Alliance composition to win champs- what you need to do to make elims (round 2)


I was supposed to take a break from FRC but here we are actively mentoring a team in Philly, attending events, checking CD, and supporting several teams from my home area.

Last year around this time I posted a thread detailing what you need to do to get picked at champs as a third or fourth robot. I got a lot of feedback noting that people appreciated my analysis and have been asked to compile another one for the 2019 game. This is basically round 2 but with more emphasis on alliance composition. Here’s my take on an optimal champs elims alliance.

  1. Sandstorm
    In an elims match, obviously, every cycle is critical. More important than completing the rocket, simply scoring points is all that matters in eliminations, making cargo ship hatch panel scoring far more important. A competitive elims alliance must consistently place hatches on the two front cargo ship bays and probably also should be hatching the sides. My ideal sandstorm alliance composition looks like this-
    Robot A starts level 1 and quickly places a hatch on one of the front bays then immediately goes to the HP for another hatch on a side cargo ship bay. Basicallythis or this.
    Robot B starts hab 2 and places two hatches on the side of the cargo ship. 1114 has doen a phenomenal job of this, but I can’t seem to find a clean video. Either way, pretty self-explanatory.
    Robot C (Probably a third or fourth alliance member) starts hab 2 and places a hatch on the front of the cargo ship being sure to wait for Robot A to get out of the way. Countless have teams have done this successfully and it’s totally feasible to do with no automation- just a camera and normal driving with practice. If you’re concerned about getting picked in elims, proving you can do this is a HUGE boost to your chances.

This sandstorm or any similar composition sets you up incredibly well for teleop and puts you at 40 points to start the match. Dubs.

  1. Teleop
    Somebody needs to be playing defense. There’s a case to be made for defense defense (not allowing the opposing defense robot into your side of the field) but defense is crucial to Destination: Deep Space and I’d be shocked to see a high-level successful champs alliance without a robot playing defense. One robot on the other side of the field leaves the other two (probably an alliance captain and a first pick) two empty rockets and three empty cargo bays. At the level of play we’re seeing teams compete the last few weeks, a full rocket is totally feasible for a majority of top champs teams and then some if they’re not defended. Given that, the team that is defended should do their best to fill a rocket, the team that isn’t defended should be filling their rocket and probably the empty cargo bays (I see you, 1323 filling the rocket with 65 seconds left). Executed well, especially with less-than-stellar defense, it’s feasible to fill the field with game pieces. I don’t forsee this to be common or a huge issue, but if alliances literally are running out of places to put game pieces they’re probably already in a good spot.

Filling the field with the sandstorm setup above and 3 empty hatch panels cargo-ed along with 2 full rockets puts you at 109? points. Sounds doable to me but easier said than done. The best of the best will get there. Make it happen. Dubs.

  1. Endgame
    This one has a lot of variability because there isn’t one outright best way to do it. Short answer- outscore the opposing alliance. If you’re on Carver with 1678 at this point just pray- that triple climb is incredible. Across suction cups, forks, or intelligently designed frames, two teams on level three seems doable and will likely make it to Einstein. It’d be clutch if the defense robot was one of those climbs so that the primary scorers can continue cycling. I see significant merit to level 2 climbs and that is totally doable for a third or fourth robot as icing on the cake to an already powerful alliance. Basically, play alliance selection smart and utilize the practice field to find climbers that are compatible. Long story short- score a lot of points.

In summary, hatch the cargo ship in sandstorm- starting with the front and moving to the sides as you get good. In teleop, keep filling those rockets but don’t hesitate to start with the open cargo bays if you’re confident the rocket will come together. Three points is a whole one point more than two. That one point will decide plenty of matches in the next few weeks. There should never be an open cargo bay in the cargo ship in elims. In the endgame try to work with your partners to buy space on hab 3. Don’t discount hab 2 climbs- they aren’t flashy but they get the job done.

Here are some ways to get yourself picked for elims at champs.
Don’t die in a match. Ever. Electrical problems, drivetrain failures, champs elims are too costly to take a big risk on a third or fourth robot, and with so many options in a division this is a huge dealbreaker.
Keep it simple- traction wheel drivetrain powered by 4+ cims/Neos, 6+ minicims, 8+ 775pros. I sure hope you aren’t making drivetrain decisions at this point in the season but there are probably some teams looking at switching.
Be prepared to add some weight to the robot to help play defense. It’s worth debate on if that actually helps, but it can’t hurt to come prepared with dumbells and worst case your pit crew gets a nice workout during lunch break.
Place a hatch on the front of the cargo ship in sandstorm. Ideally from hab 2 and ideally with the ability to wait for a partner, but that’s a lot to ask in some divisions. Prove you can do it every single match of quals.
Keep that COG low but throw on a flag or something up high. It’s easy to lose your zippy lil robot behind the cargo ship on the other side of the field.
Work well with partners, be a graciously professional team, handle yourselves well at the competition.
Following all that and probably some things I forgot, sometimes you’ve just gotta pray. There are a lot of teams in a division and its easy to get passed over (RIP 1836 who has still never made elims at champs). Make a lot of noise in your matches and prove you can consistently do what you can do every single time. Above all, recognize that qualifying for champs is a huge accomplishment however you got there, and even if you don’t make elims your team is probably pretty awesome anyways.

Feel free to reach out for further discussion or analysis. I’ll be scouting or assisting with strategy for teams across every champs division. If someone could remind me that I have homework to do that’d be cool but here we are.

That’s all I’ve got. Maybe 1836 will qualify for champs next year.



The winning alliances at both Texas and Michigan district Championships played a majority of their matches with all 3 robots scoring. Some (most?) alliance will likely go for 2 offense and 1 defense, but 3 offensive robots is certainly a valid and proven strategy at high levels of play.


We very much saw this strategy at work in the elims at NC DCMP. The winning alliance had 5190 placing two side hatches during sandstorm while their 1st pick 1533 placed the front hatches and their 2nd pick 4290 did another side hatch. In teleop, 5190 and 1533 did opposing rockets (to split the defense.) If the defensive bot blocked either from the rocket, they would turn to the empty cargo bays to score instead. Meanwhile 4290 went on defense to cut down the opposition’s scoring. Worked out pretty much as you indicated and they made an undefeated run to the blue banner.

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I definitely think 3 scorer is feasible but there is always at least 1 robot on our alliance that we designate that will step into play defense / counter defense when nessecary. It honestly means having a robot which can contribute significantly to the scoring cause but also switch to defense after their scoring opportunities have been maximized. We saw at MSc this weekend that any form of defense takes a toll on the top cycler and significantly reduces the scoring margin. We also saw that if defense is played right, 1 robot could micromanage all 3 opponent robots at choke hold points which in short, creates literal chaos for the opponent side.

In addition, the split method worked really well to curb defensive options when every single robot was scoring at different structures (1 on every rocket, and 1 on cargo ship). Defense had to choose 1 to hone in on which often resulted in the other 2 tandeming a full rocket and a full cargo ship.

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