. I haven’t even said jack shit about its weapon yet, but whether Black Dragon is sporting the egg-beater or its dual discs it has enough muscle to split armor panels and tear whole wheels off.

WEAKNESSES: Sometimes this robot is inexplicably weak to the strangest of machines. We all remember the fight with Kraken that probably should’ve been awarded to Kraken, but this was Black Dragon getting the floor painted with it by a robot that isn’t exactly in the highest tier of competitors all things considered. Sometimes Black Dragon is also prone to shredding its weapon belts, which reduces it to nothing more than a wedge. Black Dragon has built-in redundancy in the form of an extra belt, but they’re side by side; if someone comes in with a nasty bite they can clip both of them like what happened against Copperhead.

GRADE: B+

BLACKSMITH
Team Half Fast Astronaut

I never thought I’d see the day when the BIG TIME HAMMER made its return to the Battlebox… and that big time hammer is looking mighty goddamned different than I remember. What was once a spiked lantern that spit out fire in the vain hopes that it could pierce opponents’ armor and then light ’em up is now one of those “hammer saws” that are becoming all the rage these days. Dubbed the “Power Hammer” Blacksmith’s new weaponry is all about spinning up and delivering devastating blows. I assume the flame gimmick is now gone. It was an iconic part of this robot, but sometimes you’ve gotta kill your darlings if you want to be a serious contender for the Nut. This just might be the best Blacksmith we’ve ever seen.

STRENGTHS: Blacksmith has always been built like a brick shithouse. It famously told Quantum to “bring it on” and when Quantum bit down on Blacksmith we quickly found out that Blacksmith’s AR500 steel armor plating was so robust that on a molecular fucking level Quantum’s own steel tooth got ensnared in the splintering metal. Twice. Blacksmith can dish out the hits all day, but most importantly it can take them just as rough. We’ve seen this machine go up against Bite Force firing on all cylinders and although it wound up getting jammed in the screws that was still a win Bite Force had to work for. They don’t make little Hexbug toys out of lame ass pushovers, and Blacksmith just so happens to have a Hexbug toy.

WEAKNESSES: As awesome and cool as it looks… the new Power Hammer is completely untested in combat. All we have to really compare it to are the weapons of Sawblaze and Skorpios which are of a similar build and design. Both Sawblaze and Skorpios have dealt out their fair share of punishment so if Blacksmith’s Power Hammer is anything to go by we can probably expect a similar showing, but again this thing’s totally untested. It might break right away, or it might not live up to expectations and do significant damage. Only time will tell if ditching the former Big Time Hammer was worth it.

GRADE: B-

BLADE V3
Team ORBY

Also known by the moniker “Orby Blade” as well as its Chinese name “I’ll Cut You”, Blade V3 is BattleBots’ first South Korean competitor and oh boy is this one a doozy. Blade V3 looks like what you’d get if you smashed Hypershock and Tombstone together but unlike each of those robots Blade V3 is its own beast. It has the killer horizontal blade of Tombstone, slightly lighter but gets up to speed way faster, and all the bells and whistles of a functional Hypershock, like the self-righting mechanism (it’s the black piece on the robot’s top). Blade V3 has competed in Chinese events where it was a mixed bag but the primary takeaway is that this robot is capable of doing some serious damage. Whether that “damage” was inflated because it was fighting first timer Chinese competitors has yet to be seen, but Blade V3 is still a massive crowd favorite.

STRENGTHS: Blade V3 sports a weapon similar in style to Tombstone’s however Blade V3 has a much lower profile and although its weapon is not as heavy as Tombstone’s it’s able to spin up to top speed much more quickly. The trade off here is a weapon that’s essentially just as deadly as Tombstone but able to become deadly faster than its old school counterpart. Blade V3 is also very nimble on its two little wheels so getting around to this robot’s flanks won’t be easy. And unlike its contemporary, Tombstone, Blade V3 has a rear plow in the event that it needs to possibly slow down a spinning opponent or even stay competitive should its weapon fail.

WEAKNESSES: This is a good robot but it’s not a perfect one, and it’s a newcomer to BattleBots. We’ve seen “Orby Blade” slash and destroy bots in China and at other similar events, but BattleBots is one of the premiere robot combat venues in the world. Will Blade V3 still perform when it’s in the spotlight? I’ve seen the spin up tests and I’m impressed by it, but we’ve yet to see if this lighter Tombstone-esque blade can do as much damage as the robot this one is meant to overtake. Additionally while Blade V3 can self-right, its arm is extremely slow. Cheog Gyu Hwang has stated that these self-rights were just to test the equipment and in the heat of a battle the arm can be deployed faster, but if Blade V3 even needs to think about using its self-righter it’s probably already in serious trouble.

GRADE: B-

BLIP
Team Seems Reasonable

For a few seasons now Aren Hill has been competing with Tantrum, a near bulletproof machine that managed to cut a deep path in last year’s tournament after a couple of lackluster showings. Personally, I’m not sold on Tantrum (but we’ll get to that in a little while), but Aren’s decided now’s the best time to do the Whyachi thing and diversify with another concurrent competitor in Blip. Blip’s weapon is a rotationally-powered flipper so now that we’re in an era of pneumatic flippers and hydraulic flippers we’ve got yet another potential game changer on our hands here. Also how the fuck did you manage to swing Johnson & Johnson as a sponsor? Did you tell them Blip was a robot that dispensed baby shampoo or something?

STRENGTHS: If this robot is anything like its older brother then Blip will be damn near indestructible. Just looking at the robot’s official picture you can tell there’s substantial armor around the lower perimeter of the robot; the back end looks weak, but ideally Blip’s not going to open itself up to a rear attack. That’s just one of the gambles of robot design, as Sawblaze’s Jamison Go said “put the armor where you’re going to get hit, otherwise you’ll cover your entire robot in substandard armor”. I’m paraphrasing here but that was the gist of it. It was either that or “bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks”. I get my quotes mixed up.

WEAKNESSES: We’ve never really seen a “rotary flipper” in the sport before. Hearing “rotary flipper” reminds me of the days of Warrior Clan/Dragon whose primary constituent, Warrior SKF, used the kinetic of its outer ring spinner to also power its flipping arm. I believe Blip’s team has stated their new robot’s flipper functions differently than Warrior’s so this is completely new ground for a flipper. It might be the next Hydra, or it might just be a major flop. For me however the biggest drawback of this robot is just how far up an opponent needs to travel in order for them to be on Flip’s blipper– I mean, eh fuck it. I just want to see someone hit the lights, don’t let us down Blip.

GRADE: B-

BLOODSPORT
Bots N’ Stuff Robotics

One of the top seeds last season – I called it – Bloodsport mercilessly bashed and bludgeoned robots into the ground. Even in its debut tournament a couple years back this robot was making waves and it was only taken down by the likes of Black Dragon… or itself. Last season at the worst possible moment Bloodsport’s weapon blew up while fighting Gruff and I thought this was going to be the end of the road for the spinner but it survived until the end of the fight and was able to control the battle and still win. With no weapon. When Bloodsport is working it’s absolutely deadly, but we’ve seen the cracks forming in this robot so hopefully with a better weapon (and some more reach on said weapon) we’ll see another deep run from this surprise team.

STRENGTHS: End Game did not have a perfect path to its tournament victory last season, there was only one robot that got in its way: Bloodsport. Bloodsport is a giant killer and it had the weaponry to dispatch the eventual season champion, the only robot to really give End Game a run for its money. That’s where Bloodsport’s strengths lie, in its ability to be an X factor. Did anyone expect Bloodsport to turn its fight with Gruff around after its blade shattered? No, but it did. Bloodsport can slice throats and adapt to changes on the fly making it perhaps one of the most dangerous robots in the field. The team wasn’t seeded #2 last year for nothing.

WEAKNESSES: For as unpredictable and improvisational as Bloodsport can be these moments can provide major pain points for the robot and be turning points in battles. Its weapon blew up against Gruff, but it was able to flip flop around to a control bot and win the battle for aggression… but at the same time this is a robot that dared to throw the first punch in a 3-way play-in rumble for 16th place and paid for it by being flung out of the arena by the sheer force of its own weapon. Can’t reap the benefits of cleaving into an opponent and softening them up for the other surviving robot if you wind up on your ass and out of the arena. Perhaps Bloodsport hits a little too hard, but out of all the overhead horizontal spinners here this one might be worth keeping an eye on.

GRADE: A-

CAPTAIN SHREDERATOR
Team LOGICOM

I’ll give Brian Nave this he’s shown up to all six reboot seasons so far, rain or shine. Known by the moniker Phrizbee in another life and in the distant past, Captain Shrederator used to “be somebody”. Shrederator was a robot that instilled fear in the hearts of the robots drawn to fight it because at one point this machine was sitting pretty as the deadliest heavyweight shell spinner this side of Gigabyte. Hell, Shrederator even had an alternate setup that replaced its shell with a big ass overhead spinning bar, though this rarely saw use as it necessitated removing the robot’s shell which doubles as its main armor. Last season Brian said he was going back to “old school tech” in the era when he was winning and all he had to show for it was a locking pin getting jostled loose killing his robot’s weapon.

STRENGTHS: I want to say Captain Shrederator has been getting improvements year after year; Brian and his team are certainly bringing iterations of the robot that look different every time we see them. Case in point it seems the plexiglass lid of Captain Shrederator, which Shatter was able to effortlessly smash right through, has been replaced with thick UHMW plastic. I assume there have been some more modifications under the hood, but if so I can’t see them on account of there being a giant fucking American flag-styled shell covering everything. But somewhere deep inside of this robot is the fighting spirit of Phrizbee waiting to be unleashed again. This could be the year.

WEAKNESSES: Captain Shrederator is its own worst enemy. Shell spinners have it rough in contemporary robot combat because people are using higher grade metals to build their bots with so we don’t see as much shredding and rending that we were treated to in the early years of the sport. That’s been the Captain’s downfall, it just can’t deliver “the hits” that we’ve come to associate with a shell spinner. Well, there’s that and the fact that the road map to defeating a shell spinner – knocking it into the wall as hard as you can – seems to work nearly 100% of the time against this fucking thing.

GRADE: C-

CLAW VIPER
Team Bad Ideas

The fastest robot in the field returns to BattleBots to hopefully do some more radical kickflips and stunts off of the likes of bots such as Hijinx. With Derek Young officially retiring from BattleBots in order to become a judge there’s been a Complete Control-shaped hole in the field that nobody’s really stepped forward to fill. That is until this guy showed up. Claw Viper is a grappler with a pair of ground-level forks and an upper moving jaw that can slide forward and backward to “bite” down onto opponents so the whole array can then pivot upward and lift them helplessly off of the ground. It’s the same setup we saw on Claw Viper last year, though we never got to see this weapon in action because Claw Viper was either doing tricks or getting its face smashed in.

STRENGTHS: There’s room in BattleBots for a proper grappler and Claw Viper is vying for that role. So far it’s proven not to be well suited for the job but that isn’t stopping Kevin Milczewski from trying. What was once a framework of welded metal for a lifting arm is now a hybridization of UHMW plastic and steel only where it’s necessary, such as Claw Viper’s leading forks. This means Claw Viper can bite down on opponents with spinning weapons and not be as worried about sustaining difficult to repair damage to its lifting equipment; if something breaks now the team surely has plenty more parts cut out and ready to be dropped in. Also, I’m certain this robot is just as fast as ever.

WEAKNESSES: There is perhaps an over-reliance on UHMW plastic for Claw Viper’s weaponry. I’m not sure what the magic threshold is but when the majority of the weaponry is made of what amounts to disposable plastic that doesn’t leave much room when fighting someone with a particularly dangerous weapon. Hell, Huge uses the same plastic for its wheels and floor braces and we saw Whiplash just absolutely shred those struts on Huge to the point where the robot was barely able to still move around. UHMW is a tough material, but it’s not a miracle solution for every problem. Claw Viper can still raise its weapon up to absorb blows with its steel plow underneath it but I foresee that grappler getting thrashed badly in one of this bot’s matches.

GRADE: C

COBALT
Team Carbide / Robotic Death Company

Last time we saw Cobalt it got its wedge stuck in the floor and lost to Duck whom it had spent two solid minutes giving the thrashing of a lifetime too. Then we saw Cobalt get its wedge stuck in the complete opposite place – the arena ceiling – when Minotaur came in and clipped that thing the fuck off. Looking at the team photo for Cobalt you might be wondering where Dave Moulds and his buddy went. Well, thanks to the still ongoing COVID-19 crisis the team couldn’t make it to the United States (in fact most every European team had to drop out for this bullshit reason). But that didn’t stop Dave from entrusting his most prized creation in the hands of the Robotic Death Company, builders of Gigabyte. Brent Rieker reprises his role as team captain for this new ramshackle team and driving the robot is none other than Matt Maxham who competed with the legendary Stinger in previous BattleBots seasons.

STRENGTHS: We’ve seen the ridiculous shit Cobalt’s weapon is capable of doing. This is a robot who’s primary build components are tea and hatred. Cobalt’s sent pieces of robots into lights and smashed its fair share of arena décor with its one-toothed spinning disc of nightmares. In order for Matt to learn how to drive this robot the team had to engineer a special roll cage to affix to the robot so the robot wouldn’t gyro flip over and dig into the team’s shop floor. Yes, they had to cage the beast in order to learn how to control it. This is like that scene from Jurassic World where they’re selling all the bio-engineered dinosaur clones to the highest bidders and then Chris Pratt shows up and fucks the whole thing up or whatever it is he does in those movies. I still haven’t seen them.

WEAKNESSES: The floor. “Haha nice one Draco,” but no really. Cobalt rides so close to the floor that any imperfections in the arena could spell disaster for this machine and that’s exactly how Cobalt met its downfall a few seasons ago. Judging by the robot’s official photo it looks like it still needs that leading wedge in order to feed opponents into its spinning disc because the disc itself is set too far inward and upward on the robot’s chassis to be able to just passively hit opponents. If Cobalt loses that front wedge that’s it, that’s how Minotaur defeated this machine because it meant Cobalt immediately lost the reach advantage. While a fantastic driver in his own right, Matt Maxham is new to Cobalt and I know he’s put as much time as he possibly can into this robot but it’s still not his and as such he may still have some inexperience to work through on the fly.

GRADE: B

COPPERHEAD
Team Caustic Creations

One of the surprise “3-0” qualifiers last season Copperhead is back again to see if it can do better than a #3 seed. It’s also back to see if it can maybe not lose to fucking Mammoth this time around. Copperhead is one of those robots whose design is so compact and optimized that upon looking at it you wouldn’t be faulted for assuming it was a middleweight, or even just a really big lightweight. But no, this thing weighs just as much as, well, Mammoth. 250 pounds. I don’t know how much of that weight is devoted to Copperhead’s drum but I’d say it’s “enough” because last season on its way to the Giant Nut this machine decapitated Gigabyte and managed to kill P1 in just two hits. It also threw a stray blow in Black Dragon’s direction and killed that robot’s weapon despite its built-in redundancies. The team is represented this year by their mascot Cuddles, an albino python. Strange name.

STRENGTHS: Did you miss the part where I said Copperhead knocked the shell off of Gigabyte and KO’d P1 in two goddamned hits? Copperhead has always been behind some of the bigger hits we’ve seen in the past couple seasons but the robot doesn’t always come out of these exchanges ahead of its opponent. For example a couple years ago Copperhead was able to blow Chronos’ weapon to kingdom come but this hit also crippled Copperhead’s own weapon, and then there’s the time when it fought Son of Whyachi and again landed a massive blow but this in turn damaged Copperhead’s drivetrain. It seems like the team has found the way to funnel that energy in the appropriate direction however, so moving forward we can only expect more big hits.

WEAKNESSES: Like I said in the previous paragraph sometimes Copperhead hits too hard. It destroyed Chronos, but this also killed its own weapon. It uppercutted Son of Whyachi the fuck outta here, but this also damaged its drive system. Even in the fight last season where Copperhead managed to snip Black Dragon’s belts we eventually saw Copperhead’s own drum start to slow down by the end of that fight. The less said about its “fight” against Mammoth the better. The robot is absolutely a glass cannon, but it’s one capable of mutually assured destruction in a best case scenario.

GRADE: B+

DEADLIFT
RoboGym Robotics

Okay, okay. Get it out of your systems now. “It’s not a penis it’s a flexing bicep.” I know, I’ve seen that episode of Always Sunny. Deadlift competed last year though a grand total of 0 of its fights wound up making it to air despite us always seeing the team cheering in the skeleton crew of an audience that season had. The biggest gripe I had about Deadlift last season was that it had a lifting arm but seemingly no way of keeping opponents on the arm. I had no doubts that the robot was strong enough to do what it was built to do but without something to ensnare opponents with we were looking at a shittier Biohazard at best. Well it looks like the team learned from that mistake because that’s what the giant penis on top of Deadlift is for. This is Claw Viper for all the sweaty closeted gay gym bros out there.

STRENGTHS: Once again this isn’t necessarily a strength of the robot but one in my case that I had the audacity to potentially insinuate that Deadlift’s team are closeted gay gym bros. I didn’t, but honestly given the way that was phrased I can’t blame you for reading it that way. I wrote and rewrote that but I was unwilling to delete the phrase “sweaty closeted gay gym bros”. This is my damn site, I’ve written over 100 articles here and never once have those words been written here in that order. Fuck you. Anyways it’s good that Team RoboGym has learned from some of their design mistakes in the past. The addition of the “bicep” will help this robot out immensely, and that’s no joke. Wrassle someone down, then lift the whole shebang up and… well normally I’d say take your opponents to the Killsaws but those don’t fucking do anything anymore so I guess you’d just lift someone up and drop them hoping something breaks.

WEAKNESSES: This robot hasn’t really been active enough for us to understand its weaknesses. Apparently there’s a flamethrower under the hood, or at least there was last year. No telling if that’s the case this year, but Deadlift was one of the robots who was robbed of a full 3 Fight Night qualification attempt. Despite beating Bale Spear, Deadlift went on to lose to Mammoth and that was it. It’s not like this machine was 0-2 with no fucking hopes of making it in. Just a real head scratcher. That said, clearly Deadlift wasn’t performing up to snuff in order for it to just be cast aside like that. It apparently managed to lose to Ghost Raptor in a Bounty Hunters episode, so that’s not a good look.

GRADE: C-

DEEP SIX
Team Overboard

Did you know there’s a clause in the official BattleBots rule book that says a robot’s spinning weapon mass cannot exceed a prescribed amount? This rule is known as the “Deep Six rule” because the last time we saw this robot nearly half of its fucking weight was occupied by its absolutely massive spinning blade. Everything else on this robot is an afterthought, Deep Six has been and always will be about “the weapon”. It’s the first thing you see, and it’s the last thing a lot of robots will probably see. Especially the arena floor, whose material was swapped out with something more rigid precisely because Deep Six was one of a handful of robots to destabilize, hit the floor, and promptly ruin it. It’s like Deep Six can just destroy everything, including itself because as we’ve seen its electronics sometimes aren’t equipped to deal with the shocks its weapon dishes out.

STRENGTHS: This robot will fucking end you. If Deep Six hits you square on there’s a very high chance that your ass is toast. Then again there’s also a high chance that Deep Six is also toast, but that’s beside the point. This is a weapon tall enough to strike at all the sensitive parts of robots like Huge and Mammoth whose entire gimmicks is that they’re built very high off the ground. Well Deep Six doesn’t give a fuck, you’re all going to the moon. Just look at all those chains and belts running this thing. I can’t tell what’s redundant and what’s there simply to add more bite to the robot’s killer blade. Also, this machine can now self-right… somehow.

WEAKNESSES: With a weapon as massive as Deep Six’s you know there’s going to be some instabilities that come with the territory. Case in point that time Deep Six spun up in the test box and ate shit it wound up damaging the floor and itself pretty severely. The robot was also prone to tipping over backwards, a position it cannot self-right from. I know that sounds ridiculous because you might be saying “this weapon can dig a gash into the floor but it can’t right itself with that power?” Well, no. That’s because of the stalling torque of the motors, the full weight of the robot bearing down on them was too much for the motors to overcome and the robot was dead in the water when it toppled over. However, take a look at Deep Six’s sides and back end, there’s stabilizer bars now. All that’s left to see is whether or not this robot still kills itself when throwing a punch.

GRADE: C+

DEFENDER
Team Fast Electric Robots

Team Fast Electric Robots has always been “Matt Vasquez this” and “Matt Vasquez that”, but the dude’s got a brother, Jason. Not wanting to always be in the shadow of his brother Jason Vasquez has spearheaded his own grappling robot, Defender. Whereas most robots rely upon some sort of lifting clamp or claw Defender differs in that it has a wheeled brace (the blue thing) that it deploys downward in order to lift both Defender and its opponent off the ground. Meanwhile Defender’s rear wheels stay in contact with the floor and ideally its opponent is wholly trapped in Defender’s maw and raised off of the ground. Also I think that might be a flamethrower I spot on the robot’s right side. If the lifter works this could be one of the few effective flamethrowers out there.

STRENGTHS: Jason said he wanted to build a design that has never been done before. Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news but a long time ago there was this shitty Robot Wars competitor called Medusa 2000 that basically did what you’re trying to do but just sucked at it. Badly. So maybe in that regard Defender can be the first good robot with this design. That’s something to celebrate. I’m personally just floored to see a new robot come out of the Vasquez’s garage because it’s not like I’m getting tired of Whiplash, the damn thing was the runner-up last season, but I know these guys have a million and one ideas floating around and it’s nice to finally be able to see another one of those ideas make its way to BattleBots.

WEAKNESSES: Defender is always going to be playing the ground clearance game with opponents as its active weapon depends on the robot not just getting under an opponent but getting under them with some gusto so that when the rollers are deployed Defender’s opponent is completely lifted off of the ground, otherwise it’ll just fall off and then Defender will be sitting there with its front end raised a foot and a half off of the fucking ground asking to be smacked in the face. This means Defender is going to need some direct and powerful attacks to get opponents stuck on its lifter, potentially with the help of the arena side walls.

GRADE: B

DOUBLE JEOPARDY
Team Double Trouble

Man it’s been a hot minute since we’ve seen this machine enter the ring but I’m glad to see this safety hazard on wheels back at BattleBots. The literal bane of the safety crew, Double Jeopardy is armed with a fucking cannon and because of safety regulations it can only be loaded and pressurized inside the Battlebox. The time between clapping and cheering for Double Jeopardy as Faruq introduces it and then actually seeing this robot open fire on its opponents is literally like 15 goddamned minutes. But it’s so worth it for the novelty of a robot that fires out steel slugs and giant ball bearings from its front-mounted blaster. Nobody else has the balls to build what the Woolley brothers have made.

STRENGTHS: I recognize some of the mechanical mess on top of Double Jeopardy and it seems as though the yellow pneumatic switching valve might be there so this robot can finally fire more than just one shot before turning into a wedge for the remainder of the fight. If that’s the case, holy shit. Also there’s a small cutaway at Double Jeopardy’s front that suggests perhaps the robot is using some form of LIDAR or motion-tracking akin to how Chomp is always able to keep its turret facing its opponent. Double Jeopardy souped up with new tech can only spell disaster for its opponents, let’s just hope its ammo can deal serious damage (the team says they’re not allowed to use pointed projectiles for safety reasons).

WEAKNESSES: Even with a six-shooter you’re bound to run out of bullets. Double Jeopardy’s downfall is that of any robot with a pneumatic weapon: running out of juice. With flippers we see progressively weaker and weaker flips until there’s just nothing left in the tank, but in Double Jeopardy’s case we’re going to be good for however many shots they’ve loaded into this thing and that’s it. After those first few volleys have been fired off Double Jeopardy is just a wedge with no active weapon. There’s no backup for when the ammo runs dry and last time I checked there aren’t any ammo box items floating around in the arena to reload.

GRADE: D+

DRAGON SLAYER
Wildside Robotics

Straight outta Texas is this machine that bears more than a passing resemblance to former Robogames mainstay “Electric Boogaloo”. Electric Boogaloo was built by Orion Beach and Dan Chatterton, two names that ought to sound familiar to you if you’re a long time fan of the sport; Orion drove Skorpios for two seasons before moving to the Hijinx team whereas Dan was the mastermind behind Wrecks the gyro-walker before he too joined the Skorpios team. Rumor has it Orion wanted to bring Electric Boogaloo to BattleBots but the design was denied. No matter the case we finally have a “close enough” representation of the original two-wheeled vertical spinner of death. There are a lot of bad dragons out there, Dragon Slayer. Kill them all.

STRENGTHS: In a world dominated by “other goddamned vertical spinners” Dragon Slayer looks to make a splash sporting a two-wheeled design as opposed to the four wheels we commonly see on the likes of Bite Force, End Game, Bombshell, and others. The decision to go with two wheels was a smart one because Wildside Robotics have shown off Dragon Slayer’s ability to right itself by reversing in place causing the chassis to swing forward kind of like an old thwack bot design. Can’t do that with four wheels. With its spinner powered down, Dragon Slayer can right itself with ease assuming it’s not pinned up against a wall or something of the sort. After that it’s just a matter of revving the blade back up and getting its licks in.

WEAKNESSES: People use forks for wedges these days for a reason, they’re just better at getting underneath things. Dragon Slayer isn’t using forks, it’s actually using these weird flat pieces of metal that ride along the floor that are reinforced with fork-like struts. This seems impractical and easily damaged. If just one point of the robot’s massive leading edge is bent upward by a Killsaw or an attack from an opponent it will severely hinder the efficacy of Dragon Slayer’s weapon by way of reducing its reach. Hopefully given the way it’s designed the further out from the center any nicks are the less likely they are to pose a problem for the robot.

GRADE: C+

DUCK!
Team Black and Blue

The original “billet bot” Duck returns after a brief hiatus from BattleBots. Formerly this robot had a 360 degree lifting plow that could rotate around the entire robot to lift opponents up as well as attack with a pointed tip on one end. We never saw much of the “hammer” aspect of Duck’s plow, but by god did we see that damn lifting action come into play time and time again. Duck is renown for being a hard target to kill having gone up against the likes of Tombstone and other deadly robots and successfully destabilizing them with its plow’s sloped sides. Well new Duck doesn’t have that plow, instead it has a much more beak-like bill that can open and close as well as pivot and lift in any direction and no matter what at least two of Duck’s wheels will be on the ground so it’ll be able to control the fight.

STRENGTHS: This is Duck. Lots of robots brag about being hard to knock out but Duck takes the cake in that it was famously milled from a solid block of aluminum. New Duck looks to be a bit more piecemeal but just looking at all those screws makes me believe this robot is as tough as ever. Mark my words, we’re not going to see any panels coming loose on this thing anytime soon. There has got to be nearly 200 screws visible on Duck’s lid and that’s just what we can see. Hal Rucker is a master engineer so he knows what he’s doing, every screw has a purpose. What intrigues me are the big buffer plates mounted onto the front of the robot. I wonder what they’re made of now that Duck’s original massive plow is no longer in use?

WEAKNESSES: Duck has no way to cause meaningful damage to an opponent, it’s banking purely on control of the fight. This is fine because Hal is a great driver and all, but the minute Duck starts taking damage those are judges points it’s going to lose and really struggle to earn back unless it can use the hazards to its full advantage. Also this new lifting “duck bill” setup is brand new and we’ve yet to see it in action. Back when Duck just had the big plow it was a simple affair – keep the heavy end pointed at the other guy – but now there is no “heavy end” and instead Duck has had to be re-engineered to have a stronger front end. What about the back? What about the exposed tires? There’s a lot of unanswered questions with the new Duck and I’m afraid we might not be getting the answers we want.

GRADE: B

END GAME
OYES Robotics

The reigning champion. “Bite Force 2.0”, if you will. I’m certain the passing resemblance isn’t unintentional, it’s a design that works. Out of all the “another goddamned vertical spinners” out there, End Game is perhaps the best one… for now. The current Nut holders seem to be keeping their robot’s oblong spinning bar as well as the aesthetics of the machine including its orange Sonic the Hedgehog quills and its serrated self-righting mechanism. Does the self-righter work this time? Jack and Nick better goddamned well hope so because they’re the team with the massive target on their back for this upcoming season. One thing’s for certain though, it looks like being the champions gave these guys the lion’s share of sponsors because good god is everyone trying to get their company names on this machine. (Also Jack, please keep the facial hair. Without it you look like someone I used to know and it really messes with me, you’re rocking the beard real good man.)

STRENGTHS: End Game is the only robot this season where “going up against the champion” is a legitimate getting-into-someone’s-head tactic. End Game dispatched all comers and in a world without Bite Force, End Game is the next best thing. That power vacuum left when Bite Force temporarily went on hiatus left a bunch of upper tier teams scrambling for the top spot and now Jack Barker can say he’s won more than just some random international events. Hell, I’m surprised they didn’t turn the Giant Nut into their new spinner or something; I wouldn’t hold it past these guys. I’m certain the disc is as powerful as ever, and you know End Game will be on its “A game”.

WEAKNESSES: End Game did not have a perfect run for the Nut last season. End Game managed to lose one qualifier to Bloodsport when after a few nasty exchanges End Game was left a smoking heap who’d somehow managed to lose a tire in the process. End Game might be “the champion”, but there’s cracks in that armor. Bite Force, though MIA, is on a 16-fight winning streak that’s currently paused. End Game can’t boast about a winning streak that long and it’s purely because the robot isn’t invincible. It’s got a great driver, it’s got a great weapon, but we’ve seen what happens with a bad draw and that could be all it takes for the current reigning king to be usurped.

GRADE: A

FREE SHIPPING
Team Special Delivery

Ah, Gary Gin. One of the original bad boys of BattleBots when in season three he brought a lightweight called The Big B and made it all the way to the championship finals… which consequently was the robot’s debut fight on TV. The producers were trying to downplay wedges so badly that they straight up skipped this robot’s semifinals, quarterfinals, and all of its preliminaries, but you couldn’t stop the B. Gary’s back with Free Shipping, a “forklift” robot that true fans of robot combat know is just Gary’s immensely successful heavyweight Original Sin with some extra faff attached to it. This was done because under BattleBots’ current rule set you couldn’t just bring a wedge, so Gary brought a wedge with a lifting arm that usually fights in the upright position. Big think.

STRENGTHS: Original Sin, the robot Free Shipping was born from, is considered to be the most successful heavyweight combat robot of all time. Read that again, of all time. This is a robot that some will argue is better than your Biohazards and Vlad the Impalers of the robot combat world, this low-slung triple wedge has been the be-all-end-all of numerous competitors over the years. It’s just unfortunate Gary hasn’t been able to match that success with BattleBots but it’s not for lack of trying; Free Shipping’s attached forklift looks more robust than it ever has and I see its two trademark flamethrower spouts on either side ready to roast whoever isn’t paying for their Amazon Prime subscriptions.

WEAKNESSES: Original Sin is able to drive upside down and its hinged wedges automatically fall into place when this happens, but Free Shipping cannot drive upside down because its forklift gets in the way. The robot can self-right but this opens it to free hits while it’s trying to roll back over and knowing this robot’s pedigree an opponent would be wise to seize the opportunity to land all the extra hits they can get. Additionally while it’s armed with a forklift Free Shipping’s weaponry has always been rather lacking, I think Gary’s been trying to sell us on Original Sin all along and these weapons are just there for the sake of meeting BattleBots criteria. Of all the Free Shippings we’ve seen though, this looks like the best one.

GRADE: B+

FUSION
Team Whyachi

Oh boy, the bastard child is back. Fusion is Team Whyachi’s attempt to have yet another “next big thing”. After Hydra showed up two seasons ago and cucked Bronco the team has always been looking for the next robot design to really have that “wow” factor, they’ve done it their entire career. Fusion was the big unveil last season sporting a vertical set of spinning discs at its front and a massive horizontal triangle-shaped blade at its rear. Fusion on paper looked as impressive as it did frightening but we all know how its season went. This thing just fucking blew up and burned to death in two of its four total fights. That said, when it won it won. It seems Team Whyachi is willing to roll the dice again on Fusion to see if they can work out its kinks.

STRENGTHS: It’s a spinner from Team Whyachi, that alone puts this robot in an echelon of bots that everyone should rightfully be afraid of. Its combo weaponry absolutely destroyed Aegis so badly that Aegis straight up forfeited their other two Fight Night rounds. Part of this might be because Aegis was using fiberglass and kevlar for armor but that doesn’t matter because Fusion thrashed this thing so badly that it ensured Aegis went 0-1 with no recourse. Fusion also used its discs to knock out WAR-EZ in a single decisive blow by flipping the robot over, so we know those spinners pack enough of a punch to knock someone onto their head. Fusion might be a big unknown at this point, but it’s a dangerous unknown for sure.

WEAKNESSES: Fusion is a gyroscopic fucking nightmare. This thing drives and acts like you did some shit you weren’t supposed to in Robot Arena 2 and now you’re testing your Frankenstein of a robot out in the arena. Fusion’s front discs generate upward gyroscopic forces so when the robot turns it wants to pull up onto one side, however its rear spinner creates a lateral force perpendicular to what the vertical discs are doing. Rather than cancel each other out these two forces do not play nicely with each other and it usually results in Fusion pivoting up onto one of its corners wherein its weapons hit the ground and the robot spins out of control. Fusion’s internals are also very fragile and on two occasions the robot literally just exploded and burst into flames. Unlike Black Dragon, Fusion’s not designed to handle internal battery fires that well which resulted in both of the robot’s spectacular losses.

GRADE: C-

GHOST RAPTOR
Team Raptor

I guess Chuck really is committed to this bizarre design of his, and good on him for having that much belief in his design. I sure as hell don’t believe in it that’s for goddamned sure. Ever since it caught a net back in season 6 there has been a rain cloud following this cursed robot. I don’t know what Chuck did to have such poor luck but he must’ve pissed off a voodoo priestess or something somewhere because Ghost Raptor just cannot stay alive. It’s primary weapon is still a tilted horizontal spinning blade that can be pivoted and adjusted mid-fight in order to strike at tactical points on its opponents, though now it also appears there’s more of a “lifting arm” aspect to the weaponry in the event that the blade craps out. Additionally, inside that goofy fake mouth on the front of the robot is a big ass flamethrower so if Ghost Raptor lifts someone up it’ll be able to roast their nuts, and nobody likes roasted nuts.

STRENGTHS: Chuck Pitzer has stuck with this design for several years. Where many builders might call it a day and design a new robot or jump ship to another team Chuck has remained laser focused on Ghost Raptor. For all the yuks I get out of this robot I must concede that this is a well-maintained and thought out machine. Mostly. Being able to strike your opponents at multiple heights and levels is an advantage few if any robots have and Ghost Raptor’s new lifting knives just might prove to be the “plan B” the robot has so desperately needed in years gone by whenever something goes wrong with the main weapon. In the past we haven’t seen this lifting arm be long enough to be effective, but these knives look like they can do the trick.

WEAKNESSES: C’mon… it’s Ghost Raptor. You know, the Sabertooth Cat. No matter what Chuck does to this robot it will always be the one that gets lambasted and memed on. I photobombed Chuck’s arena entrance on national fucking television with a “SABERTOOTH CAT” sign right before Son of Whyachi devoured this thing back in 2016. That’s a great segue into Ghost Raptor’s primary weakness: structural integrity. Back in 2016 Son of Whyachi busted this thing open so badly that Ghost Raptor’s entire chassis had cracked into two pieces. Last season we saw Jackpot, who is nowhere near as deadly or powerful as Son of Whyachi, pluck Ghost Raptor’s weapon off and splay its chassis open like a cheap buffet crab leg. Those back corners have gotta be reinforced if Ghost Raptor wants to stand any chance at taking the big hits and surviving them.

GRADE: C+

GIGABYTE
Robotic Death Company

John Mladenik and Brent Rieker have an on-again-off-again relationship when it comes to manning the helm of the Robotic Death Company. Brent has taken over in previous years when John was busy competing at a Chinese event, and now Brent is spearheading Cobalt who is on loan to the RDC courtesy of Team Carbide from the UK. But John’s always been the captain and Gigabyte has always been his pride and joy. This maniacal shell spinner has been around for nearly two decades in various forms (Rambite, Megabyte, Super Megabyte, etc) causing all kinds of fucking problems for everyone who fights this thing. Nobody leaves a Gigabyte fight smiling, even if they’ve won. Compared to Captain Shrederator, Gigabyte is the deadlier contemporary shell spinner. This is the robot Shrederator wishes it could be.

STRENGTHS: Gigabyte can achieve top speed ridiculously fast, like its legitimately scary; this robot can go from 0-100 in seconds and before you know it your robot is splattered against the arena wall or at the very least missing a big ass chunk of armor. New to Gigabyte’s design this year is its lower “lip”; in the past we’ve seen Gigabyte have basically a conical shape that extends into the floor, but not this time. Now there’s a hard lip where both of Gigabyte’s nasty teeth jut out from. This change was done presumably to stop other robots from driving up atop Gigabyte and potentially missing the big teeth on the way up. That’s still a possibility however so Gigabyte still has its upper teeth to slice and dice away any robots that get a little too touchy-feely.

WEAKNESSES: “Bad parts from China” keep sneaking their way into this robot. Several seasons ago during a fight with Tombstone we saw the bar spinner pull off an impressive trick when it smashed Gigabyte so hard that Gigabyte’s entire fucking shell came off. The team investigated the aftermath and this mini episode of CSI pointed to a bad central mast as the culprit, a part they’d outsourced to have manufactured in China. Brent Rieker took it upon himself to make a brand new mast on his fucking own time so that this wouldn’t happen again… but it did happen again last season when Copperhead grabbed a nice bite out of the shell spinner and blew the lid off again. The team determined this to’ve been a “damaged” mast from a previous fight against Witch Doctor but the jury is still out on whether this was another botch job from China. If Gigabyte can source some better made parts then this spinner stands a chance at making a deep tournament run.

GRADE: B-

GLITCH
Combat Robotics @ UC Berkeley

Glitch is a bit of a unique case, it’s certainly unlike anything we’ve ever seen before at BattleBots and I feel like we won’t truly “understand” this robot until we see some video of it in action. It’s armed with an egg-beater spinner similar in style and look to Black Dragon, so there’s some familiarity there, but the rest of this robot is one big question mark. We know it has a non-standard drive system because I can tell from the one wheel I can see that it looks like one of Razer’s rear tires which were omni-directional wheels to aide in better maneuverability. That said Razer used omni wheels in conjunction with normal ones up front to keep its pivot point as close to the front of the robot as possible, but that’s not what Glitch is using them for. All of this robot’s wheels are of the “special” variety. This may very well be a case similar to Shatter where the robot can strafe and drive sideways.

STRENGTHS: Thanks to a slightly spoiler-esque image we know Glitch’s weapon has the ability to knock an opponent pretty high up into the air. The opponent was censored out in the promotional screenshot, but Glitch was sitting pretty on the arena floor admiring its handiwork. That egg-beater is no joke, and its unique drive system will most definitely give the robot lots of options for maneuverability. This is also a robot coming out of UC Berkeley and while it’s silly to judge a robot based purely upon the school it came from I think it’s a safe bet to say that a group of students from UC Berkeley getting together to built a BattleBot probably aren’t a bunch of morons. These guys know engineering and I think they know they’ve got the potential to make a real surprise showing.

WEAKNESSES: Glitch’s front end isn’t conductive to landing effective blows with an egg-beater weapon. This train plow-style front end is just going to shunt opponents away to the left or right unless the robot is able to get a proper straight drive on someone to pitch them up and over the robot’s pointed front end. Glitch looks like it has a fancy drivetrain, but that weapon doesn’t look like it does anything special, it’s just a spinner. That’s not to understate the power that we all know it has thanks to the promotional image but it does appear to me at least that getting opponents into the weapon successfully might prove to be a difficult endeavor, unless Glitch can just ram someone diagonally to turn its entire left or right side into one massive wedge.

GRADE: C

GRUFF
Team Gruff

Gruff is the Mad Max version of Biohazard. Prove me wrong. Outfitted with six-wheel drive, a unique lifting arm, and two flamethrowers capable of putting out blasts in excess of 3000 degrees Fahrenheit Gruff is ready to rumble, to put it lightly. This heavily armored tank of a robot very nearly upset Tombstone several seasons ago and that’s all you need to know about Gruff’s durability. That front wedge can take the biggest hits from the sport’s nastiest weapons and shrug it off like it ain’t no thang. Perhaps what works best to Gruff’s offense is that its lifting arm has serrations on its top and bottom making it a dual purpose weapon for lifting or grabbing, and the robot’s unique nylon strap system that it uses for the lifter ensures that there won’t be any broken chains, split belts, or stripped gears to worry about.

STRENGTHS: This is the most powerful flamethrower in BattleBots. Other robots might be armed with flamethrowers as well, but none of them are engineered to the degree that Gruff’s is. Look at them, these things look like fucking reverse-mounted jet engines. When a robot gets caught up in Gruff’s lifting arm they’re going to get roasted and last season we bore witness to Hypershock getting smoked out by these deadly blasters. Six-wheel drive ensures that there isn’t any part of the beat up arena floor that this robot can’t effortlessly travel across on its way to murder you, and those lifting forks are made of sturdy solid steel so good luck ripping that assembly off because it’s not going anywhere.

WEAKNESSES: For all I’ve said about Gruff’s six-wheel drive the robot’s drivetrain is actually prone to failure, something we’ve seen happen numerous times namely in the most recent season. After catching a bad blow to its underside from Whiplash, Gruff eventually started smoking and lost the fight after being over powered. If that weren’t bad enough Gruff managed to lose to Extinguisher when half of its drivetrain gave out putting the full workload on the redundant drive motors which just couldn’t take the heat resulting in another loss, this time by KO. Also for some reason Sam McAmis and his team were seemingly uninterested in fixing Gruff’s crooked lifting arms once they wound up getting bent. Without replacements or the tools needed to fix a bent weapon this could severely hinder Gruff’s shot at the title.

GRADE: B

HIJINX
Offbeat Robotics

A split from the Skorpios team, Jen Herchenroeder and Orion Beach put their heads together to come up with Hijinx, which is basically just a sideways Deep Six all things considered. Hijinx’s weapon is a massive undercutting blade painted to look exactly like the Trapper Keeper you had in third grade. (Actually the robot is supposed to be a neon owl but I’m keeping the Trapper Keeper reference.) This is one of the many robots in the field that’s “all weapon” meaning it’s lacking in other areas. For example, Hijinx really doesn’t have much in the way of armor and those wheels look like they came from a fucking K’Nex set or something. While Hijinx was able to tank a blow straight to the noggin from Chomp, I’m not so certain the likes of Uppercut or End Game would result in Hijinx coming out smelling like roses. In fact we know for certain this robot would not come out winning on the other end of an Uppercut battle.

STRENGTHS: Hijinx has a powerful weapon that has some real muscle behind it. Remember, walking robots are allowed to weigh 500 pounds so when this thing’s blade was able to knock Chomp up into the air to slide underneath it and get some business done that was a quarter of a ton that just got blasted. Everybody else weighs 250 pounds. Hijinx had some mechanical problems in its debut season last year but still managed to win two of its qualifiers so even with some gremlins this machine was still capable of laying the smackdown on some other bots. I’d imagine in the year it’s been since last season Jen and her team have only improved this robot. I know I’d hate to be on the other end of this thing.

WEAKNESSES: Hijinx is very maneuverable; its pivot point is exactly where the weapon is spinning since that’s where its wheels are lined up, but those wheels could be easy targets for opponents. Let’s say Hijinx strikes someone and hypothetically the impact causes Hijinx to spin around in place, now one of those wheels might be vulnerable and those wheels look like they’d come off if you even so much as kicked them. But these are the sacrifices made in order to have a big ass undercutter blade, the team just has to hope no one its hits wheels. Additionally, the only “defensive” capability Hijinx has its is rear flank which has a dinky little plow stuck onto it. Not the most reliable defense to say the least.

GRADE: C

HUGE
Team HUGE

When Huge debuted at BattleBots it was a robot unlike anyone had ever seen. What’s this thing with big ass tires and a spinning blade mounted at its center? How the fuck are you supposed to hit this thing’s chassis when it’s a foot and a half off the ground? These were the questions Jonathan Schultz surprised people with when his team arrived with Huge a few years ago. Sporting wheels made out of UHMW plastic Huge is virtually indestructible as its wheels will just flex and rip apart into tiny chunks when attacked, there’s nothing you can really do to this machine and in the meantime Huge’s chassis-dividing spinning bar is busy racking up all kinds of points as it cleaves into your machine. People have tried all kinds of attachments for Huge but the only one to work so far was Team Whyachi’s infamous “bike rack” that required expert driving but was able to keep Huge from hitting the Whyachi robot Hydra for three solid minutes. Jonathan says that fuckery will not be happening again.

STRENGTHS: Huge’s biggest strength has always been that you simply can’t hit the goddamned thing. Most robots are ill-equipped to hit a robot whose juicy parts are raised nearly two feet off of the ground. Deep Six is the only robot I can think of who’d be equipped to handle a fight with Huge, and maybe Shatter or another hammer bot as well. You can have all the Magmotors in the world powering your “fuck you” spinner but unless that thing is jutting a foot off of the ground the best you can hope to achieve is gnawing at Huge’s wheels. While previously a weakness, Huge’s rear floor braces were also made of UHMW but were noticeably flimsier. It appears these are made of a new material this year which could mean Huge is much more stable now.

WEAKNESSES: All that weight, all those impacts, all that everything is concentrated to a single point on Huge’s chassis, and you know exactly where it is. The center bar. In seasons gone by we’ve seen Huge literally split apart at its middle and die when the robot just couldn’t take any more punishment. It’s been a long while since we’ve seen that happen but there’s always the chance that Huge could collapse in on itself with a particularly nasty shot from a horizontal spinner, or even just under its own weight if a shaft splits or something. Huge’s wheels, while virtually indestructible, have also proven to afford piss poor traction. There’s usually chunks of bike tire bolted to the outsides of the wheel to abate this problem but it’s not uncommon for these chunks of rubber to get ripped away in particularly heated battles.

GRADE: B+

HYDRA
Team Whyachi

Ah yes, it’s not a BattleBots season anymore unless this guy shows up. Famously breaking “the Whyachi curse” – where a Team Whyachi robot fails to make it beyond the Round of 16 – Hydra arrived on the scene two seasons ago and proceeded to dunk on everyone with its hydraulic flipper. In a sport where the powerful flippers we’re used to seeing run on compressed air Jake Ewert dared to be different and by pressurizing about as much liquid as there is in a can of soda he’s engineered a flipper that’s just as powerful, possibly even more powerful, than the pneumatic flippers of old. After winning a fight over Bronco by ring out, the former flipper poster child, Hydra cemented itself as “the new #1 launcher” as its BattleBots promotional graphic declared.

STRENGTHS: Because there are no bulky air tanks to make room for Hydra is afforded the ability to be super low slung with an even lower center of gravity than its contemporaries meaning less wheelie popping and less toppling over if it fires off a flip while mid-turn. Because no liquid is used up when Hydra fires off its flipping arm it theoretically has an unlimited amount of shots in its lifting arm compared to the restrictive nature of pneumatics. As long as the batteries are running Hydra’s flipper is ready to go. Finally, Hydra’s assortment of individual wedgelets at its front end ensures that even if it loses the ground clearance battle on a couple of them it can still get enough travel with the others to go for a flip. The only way Hydra has been taken down is by being out-driven, not destroyed.

WEAKNESSES: If there’s an imperfection in the floor Hydra will fucking find it. This robot has spent two seasons hitting every single possible seam in the Battlebox which on numerous occasions has stopped it dead in its tracks from being able to perform a follow-up attack or just launch an attack period. It’s almost like Hydra rides just too low to the ground, but that’s the only way to win the ground clearance battle. Supposedly there’s a new floor for this season of BattleBots so here’s hoping Hydra stops stubbing its goddamned toe on everything. Another weakness I’ve noticed with this robot is that it might only be specced for exactly three minutes and no more because as fights drag on Hydra starts to slow down. Its drivetrain also seems suspect to taking damage but Jake is a good enough driver to hide that with smoke and mirrors.

GRADE: A

HYPERSHOCK
Shenanigans & Co.

It’s hard to believe there was once an era when Hypershock didn’t look like a highlighter got into a fight with a 1990’s RC car but despite this we’ve come to know this robot as the Neon Menace. Driven by Will Bales with a pistol grip transmitter, just like a professional RC derby car, Hypershock has always had lofty aspirations to shock the world. We saw a glimpse of the kind of carnage Will has built into his machine when in 2016 it completely disassembled Ultraviolent by way of separating the robot’s baseplate from, well, literally every goddamned thing else. Unfortunately for Will in the very next season Hypershock caught a nasty stray blow from Bite Force which saw its top panel and all of its batteries being ejected from the robot. But Hypershock has hung in there, whether it’s as the #32 seed last year or just as a crowd favorite you can’t keep a good bot down and I think we’ve long overdue for a good season for this neon nightmare.

STRENGTHS: When Hypershock is working the robot is damn near impossible to wrangle and get a hold of. Featuring all-brushless drive, one motor per wheel, Hypershock is a nimble son of a bitch and Will Bales knows exactly how to run circles around an opponent until an opportunity to attack arises. Brushless motors also provide power to Hypershock’s dual slicing blades and it’s been a good long time since we’ve seen these shredders properly knock someone silly. Dare I say it but the last time Hypershock brought the pain might’ve been against Ultraviolent. Then again nothing can top a hit like that so I think we’ve all just been spoiled by the possibility of what could be when Hypershock gets a hold of someone.

WEAKNESSES: This robot… just never fucking works. It’s a long running joke in the BattleBots community that Will Bales never shows up to an event with a 100% finished robot even though he knows there’s a hard deadline. I can relate because I’m late to posting shit to this website all the time even when I myself have deadlines, but that’s different. These are BattleBots we’re talking about here so “not having an article done on time” is leagues different than “not having a fully functional self-righting mechanism”, which is exactly what happened to Hypershock last year. Yep, the robot had all the equipment for a srimech but it just didn’t work. Instead, upon landing on its lid Hypershock’s upper stabilizers just bent outward hindering its ability to drive upside down. If Will can just stop binge watching Gargoyles on Disney+ and start working on his fucking robot we might finally be in for one of those “good seasons” we’re overdue for.

GRADE: B-

ICEWAVE
Team Icewave

Originally when I wrote last year’s season predictions I wasn’t aware of the “Bounty Hunters” side series so when I saw Icewave, Bronco, and Son of Whyachi I just thought they were back in the field as full competitors and I judged and graded them as such. This time however Icewave is officially back in the house, it’s on the roster of robots here to kick ass and chew bubblegum while being all out of bubble gum. Icewave remains the only robot to have a weapon powered by a gasoline engine, that’s what’s hiding under the thing on Icewave’s head. A custom-built internal combustion engine (the “ICE” in “Icewave”, if you will). Icewave is an old robot and has always had an engine powering its weapon dating back to an era of the sport where engines gave you a better power-to-weight ratio over electric motors. These days technology has caught up with gas guzzlers and now electric motors can out-perform a standard engine but Marc DeVidts doesn’t give a shit, Icewave still has its original engine because it’s just that badass.

STRENGTHS: I know we have Perfect Phoenix around here somewhere but for me Icewave will always be the superior “heavyweight version of former BattleBots champion Hazard”. It’s loud, it’s chaotic, and let’s not forget the time it smacked Vanquish so fucking hard that it split the robot into two goddamned halves. (It also later did the same thing to Huge.) People have tried to engineer special attachments to combat Icewave like poking sticks that are shaped to grab hold of Icewave’s engine and push it away, but take a look at that upper engine cover; it’s slanted now, there will be no more grabbing and pushing away with Icewave’s head. My favorite aspect of Icewave is the devious thing Marc has done with his robot’s weapon: the tips of the blade are painted the same color as the arena floor so while this thing is spinning at top speed opponents will have a hard time eyeballing how far away Icewave’s weapon actually is. This is some evil genius shit.

WEAKNESSES: Like any gas-powered engine a stall spells certain doom for the robot. I’d like to imagine with all the advances in technology that Marc has a way to remotely reignite the engine in the event of one but if he doesn’t then Icewave is just a push bot with a big clunky Lego head on top of it. Thanks to Rotator we’ve also seen just how vulnerable that engine casing is if you can hit it with something while Icewave’s weapon is stalling or not up to speed; Rotator absolutely gutted Icewave’s custom engine and might’ve been part of the reason why this robot took a break for a season. Another weakness of Icewave is one of hype. Just like the aforementioned time Hypershock split Ultraviolent open like a walnut we’re always on the edge of our seats waiting for “the next big hit”. We’ll never see Icewave in the arena and not be secretly hoping that it splits someone in two again.

GRADE: A-

JACKPOT
Team Vegas Combat Robotics

Initially built on a budget of just $4,000 Jackpot debuted at BattleBots making huge waves by winning all three of its qualification fights granting it the #11 seed. I’ll disagree with that low seeding until the day I die but the fact remains that this team is a true underdog story. Builder Jeff Waters is a plumber by trade and one day he wanted to build a robot so he just did it. He read up on how things worked, got a small team together, and brought Jackpot to the show and was met with immediate success. I dubbed it “Bite Force if male enhancement pills worked” because of its massive diamond-shaped spinners, but those blades are no joke. They KO’d Subzero, busted off Ghost Raptor’s blade and splayed its chassis open, and KO’d Lock-Jaw. Lock-Jaw, downed by a rookie team. If that’s not a reason to keep your eyes on this robot then I don’t know what is, but Jackpot is back and now that this event is being held in Las Vegas – Jackpot’s home turf – everyone else would be wise to watch out.

STRENGTHS: Jackpot’s weaponry is able to hold a stupid amount of kinetic energy inside of it and its big thick weapon belt ensures maximum grip between the motor pulley and spindle of the weapon. Using one big belt instead of several small ones might be a drawback, but it’s all about grip and Jackpot has plenty of it. Not pictured here is Jackpot’s “heartbreaker” configuration which is a special smaller spinning disc shaped like a heart and similar to what End Game’s weapon looks like. This is a weapon for the team to pull out when they need to do some real damage to a heavily armored opponent. I’ve gotta say though, I’m still in love with the giant fucking spinning diamonds. The roulette table coloration is a nice touch as well, this robot is the embodiment of Las Vegas; you’ll wind up drunk and broke by the time it’s done with you. Also there’s strippers.

WEAKNESSES: Weapons that large generate some stupid gyroscopic forces which will hinder Jackpot’s maneuverability, the robot will constantly want to pull up onto one side as it tries to turn. This is normally only when the robot tries to spin in place however so as long as Jeff only uses one side of drive while turning he might be able to avoid opening his robot up to attack. Additionally we saw this robot ultimately meet its end when its self-righting mechanism failed to work. Last season the srimech was a sideways-mounted arm that unfurled kind of similar to Death Roll’s, but this year it looks like there’s a proper front-to-back set of lifting arms to roll the robot back down from its backside. I’m certain the team has tested their new righter now all that remains is a live test in the arena.

GRADE: B+

JAGER
Team Jager

Normally I’d say “it’s not often we see a cluster bot” but then I remember we were cursed with Gemini for like four fucking seasons (looks like they finally gave up after Uppercut destroyed it). Jager is a two-part robot consisting of an undercutter and a miniature hammer saw robot akin to Sawblaze with its cute little front forks. Each of these robots weigh 125 pounds meaning for a proper KO win both parts of Jager need to be knocked out in order for the robot to be considered incapacitated. I think these little bots look great and Jager appears to be the only team who was actually able to come over from Europe because they did their own visa paperwork instead of letting it get handled by production who apparently fucked everything up and that’s why Beta, Orion, Sabertooth, and other bots were out this year. Jager broke the mold, now let’s see if it can break some faces.

STRENGTHS: The obvious strength is having two robots in the arena when your opponent has only one. Yes both of your robots are underweight but advancements in brushless technology have created motors that even middleweight-tier robots can successfully use to damage heavyweight robots. Imagine getting swarmed by an undercutter and an… “above cutter”? Sure your robot could probably knock these two around easily but while you’re picking on one of them the other is going to be nipping at your ass until you turn to focus your attention in which case then the other robot will get right on biting your ankles. Both of these robots look like decent machines. Probably not Giant Nut material, but definitely robust enough to pose a thread to a lot of mid-tier competitors.

WEAKNESSES: Jager was supposed to be a three-part multibot, however because of COVID complications most of the team was not able to make it to BattleBots so instead Ralf Schneider is on his own keeping up with two robots. The missing third robot would’ve been a drum spinner similar to Minotaur and because each robot is 125 pounds that means the team could only ever pick two of their three bots to run at any given time, but now that choice is no longer on the table for Ralf. Maybe he’ll be fighting someone where the miniature Sawblaze robot he has isn’t the best choice… but unfortunately he has to run it whether or not it has an advantage. Still, the weapons he’s stuck with are both proven designs when scaled up to 250 pounds so even if they hit only half as hard we hopefully should still see a good show from this newcomer.

GRADE: C-

KRAKEN
Team CE Robots

I don’t think this robot started life as a serious contender. Seriously just go back and look at 2018 Kraken it’s a fucking joke, but then look at 2019 Kraken and you’ll see a robot that belongs on the cover of a hot rod magazine surrounded by scantily clad women giving it a wash and wax. I believe Kraken may have initially been built as a proof of concept but when Matt Spurk realized he might be onto something he went whole hog and turned Kraken from a beta into a beast. Biting down on Red Devil’s tank tread pod and breaking the whole fucking thing might’ve played a role in that decision, that’s how much force this thing is packing in its bite and it’s only increased from there. Kraken attacks fearlessly no matter who it’s fighting and isn’t afraid to jam its teeth down right into or onto someone’s weapon, such as the case with Black Dragon last year. You know, the fight Kraken should’ve won. Yeah, I’ll die on that hill too fuck you it’s my site.

STRENGTHS: Most people associate strong biter bots with slow hydraulics like Quantum and Razer, but Kraken is pneumatic. Hey, force is force. Doesn’t matter how it’s being applied, being bitten down with a ton of force one way or another is going to ruin someone’s day. That means of course that once Kraken gets a bite down on an opponent that they’re probably not going to get away. Formerly Kraken has featured a flamethrower at the back of its gullet and I know last season I said “it looks like Matt got rid of it” but fuck me the asshole kept it. I don’t visibly see a hole cut for a flamethrower this time but I’m just going to assume it’s still there, and honestly this is one of the few times I can see a flamethrower being of some utility. Maybe.

WEAKNESSES: Kraken’s got a couple of steel fins acting as plows to cover its wheels but those two wheels have always been priority targets for opponents. We’ve seen Sawblaze chop them off and Son of Whyachi rip them off. With only two wheels Kraken can’t afford to lose one because then it’s just aimlessly spinning around in place completely at the mercy of whether or not the referees feel like determining that as “controlled movement” or not, and that’s not a place you want to be. All of the pneumatics that power Kraken’s weaponry are located in the robot’s head and we’ve seen that robots who can hit high enough, like Huge and Sawblaze, pose a major threat to this robot. At one point we saw the whole pneumatic airbag that powers the crusher get ripped loose from a gaping head wound on this robot so hopefully Kraken’s upper armor hasn’t been skimped.

GRADE: B-

LOCK-JAW
Team Mutant Robots

Am I the only one who misses the “jaw” version of Lock-Jaw? Back when this thing basically had Diesector’s front clamping jaws and at one point even had a set of spring-loaded jaws that it could use as a flipping arm? I just feel like something was “lost” when Lock-Jaw became Another Goddamned Vertical Spinner-Jaw. There’s a magic that this robot doesn’t have anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still got one hell of a foreboding presence because of its pedigree and the fact that Donald Hutson is a two-time super heavyweight BattleBots champion, but Lock-Jaw has failed to live up to the success of previous bots in the Mutant Robots lineage. Props to him for never giving up on it though, I just feel like Lock-Jaw has a lot of demons to exorcise and I haven’t the foggiest fucking clue on where to start with this machine.

STRENGTHS: Donald Hutson has been building and competing in robot combat events since before the turn of the millennium. In fact with Inertia Labs and Team Nightmare out of the equation I believe he’s the most experienced builder at BattleBots this year with battles dating back to the original US Robot Wars in the mid to late nineties. That right, this dude was building bots before “BattleBots” even existed. Experience is the most valuable asset a builder can have and Donald has it in spades. He knows just how far he can push his machines, he knows what they are capable of, and he knows how to built a stout and formidable bot. Every aspect of Lock-Jaw was carefully planned and plotted even if it probably doesn’t look like it.

WEAKNESSES: We all know this robot smokes more than Morton Downey Jr calling someone a slimeball on 1980’s national television. Lock-Jaw’s weaponry is just your run of the mill vertical spinner, there’s nothing inherently special about it but that means it’s just as deadly as the other so-so spinners out there; you certainly don’t want to intentionally get whacked by it. Its problem is that sometimes Donald tries to get more juice out of it than he should and the robot winds up burning up its weapon motors or batteries and these internal mini fires often start to affect other parts of the robot taking motors and speed controllers with it. Donald always seems to do this when he thinks he’s not quite got the upper hand yet and wants to dial it up to 11, however in actuality he dials his fucking robot up to 28 and blows the damn thing up.

GRADE: B+

LUCKY
TKO Robotics

Hey it’s been a while since we’ve seen Lucky! Last time I remember seeing this machine it was subject to probably its unluckiest possible season and was mercy killed by Skorpios grinding sparks off of it for three straight minutes after Son of Whyachi wrecked this machine and Double Jeopardy blasted it square in the fucking face damaging its flipper in the process. Lucky’s armed with what’s called a “four bar lifter” and this is a unique type of lifting arm that raises up and forward to tip opponents over. Lucky’s arm is also pneumatically-driven meaning it pops up in a fraction of a second and essentially functions like a flipper. We’ve seen this robot get some solid flips in the past and the team isn’t shy about showing off Lucky heaving tires several feet into the air on their social media accounts. A distant relative of former super heavyweight competitor Ziggy, Lucky has the blood of greatness running through its veins. Well, that and a lot of bad luck.

STRENGTHS: Lucky’s front end is almost bulletproof. Normally I’d say it is bulletproof but there was that time Lucky tried to catch Double Jeopardy’s slug with its teeth and that Jackass stunt didn’t work out in Lucky’s favor. But Lucky can take some serious blows to its front end and keep on rolling. It also has a secondary configuration where it has one big plow instead of two small side ones and a shorter flipping arm specifically designed to fight bots like Gigabyte and Tombstone. No matter the configuration Lucky is a robot that refuses to give up even when it’s being smashed to pieces by the likes of Son of Whyachi. Mark Demers is “just here to have fun” as his shirt says, and on the back it reads “winning is fun”.

WEAKNESSES: Despite a deep amount of experience with this particular robot – Lucky is almost still identical to Ziggy – it seems the team can never quite get this machine dialed in. Lucky participated in a Desperado mini-event one season and made a deep run to the finals but ultimately lost out to Lock-Jaw of all robots. It tried the Desperado path to the tournament a second time and was immediately stopped dead in its tracks by Minotaur. It’s also worth noting that Lucky participated in that infamous “last chance rumble” that Bombshell “won”, Lucky was the sixth robot everyone forgot about because it lost drive on one side and broke down. Lucky is always rarin’ to go no matter what the event calls for, but again… never name your robot something like “Lucky” because you’re just jinxing it.

GRADE: C+

MAD CATTER
Team Bad KItty

When he’s not elbow dropping people through folding tables Martin Mason competes in BattleBots with his robot Mad Catter, a robot whose history I honestly can’t even begin to put into words. Like, this robot was a distant version of War Hawk that competed in China as “Cat King” and then when War Hawk was eventually rebuilt the old War Hawk – a.k.a. Cat King – turned into Mad Catter and now is evolving on its own into its own beast. This is yet another one of those surprise “3-0” robots from last season’s qualifiers and unfortunately that pitted Mad Catter against Tombstone, who had a relatively lower seeding than usual, and Mad Catter was understandably demolished. That’s fair, but Mad Catter was able to make it that far with a combination of muscle and dumb luck, and if there’s anyone at BattleBots who would probably have a lot of “dumb luck” it’s the WWE superstar guy.

STRENGTHS: Despite being knocked sideways by Tombstone, Mad Catter has always been pretty straightforward in the armor department; big plow up front, UHMW panels around the rest of the robot. This season it looks like the robot has been designed to have a front faceplate that wraps around the sides of the robot so that side attacks from the likes of Tombstone and Fusion won’t happen again. Not sure if Mad Catter has a configuration where it loses its spinner in favor of being a heavily armored tank with just a lifting arm, but in any case it’s already kind of at that point with its dual weaponry. We’ve rarely seen the lifting arm come into play but apparently Martin thinks it’s important enough to keep the weight invested in it. Will this be the year it’s finally deployed?

WEAKNESSES: For a while Mad Catter was just War Hawk’s sloppy seconds. In its debut season Mad Catter was busted apart and I described it as “a Nintendo Switch someone dropped down the stairs”. It seems that this drive pod modularity has been gradually phased out and replaced with a more rigid construction, though I’m not 100% certain of that. While Mad Catter has a nasty spinning bar we’ve really yet to see it do much damage and in fact it tends to slow down after sustaining too much damage on its own, so here’s hoping that those issues have been sorted out because Mad Catter makes a better spinner than it does a lifter. It also has (or potentially had, it might not exist anymore) a hammer attachment but we never got to see much from that either. All three of its weapons leave something to be desired.

GRADE: C+

MALICE
Team Malice

Still armed with a weapon so large it’s called a “horizontal drum spinner” Malice is back to destroy opponents once again. Sadly Axe Backwards is gone otherwise we could look forward to seeing Malice potentially turn it into a massive fireball again. That said, this is still the same robot that we saw very nearly go 3-0 in the Fight Night rounds if it weren’t for the fact that it got high centered on its own ass while fighting Mad Catter. One tiny little bolt or spike protruding from the rear end of the robot could’ve prevented that, and that’s exactly what Bunny Sauriol has added because she’s determined not to lose that embarrassingly again. This is the disc that lit up Axey B and the spinner that shattered Shatter’s axe. It qualified for the primary tournament last season and I see no reason to assume the same won’t happen again this year.

STRENGTHS: The motor that powers Malice’s weapon is the same one that’s inside of Tombstone to give you an idea of how much firepower we’re dealing with here. The circular portions of Malice chassis are where this motor is mounted and it comprises a not-insignificant part of the robot’s interior (and weight, for that matter). Malice is like a stockier Tombstone with a circular disc spinner instead of a big ass bar and it’s capable of doing some real damage if given the opportunity. Even when it went up against Gigabyte in the main tournament Malice was still throwing punches to the shell spinner despite not being able to crack it, it was taking those blows and coming back in for more nonstop. Until it eventually did stop and was ruled “immobile” by the refs.

WEAKNESSES: There really is no plan B when it comes to Malice. It’s such a derivative of Tombstone that in the event of a weapon failure there’s nothing Malice can do to stay aggressive or control the fight. No plows, no wedges, no spikes, nothing. Depending on what caused the weapon to stop however Malice might still have an edge in damage points as was the case against Shatter last season when the impact that blew Shatter’s weapon apart also killed Malice’s spinner; Malice was able to push back against Shatter despite taking slaps from what was left of Shatter’s axe and scraped by with the decision, but that was a very peculiar case. I don’t think most instances of Malice losing control of its weapon would have the same result with the judges.

GRADE: B-

MAMMOTH
Team Mammoth

Everyone’s in love with this thing but I’m just not buying the hype. Yeah I know it wins fights but some of them feel like toss up judges’ decisions that could’ve gone either way. “But Draco, Mammoth was a bracket buster last season.” Not really, it managed to defeat Copperhead because Copperhead’s drum broke down for most of the fight and then it proceeded to get its ass handed to it by Shatter who yanked its weapon chain off and stabbed Mammoth’s tire resulting in damage that wound up seeing the wheel fall off in the last moments of the fight. Yeah it beat the #3 seed but that was pure luck. Mammoth is just an awkward robot. It has a weird weapon that tends to push robots away rather than lifting them up and because it’s made of rubber and flexes that just adds to the pushing factor because it bends and stresses under the weight of other robots. I think Ricky Willems had an interesting idea for a robot, but I’ll eat my official BattleBots hat the day it wins a Giant Nut.

STRENGTHS: Like a lot of robots that are physically very large it’s difficult to hit anything on Mammoth that’s important. That hasn’t stopped people in the past, like Uppercut destroying a motor casing or Hypershock slicing Mammoth’s batteries to shreds, but it’s certainly made it harder for opponents to strike priority targets. Between Huge and Mammoth however, Mammoth has had the harder time keeping its soft squishy bits away from other robots. Still, a lot of Mammoth’s armor is “air”, i.e. nothing at all. It’s really hard to land a crippling blow to an opponent when they’re basically just a giant jungle gym with a lot of dead space for your weapon to miss hitting anything.

WEAKNESSES: I’m not sure there’s a way for Ricky to feasibly fix this, but Mammoth’s weapon chain is a major target for opponents that have vertical reach. Huge almost cleaved into it and Shatter straight up yanked that shit right out of the sky. Without its chain Mammoth is essentially just a shittier Tentomushi with a couple of extended grabby arms trying to chase opponents down with and that’s not a position Mammoth wants to be in. It looks like even less of this robot is rigid metal this year, which is good, but at the same time rubber flexes and bends so we might see this robot having a harder time corralling opponents around with its new rubbery arms instead of the steel tubing ones.

GRADE: D C- (Because people keep complaining.)

MINOTAUR
Team RioBotz

Minotaur had to take a brief hiatus from BattleBots for a while and in that time Black Dragon continued to drive circles around this robot’s legacy. Now Minotaur is back and looking to reclaim its reputation as the premiere robot from Brazil that the rest of the field should fear. We might even see a Black Dragon rematch if the “selection committee” is feeling particularly fancy. (Mark my words I’m betting Black Dragon’s and Minotaur’s final Fight Night match will be against each other. I can read these people like a fucking book.) Black Dragon might be the newer and shinier robot to emerge from Brazil but Black Dragon was never a runner-up like Minotaur was back in 2018. And even though Minotaur was usurped by Black Dragon in the Desperado event in 2019 that didn’t stop Minotaur from going on to qualify for the main tournament anyways and reach the quarterfinals. This is the original drum with the original “death hum”, and it’s back to carve a brand new path.

STRENGTHS: Minotaur is built like a fucking brick. That seems to be a recurring thing for Brazilian robots, come to think of it. Minotaur is almost invincible; it’s invertible, it can self-right, it has one of the best drivers in the sport, and its drum literally just bites entire chunks out of whatever it comes into contact with. Remember the time Cobalt’s front wedge got jammed into the fucking ceiling? You can blame Minotaur for that one. This robot hits hard and its entire front end is essentially solid aluminum, soft enough for opponents to dig into but still hard enough to resist impacts from even Tombstone. I’ve seen this robot up close after such a battle and the front aluminum looked like cake frosting that someone dragged their finger through, it’s fucking insane how durable this thing is.

WEAKNESSES: As indefatigable as Minotaur is there’s always something holding it back from reaching the Giant Nut. The team was so close in 2018 and made a valiant effort in 2019 but both times they were shot down by opponents with powerful vertical spinners that could land a hit and then just keep following those hits up with more and more hits. I’m talking Bite Force and Death Roll during that robot’s miracle run to the semifinals; these are two robots who could meet Minotaur weapon-to-weapon and then follow up with additional attacks to destabilize and disorient Minotaur. Minotaur can dish out some killer damage, but when it’s hit with a flurry of blows it gets on the ropes and doesn’t know what to do.

GRADE: A-

OVERHAUL
Equals Zero Robotics

Not gonna lie I’ve been wondering what happened to Charles Guan post-2018 because he just stopped showing up to BattleBots. It’s not like Overhaul was totally destroyed in combat or anything, but maybe the robot just needed a – well – overhaul and this just took some time. The robot looks about the same though so I’m guessing there haven’t been any significant changes to the formula, I’m just glad to see our resident weeb back in the saddle even if his robot has a career record of, let me check real quick, 2 wins and 10 losses. Damn. Going for them Abattoir points I guess. Silliness aside Overhaul has the potential to be a decent control bot and we need some more variety in the arena because I can only write so many different observations about a fucking spinner in this article. I just wish there was still room on the back of Overhaul for Charles’ robo-waifu to make an appearance.

STRENGTHS: Charles isn’t an idiot, he’s the captain of the original “boys from MIT team”. Way back in 2015 he competed under the Team JACD banner with Overhaul and was in charge of this robot. Sure his team made like The Beatles and splintered apart but Charles stuck with his lifter because he believed in the design and honestly really believing in your design can be a unique strength on its own because it’s a psychological thing. Now there are many MIT teams, but JACD was the progenitor of them all. Overhaul’s still sporting a compact 4WD design and a much more robust-looking clamping/lifting jaw. This isn’t a robot meant to bite into an opponent, the tooth is there to grapple onto someone instead so the lifting arms can do their work. It’s a tactical robot, one that is only outclassed by Charles’ light-up shoes.

WEAKNESSES: Let’s face it, this robot has a pitiful career record. Fight Night has not been kind to this robot and we all know that. For all the muscle in the world that this robot has it cannot save it from some of its drawings which have included Cobalt, Witch Doctor, Beta, Sawblaze, and Valkyrie. All bad match-ups to say the least. One of this robot’s two wins was against Chomp back when Chomp was a giant suitcase that flipped and flopped all over the fucking place. That win almost doesn’t count. There’s potential in Overhaul, but I think it’s going to take a perfect storm for this grappler to make a deep tournament run, let alone dream of raising the Giant Nut.

GRADE: C

P1
Aberrant Robotics

P1 is a robot that I’ve shit all over in the past but you guys know I’ll call things as I see them and I still stand by my claim that P1 was shafted last season by not making the Top 32. Simple as that. Robots get better with each iteration, usually, and the P1 of today is not the same as the Parallax of yesterday. Sure P1 lost to Copperhead in a hit and a half but those two blows were absolutely devastating and Copperhead was riding high on a string of straight up murders so can you blame Brandon Zalinsky for the loss? “Sometimes it be like that,” he said. P1 is the only robot with a front-hinged flipper which functions like a normal lifting arm except it pushes and topples opponents forward instead of lifting them up from the edge. Also it looks like a race car, hence the P1 moniker. Does it still have the decorative spoiler that kept falling off in the arena twitch test?

STRENGTHS: This robot is very low to the ground, and I mean low. I don’t think it could fit underneath Perfect Phoenix or Icewave’s spinning bars but you never fucking know it just might be that compact. This is both to keep P1’s center of gravity as low to the floor as possible and also to just play into the role of this being a race car-themed robot, Formula One cars are often very low to the ground to increase how aerodynamic they are and maximize their speed. We’ve seen P1’s lifter put to use in effective manners when it upended and knocked out Chronos so fast last season that they didn’t even show us the fight but we all remember “the SMEE battle”. P1 just took hold of SMEE and slung that fucking snake of a robot all over the fucking place and mopped the floor with it. P1 has the muscle now, this is no longer the shitty pseudo-invertible wedge with a crappy spinning drum that it was years ago.

WEAKNESSES: This robot loses to some stupid fucking machines sometimes, ya know? Does anyone here remember Sidewinder? The robot with the horizontal blade mounted on its side? P1 was drawn to fight Sidewinder and rather than dominate the fight over its bizarrely designed opponent Sidewinder was somehow able to slice off some of P1’s tires and damage the robot so badly that it was KO’d. P1 also managed to lose to The Four Horsemen. The less said about that the better. P1 really turned around last season with an impressive showing and I still think they were screwed out of at least the #32 seed, but we’ll just have to wait and see if that was a fluke season or if P1 is able to rise above the competition once again.

GRADE: C-

PAIN TRAIN
Team Shreddit

Ever since Evan Arias was a kid he’d dreamed of competing in the biggest robot combat stage there was: BattleBots. Well fast forward several years and he finally had the resources to build his first heavyweight, Pain Train. Initially an egg-beater drum Pain Train burst onto the scene… and fell apart. The robot was humiliated and suplexed into oblivion by Slammo but the real shame came when Pain Train was arguably winning its fight with SMEE when all of a sudden its weapon just blew up and fell off of its bearings. Pain Train still won on a split decision, though the robot was unfortunately denied a third Fight Night qualifier. The nihilist in me wants to say something rude here but instead I’m just going to assume Pain Train missed fight #3 because it sustained way too much damage to be repaired in time. The new Pain Train looks about the same chassis-wise, but take a look at that nasty new weapon. Gone is the egg-beater and in its place is a drum of geometrical nightmares.

STRENGTHS: Pain Train’s biggest strength is that it’s a relatively simple robot, two wheels and a spinner. The robot can run either way up, though its drum is not reversible so there’s definitely an orientation the robot wants to remain in to stay effective. The egg-beater seemed like a bad move and Evan took note of this, probably because he was pissed off when he finally hit SMEE and then seconds later his robot’s weapon fucking fell off, so it was replaced with a “chopper” style of weapon made up of a lot of smaller discs. It’s not quite a proper drum, I don’t know what to call it, but it certainly looks like it can do more damage than what it replaced.

WEAKNESSES: Despite being so simple there are some aspects of Pain Train that could prove to be its downfall and most of these come down to Pain Train being drawn to fight a horizontal spinner. The shaft collars for the drum are right there out in the open and it’s not a far-fetched idea to suggest that one of them might be smashed off by a massive bludgeoning device. Additionally Pain Train’s wheels look extra suspect to the same kinds of weapons because the armor around them doesn’t appear to be very robust; one stray blow could bend that armor inward and press up against the wheel causing it to seize up immediately. The braces holding Pain Train’s drum forward are also only held by struts comprised of a single piece of welded steel. Might be a target for a vertical spinner, too.

GRADE: C

PARDON MY FRENCH
Team OuiOui

Pardon your French? Pardon my French because that drum is fucking massive! Weighing in at just over 70 pounds Pardon My French’s weapon is almost as heavy as the bars that Tombstone brings to the table, that’s the kind of kinetic energy we’re dealing with here. That’s also a one-toothed stack of discs too, by the way, just in case you needed another reason to shit your pants over this thing. Pardon My French seems to be joined by a minibot, “Zut”, who looks to be armed with a lifting arm of some persuasion. My guess is the plan is for Zut to act as a doorstop and get the opponent high centered or stuck on it so Pardon My French can come in and say “hon hon croissant sacre bleu”. Philippe Voyer is a newcomer to BattleBots but he’s not new to the sport, he’s been the administrator of one of the most popular shitposting groups on Facebook for robot combat memes. He’s now turned his meme into reality. Run.

STRENGTHS: That fucking drum, good god. I mean 70 pounds? I haven’t seen any test box footage of this robot but I can imagine this thing probably has a death hum all its own and with those three big discs this robot can slash and bash. I’m also intrigued by the minibot because most of the time minibots don’t work as intended but this one looks much more calculated than the usual standard fare of crap annoyance bots that’ve littered the arena in the past. We’ve also not seen a robot this enthusiastic about Canada since the time Rob Masek shouted “CANADA” when Lucky entered the arena in 2016 and Chris Rose told him to pump the brakes by retorting “dude you’re from New Hampshire”.

WEAKNESSES: Pardon My French has a 70 pound weapon, plus the weight of the big ass motor that you know is running it, plus the weight of its little minibot. These guys only have 250 pounds to work with here (or whatever that is in kilograms like 115 fuck I don’t know) and each of these things is subtracting from that weight allocation. That doesn’t leave much left over for “the rest of the robot” which includes all structural components, the armor, the drive system, batteries, and electronics. The “everything else” category is massive and we’ve seen how robots like Tombstone deal with such a ridiculous allocation of parts but for newcomers Pardon My French may be biting off more of that baguette than they can chew. Also can we stop with the “OwObotics” bullshit? It’s fucking cringe bro.

GRADE: B-

PERFECT PHOENIX
Team Doom / Hardcore Robotics

Paul Ventimiglia might not be at BattleBots this year but he’s once again here in spirit because for those of you who still haven’t heard the story yet “Perfect Phoenix” was not this robot’s original name. A decade ago this robot was known as Brutality and it was responsible for one BattleBots champion and being the robot to properly dethrone and retire the legendary Biohazard. And who built Brutality? Why, Paul of course! Perfect Phoenix has had some internal upgrades but overall this robot is still the same giant killer it was in 2009. It’s just been reinforced and named after a Beyblade, that’s all. Perfect Phoenix is the electric version of Icewave and you know what? I like Icewave more specifically because of the engine. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. These two robots are probably fairly evenly matched in terms of weapon power though so really it’s just a matter of whether or not you care about the environment.

STRENGTHS: Even though it’s something of a technicality we’re in the presence of greatness here with Perfect Phoenix, it is a bonafide BattleBots champion. Granted that was an untelevised event but a champion is a champion, it’s not like the battles were any easier because there wasn’t a television show at stake. Perfect Phoenix, as Brutality, had to defeat Donald Hutson’s precursor to Lock-Jaw not once but twice because this was a double elimination event. Perfect Phoenix still appears to have the muscle to cause some carnage, after all its weapon design is two Magmotors linked up to the same gearbox (a design pioneered by middleweight champion Hazard all the way back in season 1), but sadly we just haven’t seen any big hits from this robot yet believe it or not.

WEAKNESSES: It’s aging hardware and it’s kind of showing. Perfect Phoenix is an old robot and just because it’s a former champion that doesn’t mean it’ll be undefeatable forever, just look at Biohazard. This thing is the reason Biohazard doesn’t exist anymore. Kings fall, empires end. As is life. Perfect Phoenix is competing in an era of robot combat where it’s outclassed. It “beat” Extinguisher because Extinguisher crashed into the wall and killed itself. Perfect Phoenix lost to Skorpios, but was able to turn things around and beat Atom #94 in a battle that turned into a shoving match when both robots’ weapons died. Robots age like milk, even champion-tier ones. Perfect Phoenix just might be past its “sell by” date.

GRADE: C+

RAMPAGE
Team X

Hey! It’s Rampage! The robot that we never fucking saw a single second of despite always seeing its team in the stands during last season’s audience shots. Maybe that’s why we never saw this robot, because the team decided that watching all the battles was more fun than actually participating. Now I know Rampage did have one untelevised Fight Night battle against the equally as invisible Black Widow and somehow won on decision. Then, according to the BattleBots wiki, Rampage was absolutely destroyed by Fusion as I guessed would eventually happen. KO in less than a minute. We never got around to covering Bounty Hunters here though so that’s news to me. I will say for a robot I rated an “F” last season the new Rampage looks like a substantial improvement over its former self. Like, big time.

STRENGTHS: Rampage’s biggest strength is that it looks like the team learned a thing or two from having their shit pushed in by Fusion. This entire robot looks nothing like its 2020 iteration aside from the knockoff Brutus paint job. Rampage is still a vertical spinner but it no longer looks like the Wish.com version of Bite Force. No more shitty wedgelets that weren’t even attached correctly, no more rear wheels only. Now we’ve got a proper plow that even has some side skirting and what I assume is four-wheel drive. These are substantial improvements to a robot that I blasted last year and while I don’t think Rampage is going to win the Giant Nut in this universe or in any universe I’ve gotta commend Team X for hitting the drawing board hard for Rampage 2.0. Bravo.

WEAKNESSES: Now that I’ve praised the new Rampage it’s time to shred it again. The robot, while definitely improved, still sort of looks like a piecemeal affair. The front wedge has another thicker piece of metal bolted onto its front end presumably to act as a floor scraper. There’s a whole six bolts holding this thing on. Six. That thing ain’t going to hold up to a hit from anyone, hell a grappler could probably pull that thing off. The welds on the wings of the front wedge also look small and suspect, like another potential point of failure. It looks like the robot can drive upside down because the decorative flame pieces on its spinner will act as little feet to ride on, but I’m not so sure this robot would be strong enough to use the arena wall to knock itself back onto its wheels. That said, it’s a good robot. Looks like the first draft of Witch Doctor from before 2015.

GRADE: D

RETROGRADE
Bots N’ Stuff Robotics

Wow, this must be the year of the grappler because we’ve got yet another one on our hands. I almost thought this was another picture of Defender that snuck into the middle of the list. It’s good to see BattleBots opening the field up to more than just high energy kinetic spinners, this is a good direction for the sport, though sometimes I worry that so many lifters have made it in because BattleBots is trying to justify the new “Shelf” portion of the arena… anyways Retrograde comes to us from the same team as Bloodsport. Yep, we’ve got another instance of a team getting too big for their britches so they split in half and are now fielding two robots. Meanwhile someone else out there didn’t get selected to compete. Not a stab a Retrograde specifically, I’m just saying this in general.

STRENGTHS: Given this robot’s pedigree of coming from the Bloodsport team we know right away this is a high-class robot meant to show the tactical side of the team. Look at how meaty those claws are. Those big… meaty… claws. Yeah I went ahead and left that reference in this article, fuck you it’s my website and this article is already 19,000 words long. Retrograde’s claws look like Big Dill’s except even bigger and blacker. If we were playing Cards Against Humanity, Retrograde would win. Unlike a lot of dual-claw lifters Retrograde has supporting crossbeams to prevent the whole array from getting twisted and mangled. The tips of the forks might get bent, but the array itself will be able to maintain its integrity. And just look at that armor, this thing legitimately looks bulletproof; lots of aluminum and what looks like UHMW padding to protect the path to its wheels. And here’s the best part, I haven’t even told you what’s on this robot’s ass yet: a big fucking spinning disc.

WEAKNESSES: One of the main weaknesses of robots with multiple weapons is that when you design these weapons you’re using up your allocation of weight on two “medium” weapons instead of focusing it toward one “main” weapon. I disagree with that assessment in some instances because I’ve seen multi-weaponed robots do just fine, it comes down to the engineering and how well the team in question has sourced their parts and specced their robot. I think “the Bloodsport team” has probably done their homework, but there’s always that risk that maybe Retrograde’s lifter will be lacking and its disc won’t be able to make up the difference.

GRADE: B-

RIBBOT
Team Ribbot

Debuting onto the scene as somewhat of a whimsical “joke” robot Ribbot has managed to carve a path all its own by taking down some serious contenders in some of the most outrageous ways. We cannot overlook the destruction of Uppercut last season and Ribbot very nearly defeated Black Dragon after igniting the dragon’s batteries which burned for over two fucking minutes. Ribbot has also destroyed the dreams of Beta with its killer vertical spinner, which is not pictured here. That’s because Ribbot is among the last of a dying breed, the “Swiss Army bot”. We’ve really only seen Ribbot with its undercutting disc (seen in the photo) or its vertical spinner attachment, but the robot also has a plow with a lifting arm as well as a standalone vertical drum spinner. Ribbot’s opponents have just never necessitated the use of these weapons, but the team has them as options and that’s what matters. Better to be prepared and not have to use a weapon than to be forced to battle with something that isn’t a good counter.

STRENGTHS: Ribbot is a serious contender, though its appearance begs you to believe otherwise. That’s the robot’s first big step into getting inside your head and making you underestimate it. The robot even used to have fluffy foam arms and legs until the BattleBots crew told the team to ditch the foam because it was a pain in the ass to clean up. But still, you look at this machine and it lulls you into a sense of “these guys are just a joke team I can beat them with both balls tied behind my ass”, and that’s where you fuck up. Ribbot’s weaponry is powered, I believe, by those tiny and compact Magmotors where multiple ones are used in conjunction with each other to provide for a killer weapon setup. Make no mistake, this is a bot that can bring the pain. And now with what looks like more robust wheels, a front steel plow, and even side guards to protect its drive chains Ribbot is one step closer to becoming the world’s deadliest frog.

WEAKNESSES: Ribbot can drive upside down, but it’s not very good at it and its ability to do so wholly depends on what kind of weapon it’s using. If we’re talking about the undercutter blade then all four wheels will be in contact with the floor, but if Ribbot is using its vertical spinner then only the rear wheels will be on the ground and that severely impacts the robot’s driveability. David Jin knows his robot works best when it’s oriented right ways up and that most of his strategies go out the window when Ribbot is inverted so expect to see him do his best to avoid flippers and weaponry that can flip his robot over. Ribbot has new wheels this season that look like proper robust tires instead of the scrapyard picks the team had been using, but they’re still giant and exposed so it’s anybody’s guess if they’re ripe for the picking.

GRADE: B-

RIPTIDE
Team Break 32

Pain Train may have ditched the flat egg-beater spinner but newcomer Riptide is here to give it a shot in a similar way. Looking like a cross between Pain Train and Yeti this machine features a pair of lifting forks that it can either deploy to use as miniature wedges to get underneath opponents with or retract in their fully upward position to slam face first into someone. I guess these tactics will just depend on the opponent. Riptide’s weapon has two belts for some redundancy in case one gets shredded and I’m pretty certain its lifting forks can right the robot in the event that it gets flipped over, though I also think the robot’s back tires will still be in contact with the floor so Riptide will remain mobile no matter what. Looking at how massive that spinner is I’m fairly certain Riptide can also self-right by spinning up and slamming into the wall while upside-down to catch the spike strip and pop back over.

STRENGTHS: There’s a whole lotta real estate with that egg-beater. Between this robot and Pardon My French it’s hard to tell who has the bigger dick but I think Pardon My French wins out in the end based on weight alone. Still, Riptide’s weapon covers a ton of ground so anyone coming anywhere close to Riptide’s front ought to watch where they’re going lest they get smacked by a piece of steel spinning faster than anyone can keep up with. The “Yeti forks” are also a nice touch and can provide some offensive and defensive capabilities depending on Riptide’s opponent. Riptide can either maneuver under someone and lift them up to strike at a sensitive underside or keep the forks poking outward to ward off other bots while it’s getting its weapon back up to speed. There’s a lot of options for Riptide and those should work to its favor.

WEAKNESSES: Riptide has nothing in the way of a front plow or any additional front armor to be able to take stray blows from other spinners, what we’re looking at are literal structural components of the robot so if those were to be clipped by a horizontal spinner or take a hit from a vertical spinner Riptide might be in trouble. The robot looks solid, but that’s only how it looks, it could very well be susceptible from getting hit anywhere other than on its weapon. Historically egg-beater weapons haven’t worked all that well in contemporary robot combat, I’m thinking back to Hobgoblin from Robot Wars and Pain Train’s showing at last season’s BattleBots. Riptide has a sort of “design curse” it needs to deal with if it wants to succeed.

GRADE: C

ROTATOR
Team Revolution

What was once a creatively designed robot with a palindromic chassis featuring two spinning discs has officially been reduced to just the one spinner and that news comes straight from the horse’s mouth at Team Revolution. While it’s sad to see the Rotator we all knew and loved – and the one immortalized in fucking toy form – fall by the wayside sometimes that’s just the nature of the sport. Having two spinning discs, one that’s never pointed at your opponent ever, is a massive weight investment and Victor Soto decided it wasn’t worth it anymore. Instead he’s bulked up Rotator’s front spinner and replaced the back end with some hinged spikes that it can use to get in the faces of other spinners to slow them down or ram them into the wall. Rotator’s new “signature move” is to back into someone, cause them to falter, and then whip around 180 degrees to blast them with its spinner. It’s kind of similar to Rotator’s old signature move just with one less disc and a lot less spinning around.

STRENGTHS: Rotator is probably the hardest damned robot to kill. This is a machine that is built to outlast nuclear fucking war. We’ve seen the likes of End Game, Tombstone, Valkyrie, and Death Roll whale on this machine just to name a few instances and while Rotator certainly got banged up and lost most of those fights at no point did it just stop moving and die. It didn’t even so much as lose drive on one side. Rotator can take a tank shell to the face and shrug it off; when you get Rotator as an opponent, you’re getting a fight that goes the distance unless you lose by KO. Rotator ditching its dual disc setup has allowed it to blossom into the indestructible fucktron that it is today so while it cost Rotator its namesake and original look the trade off has paid off in spades when it comes to durability.

WEAKNESSES: Without its second disc anymore Rotator has no backup weaponry in the event that something happens to its primary weapon. This has happened a couple of times where the spinner has died out leaving Rotator dead in the water as an easy target because the robot really has no real secondary attack. Sure there’s Rotator’s rear spikes but these tend not to win the ground clearance battle against most competitors and if Rotator has taken enough damage for its weapon to stop working then more than likely it also means that its rear spikes have been thrashed pretty bad as well. Also for some stupid reason the judges seem to hate this robot because despite throwing tons of punches and breaking Beta’s weapon last season the judges still went with Beta based on “control” of the fight. Yeah, fuck that noise. I don’t know how to fix a bad judges call, if I did we’d be seeing a radically different tournament progression in past seasons.

GRADE: B+

RUSTY
Team Iron Force

Rusty is a robot built by one guy in a farm shed and it truly epitomized what the early years of this sport were all about. Rusty was made out of love for the game and even with a neat weapon we all knew this thing wasn’t going places, hell it only beat Sporkinok because that robot just sorta broke down on its own and died. Other than that Rusty was mercy killed by both Beta and Sawblaze who crumpled up the robot’s back armor and destroyed it. But Rusty was a crowd favorite and now David Eaton has gone from being a one man team in his garage with no sponsors to a literal king with nearly two dozen fucking sponsors. By becoming a meme and winning the hearts of the crowd Rusty became THE robot to get your company’s name on. Everything from metal cutting services to fucking BBQ restaurants have sponsored this thing and the new Rusty looks like a proper contender while still keeping the cheeky charm of its defunct older brother.

STRENGTHS: Rusty’s weapon last season was a reciprocating spike mounted on a swinging hammer arm. It seems that has been simplified to just one massive spike that swings 180 degrees like Chomp’s old weapon, though hopefully Rusty doesn’t jump and flop around in the air like Chomp did when it swung its weapon. Rusty had exposed tank tracks last season and while they weren’t clipped or damaged they were a major liability, now Rusty’s chosen method of locomotion is protected behind a massive plate of rusty metal. Gone are the forks on the robot’s front that constantly got bent downward and dug into the arena floor replaced instead with a big beefy array of metal ready to shrug off anything that gets thrown at it. Rusty 2.0 is an improvement over the former robot in every possible way, and most importantly David was still able to keep the original spirit of the robot alive in this complete rebuild. That’s not an easy task.

WEAKNESSES: This is a robot that hasn’t performed well in the past because there just wasn’t enough muscle behind its weapon to make much of a difference in the arena. Dare I say it but I’m not certain Rusty ever really landed a proper hit on anyone and I think that had to do with a combination of David’s inexperience in the arena and it simply just being hard to see where your weapon is going to hit when you’re observing the robot from several yards away in the heat of battle. Rusty’s new weapon looks to be all business though and surely it’s more powerful, but let’s hope swinging it doesn’t cause the robot to jostle around in the air like Chomp used to do with the exact same type of hammer. Maybe Rusty’s using magnets to help keep it on the ground, maybe there’s another top secret addition under the hood that we don’t know about, but Rusty’s weapon is going to need to be able to do some meaningful damage if David wants to steer his ship toward a winning record.

GRADE: D+

SAWBLAZE
Team Sawblaze

Jamison Go got his start in BattleBots as an understudy of Charles Guan back in 2015 as part of the Overhaul team. Then he broke away to form his own crew and returned with Sawblaze and promptly one-upped Overhaul in spectacular fashion as Sawblaze used its cutting wheel to literally slice through the motor casings of the very motors powering Overhaul’s lifting array. And that’s just the cutting disc, we haven’t even talked about the 30 pound hammer saw weapon that Sawblaze normally uses to bludgeon other robots to death with. This is a machine that’s trumped some of the best with that nasty spinning disc. I’m talking Whiplash, End Game, Blacksmith, and who could possibly forget Sawblaze’s absolutely dominant showing over Son of Whyachi, a fight so legendary that Team Whyachi wound up selling each of the three broken weapon arms of its robot on eBay in order to source some money to rebuild the fucking thing. Sawblaze is a robot that has remained right on the precipice of greatness and all it needs is just one good season and we might be looking at a Giant Nut candidate.

STRENGTHS: Driving. Jamison Go knows how to expertly drive this machine anywhere it needs to be and knows when to strike and when to hold back. Sawblaze has evolved over the years starting life as a simple dustpan robot with an easily damaged grinding disc to a forked plow armed with a 30 pound spinning disc shaped like a dragon head. I don’t even know how you design something shaped that way and still have it balanced on a central axle, but I guess that’s why Jamison went to MIT and I was stuck at Texas A&M. Insert Aggie joke here. Sawblaze doesn’t do this often, but it can attack two ways: it can chop with its spinning disc, or it can back into someone and use the disc as a makeshift vertical spinner. We don’t usually see the latter come out unless Sawblaze is on the ropes and in desperation mode, but it just goes to show you how many different ways Sawblaze can handle an opponent, all of which need to be accounted for by whoever is fighting it.

WEAKNESSES: I see Sawblaze’s cursed flamethrower is still on the robot even after what happened last season. In case you forgot Uppercut punched Sawblaze in its kidney through its asshole and hit its fuel tank which immediately ignited the entire thing and caused the robot to fucking blow up. Sawblaze did not win that battle. Sawblaze’s flamethrower has always been something that irks me because it’s devolved into something vestigial now; the robot used to have the flame nozzle right next to its disc with the assumption that it could slice a hole in someone and then fill them with fire, which is bad ass, but that design aspect was phased out and now the flamethrower is just a thing that sits off to the side and sometimes comes into play when someone’s stuck on Sawblaze’s plow. If anything it’s a liability at worst and something for show at best. Take it off.

GRADE: A-

SHATTER!
Bots FC

This is a robot that has taken some time to “grow” on me. I’m always happy to see some variety in robots but I feel like Shatter tried to do too much too fast when it debuted. It had a powerful swinging hammer, ablative armor, and Mecanum wheels so it can strafe and drive in odd directions. Yes I am aware this robot competed as “Blue” and “Mega Melvin” at events prior to BattleBots so it’s not like Shatter was brand new when it showed up but it just felt… overwhelming. Like, where was the direction with this build? It’s taken a couple of seasons but I feel like last year was a good one for Shatter. It did some seriously impressive damage to Mammoth and even though it lost to Malice it continued to whack away with its busted weapon to try and do damage with what was left of the weapon arm, and with that said may I draw your attention to Shatter’s new axe? Look at all those inset teeth further up from the primary striker. Now if the weapon head gets sheared off there’s still smaller teeth to stab and graze opponents with. That’s what potentially cost Shatter the fight with Malice, so Adam Wrigley’s not making that mistake a second time.

STRENGTHS: As it has evolved Shatter has become more and more durable. The majority of its armor is intended to be torn away, hence the name, but the design philosophy isn’t that simple; it’s taken Shatter a little while to really pin down just how to be an ablative robot and stay competitive. Last season I think was their best when it came down to showing off how much punishment the robot can take, especially its slaughtering of Captain Shrederator. Shatter’s axe is no joke and while it might not have the pneumatic “oomph” of bots like Beta this thing has such a stupid gear ratio behind it that it might as well be pneumatically powered. Anyone who doubted this robot’s efficacy would’ve been proven wrong with last season’s tournament. Shatter is back and if its aim is true we just might see another god shot that disables someone by hitting the tiniest of internal targets; we’re long overdue for one of those moments.

WEAKNESSES: The fucking judges don’t know how to interpret this robot. Adam is convinced that when the robot’s reflective plastic panels fall off that the judges are counting that against him for “damage” so he’s been forced to run this robot without its signature look to demonstrate that it’s all an act and that it’s part of the robot’s name and theme. I’m not calling the judges dumb or anything but I can see Adam’s argument because sometimes the scorecards just do not match up with how Shatter’s fights actually went. Shatter has a fun gimmick and its a rare occasion when I don’t just look at a robot with a gimmick and roll my fucking eyes immediately. I “get” Shatter, now let’s just hope that when push comes to hammer the judges “get it” too.

GRADE: B-

SKORPIOS
Bot Bash Party Crew

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Skorpios is a robot that has really grown into itself. When this thing debuted in 2016 all it did was crash into the screws and die, but as early as 2017 this robot was turning things around by expertly dispatching Icewave with incredible driving skill. Now looking back at Skorpios’ 2020 season we saw a robot who was able to take down both Tombstone and Perfect Phoenix, two robots overseen by legendary builder Ray Billings. Some people claim Skorpios and Sawblaze are “too similar” and are pretty much the same design, but I disagree; Skorpios has a front plow with some snaggleteeth on it, no goofy ass flamethrower, and a differently designed spinning hammer saw. Skorpios’ weapon has more in common with the new Blacksmith than it does with Sawblaze. Also Sawblaze isn’t sponsored by TASbot, a computer program capable of beating video games with inhumanly fast button inputs. Fuck Sawblaze.

STRENGTHS: One area where Sawblaze and Skorpios are even I’d say is driving. Zack Lytle wasn’t always behind the wheel of Skorpios but when he took over for Orion Beach there was a marked improvement in the robot’s performance, and Orion was already doing a damn good job. (Aside from, you know, running into the screws in 2016.) Zack is extremely passionate about robot combat and his outreach earned his team last season’s Founder’s Award. Leading up to this season if you followed Skorpios on YouTube the team made a miniseries about their journey to rebuild the robot and bring it to BattleBots. This is a man who loves the sport and that means he knows the ins and outs like no one else. If there were an open book test on BattleBots, Zack would be the chad who brings his textbook and doesn’t even open the fucking thing and still scores an A+.

WEAKNESSES: Once Skorpios starts to falter it seems like the whole robot just comes unraveled. For example, top panels have been knocked loose before and this in turn exposes some of Skorpios’ internals which are no longer being held down properly and thus are more susceptible to being hit. Additionally whenever Skorpios’ wheels take damage the robot starts to rumble and bounce around which renders its front plow effectively useless. In the past Skorpios’ weapon arm has also had bouts of spontaneously falling apart and sometimes Zack’s fearlessness to go weapon-on-weapon with Skorpios has led to his machine coming out with the shorter straw. No pain no gain, but as long as Skorpios stays out of trouble we could be looking at another great season.

GRADE: B+

SLAMMO!
Team Danby

Appearing last season as “SlamMow” and under the banner of Team Mowbot this robot has returned without its title sponsor as a phonetically identical name but just without the lawnmowing spelling. It’s still the same robot insofar as it’s “the suplex machine” that saw Craig Danby’s biggest success in BattleBots to date. Although he didn’t make as deep a tournament run as he wanted to, and was visibly upset over it, he should be proud that he’s broken “the Danby curse”. Slammo was a great design last season because it’s literally all fucking clamp, there’s no way around it. The robot is as tough as it is ridiculous and Craig shouldn’t beat himself up over a loss to Witch Doctor as much as he did. Dude, it was Witch Doctor. Former runner-ups. Baby steps man. That said, loving the new paint job of this robot it looks like a comic book threw up.

STRENGTHS: We’ve seen a lot of lifters by this stage in the article. Big Dill, Claw Viper, Retrograde, even Defender. Some of these robots are of an unknown strength, but out of the ones we have seen in action Slammo stands atop the pile as the lifter to beat all lifters. Big Dill choked on Atom #94 and Claw Viper never got a single lift in any of its fights. Meanwhile Slammo is over here picking up Pain Train and throwing it over its head while also knocking out WAR-EZ in seconds because that hunk of crap wasn’t invertible. You built a good robot. This isn’t Foxic, this isn’t Predator, this isn’t even Foxtrot. Cutting ties with all that furry bullshit was the best possible choice you could’ve made, and that’s what I’m attributing your success to. Because that’s what I attribute my own success to as well. Fuck yeah.

WEAKNESSES: Slammo’s biggest weakness last season was its lack of sturdy side armor meaning that side strikes from the likes of Witch Doctor were able to split the drivetrain apart and send pieces flying for the KO. It looks like those problems have been addressed, though now Slammo has wheel guards which can always be dented inward to inhibit movement. There’s really no way to fully protect your wheels, but I think this route was the right one. Slammo’s lifting array had a tendency to get jammed when it bit down on things like weapon belts and it looks like Craig’s opted for more space between the upper and lower jaws to avoid another instance of the Black Dragon fight happening again. These are all hypothetical however and might still be valid weaknesses for the suplex machine.

GRADE: C+

SMEE
Team Flight Plan

Yeah yeah, I know this robot’s name has an indeterminate amount of E’s in it and the robot’s official BattleBots page just lists “EEEEEEEEEEEEEE” for everything except the builder’s name but I’m keeping things simple with just “SMEE”. (However my offer from last season still stands, if BattleBots Update breaks $100 on Patreon I’ll add an extra “E” every time I write the name for each increment of $10 over $100 we go.) SMEE comes to us from the school of “it worked as a beetleweight, let’s scale it up to a heavyweight” and in order for Joe Fabiani to get away with that he had to make some substantial changes to SMEE, which is normally just a giant meter stick for a wedge. Now the chassis flexes at several pivot points and at SMEE’s front corners are two spinning blades. The idea here is to smash into an opponent, let SMEE’s chassis wrap around an opponent like a snake, and strike from both sides using the spinning discs. This did not work last season but Joe’s back with a noticeably improved SMEE so we’ll just have to wait and see if it works this time.

STRENGTHS: SMEE is almost impossible to handle in the arena. P1 got lucky by wedging the thin portion of SMEE’s chassis inside its lifting wedge but other than that nobody else was able to really “attack” this thing, both Sharko and Pain Train tried and failed. That’s because SMEE’s chassis does its little flexing trick but also because its wheels are almost always in contact with the ground and the robot is able to get away. There’s no “getting underneath SMEE” because it’s so fucking huge that it can just pivot and spin away from you. In case you were wondering SMEE is fourteen feet wide. It doesn’t even fit inside the arena starting squares and the team has to wheel this thing in on two workshop carts linked together and even then it’s still hanging over the edges. It might be a stupid as hell design, but it’s so stupid it literally works.

WEAKNESSES: In order to comply with BattleBots design regulations SMEE needed to have an active weapon. Even just being a wedge with a passive flexing chassis wasn’t enough to count so Joe added the two spinners on either end of the robot and put the drive wheels on the inside of the chassis to make room for them. Ideally these things ought to do some real damage when SMEE floors it into someone and then booty claps in their face, but that’s not how it panned out. Like, at all. SMEE’s spinners did chew up Sharko’s tires a fair bit but they weren’t able to do any meaningful damage. Against Pain Train the two robots met weapon to weapon and Pain Train straight up knocked one of SMEE’s discs off wholesale… shortly before its own weapon died too. If SMEE wants to really make a dent in the competition its chassis needs to flex even more and those spinners absolutely must have some more bite behind them.

GRADE: D

SUBZERO
Team XD

Looking somewhat like a beefier (and pneumatic) version of Hydra, SubZero is back and I for one am excited. Bronco is out of the picture now, it’s just gone. Bronco was made a fool of on national television by Hydra and we haven’t so much as heard a peep from Inertia Labs ever since. That means SubZero has the potential to fill that void and become the new “big pneumatic flipper”. SubZero has been around for a very long time, formerly competing as a middleweight, and although ownership of the robot has changed hands its driver Logan Davis has had plenty of experience behind the wheel because he was usually the guy driving it anyways. SubZero might not have the ability to throw opponents as high as Bronco, but it wasn’t designed to do that; SubZero was designed for efficiency, not flashiness. It’s a flipper, not a showstopper.

STRENGTHS: This robot has had a complete facelift and for a while now hasn’t looked like the massive aluminum behemoth that it was back in 2016 and 2018. It was almost comical how much SubZero looked like an asset from an early PS1 game with all those polygons but for 2019 the robot came back with the sleek design we know it for today… and it was promptly shredded by Cobalt. This put SubZero out of most of the tournament so we never got to see much from it, but it participated in a hell of a lot of exhibition matches that year and made a decent showing for itself. Modern day SubZero has continued that trend, it’s a solid mid-tier robot capable of usually winning against robots in the same tier. Perhaps with some stronger armor SubZero can make it even further, as it was destroyed by Valkyrie in last season’s main tournament.

WEAKNESSES: The universe has conspired to ensure there isn’t room in BattleBots for SubZero. Whether it’s being thrashed by Cobalt shortly after being rebuilt or just spontaneously breaking down while fighting Jackpot it seems like there’s this air of miasma around SubZero that refuses to go away. This is a robot that was successful as a middleweight but when it made that jump up to the heavier class it’s never quite been on solid footing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the robot though, and that’s the fucked up part. It’s a great flipper, it has a great driver, if anything the robot is maybe a little too fragile but the team has special plow attachments to fight spinners. They don’t work, but at least they’re trying.

GRADE: C+

SWITCHBACK
Team Midnight Invention

This thing looks like some kind of yard waste disposal machine or something. Earlier I mentioned how Pain Train’s new drum was made of a sandwich of smaller discs all lined up as one weapon, well take a look at this motherfucker. I count 12 discs. This robot’s entire gimmick is that it has a fucking massive spinning drum that it can swing around to the front or back of the robot and attack from either direction. Hell it might even be able to bring that drum down like a hammer and attack that way too. I personally don’t see how this robot will be able to keep its wheels on the ground with all this flipping and flopping of weaponry going on, but I guess it’s able to keep steady otherwise the team wouldn’t have had the confidence to bring this to BattleBots

STRENGTHS: I genuinely don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this before. We’ve seen hammer saws, and then there’s whatever the fuck in god’s name this is. A hammer drum? This robot is a big unknown but I’m willing to bet that drum spins with some serious muscle behind it because look at the box connected to it that also swings around with it. This is taking Whiplash’s weapon, dropping the lifting arm, and just cranking that shit up to 11 and pulling off the knob. Switchback is probably going to be good for one massive hit and after that we’ll really see what this robot is made of. Will it remain stable? Will the weapon continue to work? There’s a lot of weight being thrown around here, literally, and it could be an edge just as much as it could be a setback.

WEAKNESSES: This is untested in battle. I look at this thing and I see a machine that absolutely will not stay upright and will spend a majority of its time self-righting, which I’m certain it can do by rotating its drum in the correct direction to reorient the robot. The base just seems to small to hold fast while the drum moves forward and backward. I realize the drum will probably not be moving as much as I’m implying, but to me it just seems like any movement from the weapon aside from it just spinning will cause the robot’s base to topple over. Also if someone like Tombstone climbs up atop this thing and hits one of those to triangular struts keeping the weapon on that entire thing is going to come crashing down. There’s absolutely no reinforcement there.

GRADE: D+

TANTRUM
Team Seems Reasonable

Well, it looks like Aren Hill has done the Orion Beach thing and entrusted his former robot in the hands of his teammates. Aren’s going to be busy driving Blip this season so someone else was going to have to fill in for Tantrum and it looks like that job has fallen upon the shoulders of Ginger and Alex. Quite a bold move for Aren to step down when he did considering he piloted this robot all the way to the goddamned semifinals last season, you’d think maybe Blip would be the “B team” robot but I don’t even pretend to know what goes on inside that guy’s head. Tantrum made it as far as it did mostly because of how durable it is and how not-durable its opponents were; other bots were breaking weapons on Tantrum’s face or just breaking down in general and Tantrum was more than happy to accept the wins. I’m officially calling its semifinal run a fluke and if Tantrum wants to see a repeat then its weapon had better be firing on all cylinders this season.

STRENGTHS: Tantrum is damn near impenetrable. Yeah it’s front wedge is a potential target but what’s behind it has got to be something like AR500 steel or something because Tantrum was tanking hits like nobody’s business and managed to come out ahead of robots like Fusion, Sawblaze, and Bloodsport. Tantrum’s weapon is a spinning disc mounted on a sliding track so ideally the robot can retract its spinner, rev it up, and then sling it forward at someone. We saw this put to good use last season against Gamma 9, and maybe a little bit against Sawblaze, but for the most part there wasn’t much commotion from Tantrum’s weapon; said weapon was damaged by Fusion, didn’t come into play against Bloodsport, and only really did damage to Sawblaze in the back half of the fight. It was all Tantrum’s armor doing the talking for the majority of its tournament run last year, and in general.

WEAKNESSES: It’s weapon just doesn’t work as intended. I know Tantrum’s spinner is a hard thing to measure the efficacy of but looking at just the previous season we only saw some serious punches thrown to the sides of Gamma 9 where visible slices were made in the robot’s armor and entire panels were knocked off of it. Against Sawblaze we saw Tantrum knock loose a baseplate but I believe that had more to do with Sawblaze continuously popping wheelies and inadvertently hitting Tantrum’s spinner, not from Tantrum strategically throwing hits at the right moments. Hell in many of the fights the drum wasn’t even spinning and Tantrum was just riding purely on the virtue of its front forks and ridiculous armor. I’m not so certain a deep tournament run will be handed to Tantrum on a silver platter again, it needs to have a working weapon if it wants to taste the esteemed air of the final four once again.

GRADE: B-

TOMBSTONE
Hardcore Robotics

This is it. This is one of the robots this whole article has been leading up to and you know it. The big T. Tombstone is an extremely old robot competing as both a heavyweight and super heavyweight depending on the classes offered at the events in question but it’s remained the same design for almost its entire life giving Ray a decade and a half of experience in fine tuning this design. That’s right, this dude has at least a 15 year head start on this robot when lots of other teams maybe only have 2 or 3 years. Last season was a bad year for Tombstone and I feared that maybe this relic of another era had finally reached the end of its life and that I wasn’t sure what could be done to Tombstone again to bring it back from the dead, but god damn it Ray Billings figured it out. Sporting brand new ventilated armor and reinforced weapon struts the biggest change to Tombstone has to be the most obvious one: the new blade. Jesus H. Popsicle.

STRENGTHS: Tombstone has the ability to end a fight in one hit. It’s that powerful. It’s power is matched only by its simplicity; if you were to look under the hood of this robot you’d see two drive motors, some batteries, and a big ass Motenergy motor connected to the spinning bar. There’s nothing fancy under the hood of this robot, it’s literally just a loud as fuck hot rod of robot whose sole purpose in life is to make the lives of every other robot an absolute living fucking hell. When Tombstone hits it hits hard and these new extended teeth on the bar might provide the additional “bite” and travel distance needed for Tombstone to really cleave into today’s competitors and show them a thing or two about how things were back in the glory days.

WEAKNESSES: Tombstone is old technology and while that works to its benefit in terms of serviceability of the robot it can function against it because something so simple has a relatively easy road map to defeating. It’s scary as all hell, but there’s a prescribed way to defeat Tombstone and that involves putting weird slopes and inclines in its face. As a horizontal spinner this is going to make Tombstone deflect upward and with the amount of energy stored in that weapon hitting something that’s tilted at just the right angle will cause Tombstone to violently implode and flip out of control. Often times this is enough for Tombstone to throw its weapon chain, blow a solenoid, or for its motor mounts to break. You can’t really plan for this, you can only batten things down so much before the effect of simple G forces take over and destroy electronics by way of warping them.

GRADE: A

TRIPLE CROWN
Team Irresistible Object

Todd Mendenhall is a name you might be familiar with in robot combat. Maybe you heard it somewhere once before but you can’t put a face or robot to it, but he just sounds somehow familiar. That because Todd has competed outside of BattleBots years ago to much success; his “Panzer” series of robots were tough enough to each win a season of Robot Wars US and Robotica. Built like the tanks they were named after the Panzer series of robots just overwhelmed opponents with force and expertly navigated the obstacle courses and other challenges presented to them. Todd disappeared for a while, not having the same success in BattleBots as he did elsewhere, until he came back with… this. Let’s just address the elephant in the room, yes it looks like a fucking fidget spinner. Ha ha. Triple Crown is more than that though, this is a bizarre machine with articulated and rotating wheels as well as not one but three weapon pods for all sorts of attachments.

STRENGTHS: I have no idea what the fuck Todd was smoking when he came up with this design but it seems like it’s bordering on one of those “so stupid it just might work” looks. I am 100% positive the robot’s official picture does it absolutely no justice and we just won’t fully “understand” this robot until we see it in the arena but one thing I know for certain is that its wheels can drive normally but also pivot around 360 degrees to face in any direction. These aren’t Mecanum wheels like Shatter, these are their own beast entirely and are something called “Swerve Drive”. I have no idea how many weapons Todd can possibly have for this robot but we know there’s at least a spinner and a wedge. I’m willing to bet there’s more spinners, maybe a hinged vertical one, and perhaps some spikes or a giant plow or something. Todd has billed this machine as “the ultimate multi-weapon bot” so let’s see what you got!

WEAKNESSES: This is another untested and bizarre design. It falls into the same category as Switchback for me because I “understand” this robot but only in a conceptual sense. We haven’t seen any behind the scenes footage of this robot. We haven’t seen any more of its weapon pods. We haven’t seen jack shit except for a fidget spinner that has a spinning blade and a wedge tacked onto it. Also everything is shock-mounted with steel cabling presumably because it’s got an extremely high tensile strength but to me this just looks like something asking to be turned into spaghetti. I’d also be remiss to skip over the fact that this robot is named “Triple Crown”. For those not in the know a “Triple Crown” is an equestrian term referring to a racehorse that wins three specific and highly coveted races all in the same season. Todd has won Robot Wars, Robotica, and now he has his sights set on BattleBots but he’s jumping the gun by naming his robot something he hasn’t yet achieved. Todd, you may have just called upon the universe itself to fuck over your robot specifically.

GRADE: B

UPPERCUT
MIT Combat Robotics

A lot of robots have come out of MIT since Overhaul blasted onto the scene in 2015 but last season I hypothesized that out of all the MIT robots out there Uppercut just might be the best one. Late to the party, but only fashionably so, it qualified in 16th place in its rookie season before stepping up its game to qualify in 4th place last season. This bot is a rising star and it has everything to do with its nightmarish spinning vertical bar. Able to achieve a deadly speed in just under two seconds we’ve seen Uppercut set Mammoth ablaze for the knock out, KO Breaker Box, KO Skorpios, KO Rail Gun Max, KO Gemini, KO Hijinx, and of course KO Sawblaze by blowing it the fuck apart. Uppercut doesn’t win by judges’ decision. Ever. It utterly destroys its opponents and leaves them with half of a robot and a bucket full of parts picked up from around the arena.

STRENGTHS: Again, it’s all in the weapon. I might be upselling Uppercut a bit too much by going this far, but Uppercut to me is “the vertical Tombstone”. Alex Hattori has certainly built something else here. He was on Sawblaze’s team for a year, learned everything he needed to know from Jamison Go, and then smacked him silly with it. Uppercut’s combination of a massive front plow and spinner makes its whole front end a no-fly zone, there’s no getting around that massive road block of a plow and even if you try it’ll just feed you straight into the spinner which will no doubt set you straight and make you think about trying that bullshit a second time.

WEAKNESSES: For as hard as it hits Uppercut is not a very stable robot. It can run both ways up no problem, and I think its weapon is even reversible which isn’t common, but if the robot ever gets knocked up onto its side then it struggles to get down. There’s always been two giant pipes sticking out from Uppercut to help facilitate getting down from its side but these pipes make for priority targets for opponents because usually they are within reach and ripping them off is not only damage points but it also could potentially render Uppercut unstable if it’s tipped. Every time we’ve seen Uppercut lose it’s because its opponent is able to knock the robot up onto its side and land additional hits while Uppercut struggles to get back down onto its wheels.

GRADE: A-

VALKYRIE
Questionable Designs

Valkyrie looks like the same robot each time we see it but that’s because its improvements are all under the hood. Make no mistake, this robot has only gotten better since we’ve seen it and it was so close to being one of the last robots to go “3-0” during last season’s qualifiers except Whiplash showed up and ruined everything. Twice. But we still got to see Valkyrie’s blade destroy Tantrum’s self-righting arms (and they never looked right for the remainder of the tournament) as well as the three minute slam fest that was its Rotator fight. Like a lot of other robots on this list Valkyrie is mostly “all weapon”, there’s just the big blue saw (no not that one) and a couple of wheels. Also Questionable Designs is ready for this tournament because shortly before taping occurred a picture of the team’s crate, which had three Valkyries inside of it, went mini-viral in the robot combat community.

STRENGTHS: Thanks to the aforementioned picture of the inside of the team’s shipping crate we know that they’ve got spares for days. Weapons, motors, batteries, hell fucking chassis, everything. Valkyrie could be absolutely thrashed in a battle, win or lose, and come back fresh and ready to go with a brand new machine. Is that fair? I don’t really know. You don’t exactly see NASCAR teams bringing two of the same fucking car to a race “just in case” so this is something specific to BattleBots, and yeah it’s kind of excessive. If memory serves me right I think Sabertooth did the same thing at Robot Wars in the UK and the team got a stern talking to for essentially bringing a second complete robot to taping. In any case there’s nothing Valkyrie can be hit with that the team can’t recover from at least once or twice.

WEAKNESSES: In order to make weight Valkyrie’s disc often features ornate shapes milled into it to reduce the overall weight of the weapon and make it compatible with the robot. Two times last season this was the robot’s undoing; Valkyrie went with a big disc against Whiplash and once Valkyrie’s weapon slowed down there was a hole cut big enough in Valkyrie’s disc that Whiplash’s lifting arm could reach right through it and hook the robot to bring it anywhere it wanted. At one point Valkyrie almost got its disc stuck on part of the arena spike strip because of the speed holes milled in it. This can be combated by never stopping the weapon, but by never letting off the gas the team would risk burning out their weapon motor. It’s a give and take, but once Valkyrie is cornered and its weapon slows down the robot turns into a sitting duck waiting for whatever punishment comes its way.

GRADE: B

WHIPLASH
Team Fast Electric Robots

Well, here it is. The second best robot from last season, your runner up Whiplash. Despite stumbling out of the gate by getting karate chopped to death by Sawblaze we were able to see this robot spin around and make a direct charge for the Giant Nut. Whiplash eventually met its match at the hands of End Game and I don’t think there was a way Matt Vasquez would’ve come out ahead in that battle unless End Game just spontaneously died, but wow what a season it was. How do you really improve a robot that has made it all the way to the championships? Clearly you’re doing something right even if you only make it to second place. Whiplash looks like more of the same, but probably slightly more refined. For example I’m seeing a different look to the lifting arm of Whiplash, no longer is it a thick hunk of plastic it’s a proper metal arm now. This is a robot so refined that we’re beyond the stage of seeing giant sweeping design changes.

STRENGTHS: Fighting this robot is a goddamned nightmare. You might think putting a vertical spinner on a lifting arm is a stupid idea, but let’s take a look at Skorpios, Sawblaze, and now Blacksmith for that matter; isn’t that just what they’ve done? Putting a spinning disc on a moving arm? Whiplash has just taken things a step further and incorporated a lifting arm into the fray so it’s not just bash bash bash when it comes to attack. Don’t get me wrong, Whiplash can certainly bash with that spinner and we’ve seen the robot pull that trick off before, but Whiplash is able to deliver a unique one-two punch where its disc might knock you up a bit into the air which just makes the job of its lifting arm even easier. Add into the equation Matt’s driving skill and the numbers spell disaster for you at Sacrifice.

WEAKNESSES: Whiplash is a sturdy robot but if you’ve got a weapon that’s able to damage its front plow or kink its spinner or something like that then you can quite easily get this machine on the ropes. Matt is a fantastic driver but with a crippled machine he can only do so much. The times that we’ve seen Whiplash lose involve things like Tombstone busting off some front plows or Bite Force being able to attack the wheels of Whiplash. Whiplash has been using hub-less wheels for a couple seasons now as they appear to be the hip thing to have but that doesn’t meant they’re impervious to being torn off. Whiplash is quick, Whiplash is nimble, but Whiplash isn’t immune to fuck-ups and over-correcting a driving mistake. Unless you’re bringing in some serious firepower it’s a waiting game to defeat Whiplash, but it’s possible.

GRADE: A

WITCH DOCTOR
Team Witch Doctor

Two seasons ago Witch Doctor was the runner-up after an incredible string of design evolution dating all the way back to its debut as a heavyweight in 2015. Another robot that once existed as a middleweight, Witch Doctor has more experience in the ring than a lot of competitors might give the team credit for. That’s about the time when said competitors screw up and catch a nasty blow from Witch Doctor’s dual spinning skull-shaped blades (because regular one-toothed discs weren’t badass enough). Witch Doctor was paired up with Bite Force in the 2019 finals and that was not an enviable position for the robot to be in and ultimately its srimech was busted and the robot was left on its back to die, but that just proves the fighting spirit inside of this robot. Last season however was a miserable one for Andrea Gellatly and her team because right off the bat they sheared their primary discs and then promptly broke their replacements which required the assistance of no less than three other competing teams to get Witch Doctor back into the box.

STRENGTHS: Witch Doctor has been splitting heads for every single season of the BattleBots reboot. They’ve even taken down Tombstone, twice on technicality, but only once officially. This is a robot that has done nothing but improve over its previous iterations year after year and in my opinion its the robot whose improvements have been the most obvious to follow. Flipped over and lost in 2015? Add a srimech. Sliced into and lost in 2016? Add that upper rib cage armor. You get the idea. And now the latest improvement I’ve seen to Witch Doctor? Its weapon belts are now on either side of the spinning discs instead of all being at the center of the axle which was a prime target for opponents and one that was definitely taken advantage of. It’s the little things that matter with Witch Doctor and that’s why I had them pegged to win it all last season. Do I still feel the same way? I’m not sure, but they’re definitely a major contender in my book.

WEAKNESSES: As we saw last season Witch Doctor’s weapons were prone to shearing and splitting apart rendering them useless because if the robot tries to spin up an unbalanced weapon then the whole thing just jumps and hops around and is an easy target for opponents to get underneath and slam into the wall. I think we’re past the days of exploding weapons though, surely these new discs are made of the same steel that the last minute replacements we saw last season were. If I had to pick a weakness on Witch Doctor my guess would be that its sides aren’t very well protected. There’s a little bit of the front plow that extends out and around the front wheels, but those back ones are asking to be ripped off especially if something happens to the robot internally that affects its ability to drive.

GRADE: A+

YETI
Team C2 Robotics

Holy shit, it’s fucking Yeti. A robot that exploded onto the scene in the 2016 season and made such a surprise tournament run that builder Greg Gibson was buying used tires from the Bronco team just to stay in the game. Yeti’s drum has been a force to be reckoned with and Greg’s strategy of “just smash” has proven to be just caveman-esque enough to trump the more nuanced and “thought out” strategies of its opponents. Kinda hard to pull off your epic driving maneuvers when all Yeti wants to do is smash its face into yours and wreck your shit. But if that weren’t hype enough take a look at who’s partnered up with Greg to revive this beast: Christian “Minion” Carlberg. Yes, the Christian Carlberg. Former BattleBots champion and the designer of some of the most iconic robots the series has ever seen. Of all the potentially defunct robots for him to give his blessing to and revive, it’s Yeti. There is a god.

STRENGTHS: The brashness of Yeti and the style of Christian’s engineering are on full display here. This is certainly a different kind of Yeti we’re seeing here but it’s unmistakably “Yeti”. The drum is there, the lifting forks are there, it’s got the big wheels up front and smaller wheels in the back. Forget whatever you thought “Yeti 2.0” was because this is it. Right here. Christian once had a super heavyweight named Dreadnought that was similar to Yeti in design and this new robot looks like a marriage between the Dreadnought of yesteryear and the Yeti of the reboot seasons. There’s not a doubt in my mind that this robot will be doling out punishment like it was candy and every day was Halloween. The New Yeti is this season’s official dark horse once again.

WEAKNESSES: For all the experience and knowledge that Christian brings to the table his own new creations haven’t exactly been the best or of the highest caliber. Overdrive was a messy 4WD lifter that couldn’t stop popping wheelies, then it turned into a shitty 2WD vertical spinner that was able to balance on its face and get knocked out. Then we had Mecha Rampage who taunted Double Jeopardy with an attached cardboard carnival target and Double Jeopardy wound up firing off its slug into Mecha Rampage’s spinner which blew it to fucking pieces. That said, Yeti looks like a return to form for Christian and there’s all sorts of little things to appreciate on this robot like how there are slots for its forks to fully retract into when they’re not in use. These were all things that Yeti doesn’t need, but were considered for the new design. Here’s hoping the forks don’t get bent though, otherwise they’re not going to be able to retract fully.

GRADE: B+


Good lord was this article a mess to write. What are we clocking in at now, 28.5K words? How do you people even stand to put up with me for diatribes this long. I could’ve consolidated this into a 20 minute video if I wanted to, but that’s not my style. I write, and now you know why BattleBots Update has had “over one million words” written on it. It’s articles like this, damn it.

The floor tells a story of one hell of a season that’s for sure.

In any case though that’s a wrap on this season’s full roster of robots, from Big Dill to Yeti all… sixty-something. I lost count. 63? There’s a lot of them that’s for damn sure because these prediction articles are always a mountain to climb. What do you think of the predictions? Of the grades? Are some robots scored too low? Too high? Do you think End Game is “the new Bite Force” and will sweep the tournament a second time or will someone like Whiplash or Witch Doctor become a new champion? Will Tombstone reclaim the title it won in 2016? Those of you who were already at the taping and know how this turns out shut up and don’t tell anyone. Y’all signed those NDA’s for a reason.

I’m eager to see the first episode of the new season because there are so many new robots in the field, some of them “B team” bots from teams who’ve diversified, plus all of the revamped veterans. Is Tombstone’s new bar going to be its key to success? Is Yeti’s surprise return out of nowhere going to rock the brackets like the robot did back in 2016? Are we going to get to see any rematches where the original losing robots rise up and settle the score? I just don’t fucking know but I want to know so badly. The only way to find out is to keep it locked on Discovery Channel until BattleBots premieres. I don’t know what date to look out for but my guess has got to be sometime in December, perhaps maybe even in January. I don’t think the producers are clamoring to get the show on TV right in the middle of the holiday season when people are going to be traveling and might miss the episodes.

And finally, can I just say props to these three guys for sticking with the show for SIX seasons now?

I will be following the season here on BBU and I’m not certain what my release schedule is going to be like, but I will do my best to keep things weekly. I know I can rely on my bot buddies to keep me posted with digital versions of the episodes for me to work from, I just don’t know the logistics of that yet. Expect delays, expect me to probably slip behind the show by a couple of weeks. There’s so much going on in my personal life that it’s only normal to expect delays. This November I have some charity work coming up with Extra Life that will occupy a lot of my time. I also need to finish Antweight Anarchy before diving into a new season as it is, there’s still four articles left there. Thankfully they’re not 28 thousand word behemoths like this one.

That said if you enjoyed this article and want to get ready to support BattleBots Update through the incoming season you can do so with a monthly pledge on Patreon or as a one-time donation with Ko-Fi. If you want some stickers out of the deal then head on over to Redbubble for official BBU ones, and be sure to follow BattleBots Update on Facebook for all future musings and posts!

– Draco