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Unread 04-16-2018, 05:58 AM
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What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

It should come as no surprise that team 1836 designed our robot to be the perfect third alliance member at champs. Since we didn’t qualify for houston (more on that later) and I’ve personally fielded 30+ texts/phone calls about this topic, I feel like I can provide some strategic advice to teams looking to be an effective third robot or alliances trying to figure out what to do with their third bots. This is not a rant on how to get picked. For info on that, take a look at JVN’s blog post, talk to top teams in your division, or use common sense to get a better understanding. Maybe I’ll write up a post about that later if people want me to.

Lets assume the 1 and 2 robots on your alliance are solid scale-capable bots. If they aren’t, you probably already lost. See my prior alliance make-up rant or ask if you don’t understand why. Most people think the scale race will take 2 bots from each alliance the entire match, I seem to disagree, but regardless, the third robot on an alliance can do a lot to help an alliance win regardless of the scale race. In my mind, there are three roles a third robot can fill (ignoring auto and endgame) to be an effective partner to its alliance.

a) Just fill the vault. All 9 cubes, as early as possible, giving that strategic freedom to play powerups when necessary to the alliance. This spot kinda sucks, but for those of you that can’t fill the vault in under 46.07 seconds it’s a half decent role. I get it, we can’t all be CIS.
b) Vault and defense. For a solid example of this check out 1836’s strategy in QF match 3 of AZN. Those of us that can fill the vault in under 46.07 seconds have all that match time left, and if you can use that time to take a portal (or even both if you’re good) of cubes away from your opponents you’re helping that scale battle a lot. A much less risky way to play this strategy is to literally park in front of the HP station though some might call that illegal? Maybe you drive back and forth next to the station to slow teams down that come by. Maybe you steal a cube right out of someone’s intake. When the opposing alliance goes to a HP station, slow em down or outright stop em. How you do it should depend on your partners, opponents, and the rules. Fill the vault before they come to the portal (first ~30 seconds of the match) and when they break from cubes to go climb.
c) Away switch and vault. This seems pretty obvious. As soon as the match starts, bolt to the other side of the field while staying out of the way of your alliance members (try driving under the scale while they’re placing on the scale). Open with the fair game cubes behind the away switch so they don’t end up in the opposite side of the scale (top champs alliances will run out of cubes). Then, empty the HP station into the away switch. That probably leaves 7 cubes, more like 9/10 if you’re quick in the away switch and at least one opposing alliance robot will need to spend the entire match working to get it back. At the end of the match, get back to fill the vault, probably with levitate being triggered in the last seconds. This strategy is tough to pull off but has been proven effective even as regional first picks or captains by phenomenal teams like 1011, 5499, and 7179 (all of whom qualified for houston, still salty). This strategy only works with no risk of the opponent taking away the home switch, so make sure you can drop 2+ in auto (or quickly at the beginning of teleop) and have an alliance member babysitting it to make sure you never lose that home switch.

Third robots on an alliance should always be filling the vault and hopping on their partner’s ramps if needed. If they have time to spare in a match, they should be blocking portals, slowing down opponent scale bots, babysitting the home switch, or filling the away switch. Some matches may warrant the third bot placing a quick single scale cube just to help win that race early. Maybe you want em to feed a scale team from a portal. Do you agree with my options above? Do you plan to do something else with your third robot?

Team 1836 is currently on the Detroit waitlist and hoping to put some of these strategies in motion as a third bot in Detroit. We really appreciate all of the buzz, support, and wishes for us to be at champs. Here’s hoping the waitlist will provide us that opportunity.

Best of luck to all teams competing at Houston!! (I’ll be watching at 2 AM from Israel)

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the role of a third robot at champs!

-Marcus
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Last edited by marcusbernstein : 04-16-2018 at 06:01 AM. Reason: CD on safari mobile is hard
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Unread 04-16-2018, 06:54 AM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

Thank you for posting this- I will be sharing this with my drive team as we also went with a vault/switch only robot. Our hope is to be selected as a 3rd/4th pick to play on Sat.

The fact that your team did not qualify for Houston Champs shows how much the system needs to be changed. Your robot is the top switch/vault robot in the world IMO. I've used your match videos to train our drive team on how we should play matches. Hopefully you get to Det off the waitlist, your robot will be one of the first I hope to check out.
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Unread 04-16-2018, 07:17 AM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

Strategy C was my favorite to play over at MSC, as a vault/switch specialist.

This match in particular showcased the strategy well.

https://www.thebluealliance.com/match/2018micmp3_qm28

We (4967) and 7213 ran down to the other end of the field immediately to score on the opponent switch, us sucking cubes off the back wall of the switch, and 7213 cycling from the portal. Once we took all floor cubes out of play, we zipped back to our end to fill the vault before the climb while 7213 kept at the switch. (Yeah I know we missed one, we had to try a new climbing orientation I didn't want to risk missing). 1322 just kept at the scale, and the red alliance didn't pick up on the fact that we were never going to take back ownership until it was too late.

The other part of hitting the opponent switch first is it forces them to decide where they source cubes from to fight back. In this case they choose to use their cube zone pile, thus restricting them to only putting 3 cubes in the vault.

The math works. It's tough, but you can win a Power Up match without ever owning the scale.
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Unread 04-16-2018, 07:55 AM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

The difficulty with being a vault bot is that in many cases at the highest levels of play, it's valuable to keep the protected cubes for switch defense and scale. At MSC, our team's decision on a 3rd bot depended mainly on consistent autos and teleop versatility. Specifically, we valued a 100% consistent center switch auto, which allowed the other two robots to focus the scale in auto. For teleop, it was important that they be able to attack the far switch, defend our switch, fill the vault, or play portal defense depending on the opposition.
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Unread 04-16-2018, 05:08 PM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

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Originally Posted by marcusbernstein View Post
It should come as no surprise that team 1836 designed our robot to be the perfect third alliance member at champs. Since we didnít qualify for houston (more on that later)
Team 1836 is currently on the Detroit waitlist and hoping to put some of these strategies in motion as a third bot in Detroit. We really appreciate all of the buzz, support, and wishes for us to be at champs. Hereís hoping the waitlist will provide us that opportunity.

-Marcus
The problem with designing the perfect third alliance member is that if you are too good(and YOU ARE), you aren't available to the top few alliances at your regional. In many games, this really decreases your likelihood of winning because the top scorers are all bunched together. I hope 1836 is able to get to Detroit so you can be that perfect 3rd alliance member in your division. I look forward to future competitions with you. How 'bout you come on up to Idaho next year?! Good luck!
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Unread 04-16-2018, 05:28 PM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

We ran into the same problem we designed for champs and elims but ended up with a robot that wasn't available to be picked on top alliances. Also for quals we were limited to the random alliances we had so even though we do our job it doesn't impact enough to win which ended up costing us RAS.
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Unread 04-16-2018, 06:55 PM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

It's worth noting that parking in front of the opponent's portals is not only legal, it's also a very viable strategy (see SF1-1 and SF1-2 at CVR by the red alliance) that we unfortunately weren't able to run prechamps. There is a rule somewhere that states that you can't conspire to shut down an aspect of the game and explicitly lists blocking both portals as illegal. This strategy works especially well if you have a >=2 cube advantage on the scale out of auto, as you can clear the 12 fence cubes while still maintaining a scale lead easily, and then starve the other alliance for the rest of the match.
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Unread 04-16-2018, 07:04 PM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

Quote:
Originally Posted by marcusbernstein View Post
It should come as no surprise that team 1836 designed our robot to be the perfect third alliance member at champs. Since we didnít qualify for houston (more on that later) and Iíve personally fielded 30+ texts/phone calls about this topic, I feel like I can provide some strategic advice to teams looking to be an effective third robot or alliances trying to figure out what to do with their third bots. This is not a rant on how to get picked. For info on that, take a look at JVNís blog post, talk to top teams in your division, or use common sense to get a better understanding. Maybe Iíll write up a post about that later if people want me to.

Lets assume the 1 and 2 robots on your alliance are solid scale-capable bots. If they arenít, you probably already lost. See my prior alliance make-up rant or ask if you donít understand why. Most people think the scale race will take 2 bots from each alliance the entire match, I seem to disagree, but regardless, the third robot on an alliance can do a lot to help an alliance win regardless of the scale race. In my mind, there are three roles a third robot can fill (ignoring auto and endgame) to be an effective partner to its alliance.
4607 also designed our robot to be the ideal 3rd robot at champs. I've spent an unhealthy amount of time analyzing this game and trying to figure out how it'll play out at Champs in order to prioritize the right things throughout the competition season. I think we are mostly on the same page regarding how the role of the 3rd robot will play out - even if it isn't actually the best way for things to play out... Although I do have some additional ideas and thoughts.

Quote:
a) Just fill the vault. All 9 cubes, as early as possible, giving that strategic freedom to play powerups when necessary to the alliance. This spot kinda sucks, but for those of you that canít fill the vault in under 46.07 seconds itís a half decent role. I get it, we canít all be CIS.
I appreciate the shout out We have definitely got the Vault down... Seeing how things played out in the more competitive district championships (NE, Michigan, Ontario), it seemed like the Vault was less of a priority for a lot of alliances. A lot of teams chose to get Levitate and maybe a couple of additional cubes, but generally they saved the Power Cube Pile for defending the Home Switch and even for cycling to the Scale. These strategies made sense since cube starvation made the cubes in the Power Cube Pile more valuable on the field than in the Vault in a lot of cases. During the playoffs at champs I do agree that a lot of alliances will stick to this outdated strategy. Those alliances will be defeated by alliances that find a better use for their 3rd robot.

Quote:
b) Vault and defense. For a solid example of this check out 1836ís strategy in QF match 3 of AZN. Those of us that can fill the vault in under 46.07 seconds have all that match time left, and if you can use that time to take a portal (or even both if youíre good) of cubes away from your opponents youíre helping that scale battle a lot. A much less risky way to play this strategy is to literally park in front of the HP station though some might call that illegal? Maybe you drive back and forth next to the station to slow teams down that come by. Maybe you steal a cube right out of someoneís intake. When the opposing alliance goes to a HP station, slow em down or outright stop em. How you do it should depend on your partners, opponents, and the rules. Fill the vault before they come to the portal (first ~30 seconds of the match) and when they break from cubes to go climb.
In my opinion Strategy B is a significant improvement over Strategy A... but it's still too conservative for all underdog alliances. To me this strategy makes the most sense for the top seeds in a division. The alliances with 195 and 2056 on them. Also the alliances that will be getting the leftovers in the 2nd round of the draft... which might be a little better than you think - more on that later. If you're alliance 3-8, you're going to need to use a more aggressive strategy in order to overcome an elite Scale combo.

Quote:
c) Away switch and vault. This seems pretty obvious. As soon as the match starts, bolt to the other side of the field while staying out of the way of your alliance members (try driving under the scale while theyíre placing on the scale). Open with the fair game cubes behind the away switch so they donít end up in the opposite side of the scale (top champs alliances will run out of cubes). Then, empty the HP station into the away switch. That probably leaves 7 cubes, more like 9/10 if youíre quick in the away switch and at least one opposing alliance robot will need to spend the entire match working to get it back. At the end of the match, get back to fill the vault, probably with levitate being triggered in the last seconds. This strategy is tough to pull off but has been proven effective even as regional first picks or captains by phenomenal teams like 1011, 5499, and 7179 (all of whom qualified for houston, still salty). This strategy only works with no risk of the opponent taking away the home switch, so make sure you can drop 2+ in auto (or quickly at the beginning of teleop) and have an alliance member babysitting it to make sure you never lose that home switch.
Strategy C is much more like it... this is what 4607 did at MFR and it's probably what we'll be doing in Detroit... with a few twists. You say it sounds obvious, but so few teams have specialized at overloading the opposing Switch and then filling the Vault. The teams you named in addition to a handful of other teams are what I would call elite at this strategy. This strategy has so many obvious benefits in addition to some less obvious benefits. The most obvious benefit of this strategy vs. other strategies are that all 3 robots on the alliance employing this strategy are contributing to cube starvation - which naturally helps to contribute to owning the Scale. By leaving your Power Cube Pile alone until the end of the match, you help to ensure that more of the contested cubes end up in your alliance's possession. You also allow for more flexibility for your Scale robots in where they can take cubes from. They will have the option of taking from both the Portal and the Power Cube Pile in the case the the Portal is heavily defended by an alliance employing Strategy B. My favorite twist to this strategy is when the opposing alliance inevitably spills their Power Cube Pile outside of its protected Zone and towards your color on the Away Switch. When (not if for a large majority of matches) this happens, you can literally take cubes away from the opposing alliance and take their Switch with them. You are literally taking cubes out of their Vault by doing this, and putting your alliance at a massive Vault advantage.

Seeing as how a lot of alliances have transitioned away from putting all 9 cubes in the Vault (and I expect that trend to continue at Champs), this strategy is even more valuable as you're not going to need to set aside time to put all 9 cubes in the Vault at the end of the match. You'll only need to put at most 6 (for the 1-2-3 Vault strategy), which leaves you more time for overloading the opposing Switch. An elite 3rd robot that dedicates itself to this strategy should be able to eat up 4 contested Cubes, empty a Portal (5-6 cubes) and then fill the Vault with at least 6 cubes at the end of the match.

Quote:
Third robots on an alliance should always be filling the vault and hopping on their partnerís ramps if needed. If they have time to spare in a match, they should be blocking portals, slowing down opponent scale bots, babysitting the home switch, or filling the away switch. Some matches may warrant the third bot placing a quick single scale cube just to help win that race early. Maybe you want em to feed a scale team from a portal. Do you agree with my options above? Do you plan to do something else with your third robot?

Team 1836 is currently on the Detroit waitlist and hoping to put some of these strategies in motion as a third bot in Detroit. We really appreciate all of the buzz, support, and wishes for us to be at champs. Hereís hoping the waitlist will provide us that opportunity.

Best of luck to all teams competing at Houston!! (Iíll be watching at 2 AM from Israel)

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the role of a third robot at champs!

-Marcus
I really hope that 1836 makes it to Detroit. You guys have a robot that can make a difference on a World Championship alliance. You can execute all of the Switch-specialist 3rd robot strategies better than 99% of teams... but I'm also thinking that you would fall in the draft to a top 4 alliance (and be in an even better position to win your division) because of my next point...

The New 3rd Robot is a 2nd Robot
One of the most interesting (and concerning - for me) developments at District Championships was the alliance selection results in the 2nd round... A majority of Playoff alliances at highly competitive district championships selected Scale robots with their 2nd round pick. In other words, the 3 Scale bot alliance was more common than the 2 Scale and 1 Switch bot alliance. I see this trend continuing at Champs for lower seeded (4-8) alliances. I believe that most of these alliances will believe they need 3 Scale bots to keep up with the best Scale bots in a division on the top seeds. The lower alliances will also prefer the strategic flexibility of choosing a Scale bot, with the thought that they can pick a Switch bot in the 3rd round. This will cause the 1836's of the world (not that there are a lot of them) to fall in the draft (if the 1836's of the world play their cards right...). I think things will play out such that the top alliances will get significantly better Switch specialist robots due to a run on Scale robots in the 2nd round. Maybe this is wishful thinking because I want to be the 16th pick in the draft? I could also see it happening though!

A couple of other additional thoughts:
  • Switch-only alliances aren't going to make it to Einstein - there just isn't enough margin for error to consistently defeat Scale dominant alliances
  • The alliance that attacks the opposing alliances Switch is almost always in the better position - you're putting pressure on the opposing alliance's Power Cube Pile which reduces their ability to fill the Vault, it's also unlikely that they'll be attacking your Switch with any real effort because most alliances just don't (and if they do, you're still in a position where you're trading a Switch for a Switch which is a net neutral)
  • The 1-2-3 Vault strategy is going to continue to dominate at Champs. 1 Cube in Boost, 2 Cubes in Force, 3 Cubes in Levitate. Additional cubes in the Vault are generally far less valuable.
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Unread 04-16-2018, 07:25 PM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

I agree with much of what has been said already. I want to add the importance of not getting penalties.
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Unread 04-16-2018, 11:20 PM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

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Originally Posted by Ginger Power View Post
[*]The 1-2-3 Vault strategy is going to continue to dominate at Champs. 1 Cube in Boost, 2 Cubes in Force, 3 Cubes in Levitate. Additional cubes in the Vault are generally far less valuable.
Or even a 2-3-3, where when you lose auto and pop the 2 force to buy you time, win it back and pop a 3 boost, then end with a levitate. I've noticed a lot of non vault teams think that 1st priority is levitate when in fact there can be a lot more to be gained from other strategies.
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Unread 04-16-2018, 11:50 PM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

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Originally Posted by RoboAlum View Post
We ran into the same problem we designed for champs and elims but ended up with a robot that wasn't available to be picked on top alliances. Also for quals we were limited to the random alliances we had so even though we do our job it doesn't impact enough to win which ended up costing us RAS.
You built a sweet lowbot capable of filling the vault.

But I hate to break it to you, but your robot performance has less to do with RAS than does other areas of your team. The first thing that I noticed about your team is that you don't have a website. Judges do invest time into things such as this. Both rookie teams that won RAS at your regionals had solid websites.

But websites are just a bit of the equation. What type of literature did you provide for your judges? How did your students frame their team when talking about the robot and team? How developed was your safety protocol?

You can PM me if you want to know more, 4607 is an open book for all.

P.S. Sorry to be a buzz-kill.
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Unread 04-17-2018, 05:58 AM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

Lots of good strategies here, we plan on employing a lot of aspects of them at champs, but one thing I havenít seen discussed is the movement of scale robots once the scale begins to fill up. Division elims alliances are going to see that happen early on in matches, and banners will be won and lost based on how alliances plan around that. Thats all Iíll say 😉
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Unread 04-17-2018, 06:44 AM
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

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Originally Posted by StAxis View Post
Lots of good strategies here, we plan on employing a lot of aspects of them at champs, but one thing I haven’t seen discussed is the movement of scale robots once the scale begins to fill up. Division elims alliances are going to see that happen early on in matches, and banners will be won and lost based on how alliances plan around that. Thats all I’ll say ��
Check out this post for my thoughts on what scale bots do once the scale starts to fill up/when the fair game cubes behind switches are gone.
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

Playing around with Scott's (Fuddster's) simulator, it looks like if you focus on the switches you still must own the scale for about 25 seconds to have any reasonable margin of victory. I tried various ways of owning both switches and cube play but that alone is dicey at best.

Others care to illustrate a 3rd bot strategy result with the simulator? I had RED focus on switches. How BLUE plays the vault is an interesting component of this simulation.

2018 Power Up! Scoring Simulator

Example (this one ignoring the scale in auto, or losing the auto battle):

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Last edited by mswhite60 : 04-17-2018 at 11:44 AM. Reason: smaller image
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Re: What to do with the third robot on a champs elims alliance

I could also see a third have the responsibility of feeding a few cubes into the null zone. Also I dont think anyone has mentioned sniping the cubes dropped from the opponents portal either.
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