Through week 6, 203 teams have played 1048 matches in the state of Michigan. We are down to the final 64 teams, roughly the top 30%. In the 4-year history of the Michigan State Championship, Michigan has produced 6 Einstein Finalists and regularly provides about 25% of the FRC Championship’s Divisional Eliminations teams. Of the 16 finalist captains and first picks in the 4 years of the Michigan State Championship, 9 have been at least Divisional Finalists. Success at MSC matters and it’s an indicator of good things to come.
What’s at stake here? Unlike the regionals that take place around the country, the district competitions do not qualify anyone to championship. Currently, 6 FiM teams are qualified for championship. 67 and 51 are HoF teams, 27 won the EI award at Northern Lights, 245 won the Palmetto Regional, 2834 won at Buckeye, and 288 won the EI award at the Western Canadian Regional. 27 spots remain for 59 other teams to fight for, and every team wants one of those spots.
MSC has proven to be the strongest event outside of the CMP and IRI. The average scores are off the charts and the depth is unparalleled. 37 teams have previous OPRs over 40, with half of those (18) over 50. Losing scores over 100 will be the norm and we may see the greatest collection of 200-point matches at one event outside of IRI.
With strategy developing and evolving through each week, Ultimate Ascent has turned into a sport of positions. Some positions are obvious (the full court shooters and the climbers), while others are more obscure. Only a few teams have been able to consistently score the colored discs, worth 5 points apiece, from the ground. Even the most elite of the colored disc scorers, 2145 with their 4-disc toss, may not make a big splash at MSC, though each of those teams is capable scoring in other ways. Below are rankings of which teams seem to be the best at each of the most common “positions” in the game.
The Full Court Shooters
An effective full court shooter (FCS) can light up the scoreboard whether they score in the 2pt or 3pt goal. FCSs have seen the most success during qualifying rounds, when opposing alliances typically do not defend them effectively. They pose a huge threat in elims if they’re allowed to shoot unopposed. These robots fall under this specialty.
- HOT will take any chance they get to take the long 3-point shot. They have unmatched accuracy and shooting speed, but lack ideal height. If you leave them alone, you’ve probably already lost.
- They don’t do it often, but when The Guerillas do they can run up the score. Pretty accurate for 3 points, but mainly stick to their guns of picking up and shooting
- One of few FCS only robots. Their odd length robot makes them a tipping liability, but does allow them to squeeze through the smaller holes. Love shooting 2-pointers and can empty out a feeder station.
- Another FCS only robot is the Foley Freeze. They shoot the discs very hard and quickly. They can shoot for either 2 or 3 points, but do have a hard time with both feeding and hitting the target.
- This combination robot likes to shoot the distance when it can, but TORC will ride around and pick up discs when they can’t. Their high-arced shot is tough to block, but isn’t very accurate.
The Frog Force will set up shop in the right feeder station in most matches, shoots for 2 points a lot, but does tend to have discs bounce out.
Honorable mentions: 3414, 217, 1701, 3604
The 50-point Climbers and Dumpers
The hardest single task in this year’s game is climbing the pyramid. The list of capable teams is small, but grows each week as teams finally get everything going. The biggest addition to these robots is the 20pt dump into the top of the pyramid, achieving the 50pt play. These robots have shown the ability to get those 50 points, a potential match-clincher.
+3572 - Probably the most consistent of all the dumpers are IMPI and Wavelength. They’ve each proved that climbing all the way to the top of the pyramid can be done and often. However, climbing is typically the limit of their teleop scoring. They’ll have to add another dimension to their games to be contenders.
- Added climbing and dumping at West Michigan and it was a game changer for NC Gears, even after already winning Traverse City. This fast climbing machine needs about 30 seconds to climb, but once on the pyramid it’s nothing but up, up, up. Very good scoring machine otherwise.
- This machine has been up and down the pyramid, literally. After the fall in the first match at Detroit, the Bedford Express has been playing the catch-up game. Needing only about 30 seconds to climb, they can play offense and defense during game play.
- HOT hasn’t yet to show an ability to climb consistently. Expect them to up their climbing game at MSC, but they will not successfully climb every match.
Floor loading may have been the most overlooked part of the game this year. The opportunity to add 24 extra points in auton is a huge boost, a great advantage right out of the gate, in both qualifying and elimination matches. Teams with pickups can also employ the “Ground and Pound” strategy, where they clean up the misses made by runners and FCSs.
- A vacuum and the best pickup Michigan has to offer. The Killer Bees can sweep the field for any full-court shooter and have one of the best autons in the World.
- The Tech Vikes have won their two districts as 1st captain and 1st pick, but are untested against stronger competition. Their speedily spinning pickup should prove effective despite any defense, however.
- The Guerillas love to play an FCS-Pickup strategy, sometimes playing both roles themselves. They almost always score the centerline discs, whether using their midline auton or going straight for them when the clock hits 2 minutes.
- A very solid pickup that augments an already-great robot. However, The Byting Bulldogs struggled to keep up with 67’s misses at Troy. Might be a better match for a quick cycler
+1684 - Excel and the Chimeras are limited by the speed of their arms, but each picks up consistently and effectively in auton and teleop
/494+1918 - These teams have pickups, technically, but they’re mostly limited to autonomous use. The Martians and NC Gears strongly prefer cycling to picking up floor discs in teleop
- Seemed to be on an upward trajectory at Troy, but regressed at Bedford. They’ve flashed 7-disc auton ability, but the EngiNERDs need to make big improvements to make the elims.
One thing Michigan is not short on is talented and speedy cyclers. Nearly every robot at MSC has the ability to receive discs from the feeder stations and score in the high goal, but some teams have the elite speed and maneuvering capability to get around the best defense. With so many cycling robots, the few we’ve listed here are the cream of the crop.
- The best pure cycler in Michigan, the Adambots were an excellent complement to 469 at Troy as they took out two of the best in 67 and 3539. Like an elite kickoff returner, they get from one side of the field to the other in a flash.
- The Fighting Pi is having the kind of season most teams dream of. Two district wins and a district chairman’s award. They are deceptively quick and rarely miss, all while moving their entire shooting apparatus up and down to score discs. They’ve played in 33’s shadow so far, but should put any doubts of their ability to rest this weekend
- Winner of two districts this year, in both they were the most accurate scorer at the events. Coupled with their ability to quickly make runs to the feeder station, that great accuracy makes them a threat at MSC.
- The Byting Bulldogs have the talent to put up huge points while cycling, though they effectively utilize their ground pickup as well. They have extraordinary speed, from crossing the field to lining up for their shots
- One of the fastest runners Michigan has to offer is Truck Town Thunder (T3). They can pull off up to 6 cycles per match, if left undefended. They have a drivetrain made to push people around, with all the speed needed to race around the field.
- The Robotarians are a quick scoring team, but they could use more practice lining up and playing against defence. They broke out in a big way this season, winning St. Joseph, and could pose a big threat to the established powers at MSC.
- Though they typically sweep the field carpet for discs, the Killer Bees can get to and from the feeder station really well. The only weakness to their game is that they lack ideal speed
- The Red Arrows have broken out the last two seasons and have improved greatly as this season has moved along. At West Michigan, they were one of the fastest robots on the field, able to put up a lot of points and hard to defend.
- The Mech Warriors have built another very good and especially quick robot this year. Their one issue is that they just aren’t that consistent at the 3pt shot and tend to go after the 2pt goal. May need to switch goals, with minimal loss of accuracy, to be a contender.
- The HOT team hasn’t been forced to cycle often, but when it has been necessary, they’ve proven themselves capable. With more FCS defense to be expected at MSC, they may need to improve this facet of their game.
- Team Rock has the speed to be an elite cycler, but struggles to beat good defense. Having improved significantly from Gull Lake to St. Joe, practice might make perfect for a team that has been unlucky so far in eliminations.
- Team Excel has continued to be a dominant force on Michigan’s west coast. Now they need to take their fast feeding robot and their game to the next level to compete for that state title in Ypsi.
- The team with luck not on their side has been RUSH. At their first event, they were a jam away from winning St. Joseph district and then were the #1 captain at Livonia and got beat in the finals. They are a fast runner, but if hit while driving around, they tend to lose a disc or two.
+1189 - Both the Gear Heads and Dreadbots were very successful early in the season, with 2 District finalists and 1 District Win between them, but will need to up their game considerably to see the same success at MSC. Seeing them in the eliminations would be no surprise, but they won’t have a cake walk to Saturday afternoon either.
- Honorable Mentions: 3414, 2619, 2851, 858, 2612, 314
- A special note about these honorable mentions: Unlike the other honorable mentions, every single one of these teams has had considerable success at the district level. The rankings are somewhat arbitrary towards the bottom because all of these robots have good talent. But, as pure cyclers without significant improvements, they’ll most likely be fighting to get picked at the tail-end of alliance selections.
How it’s all going to go down
Ranking teams is all well and good, but it’s difficult to predict how the game will evolve and play out at the Michigan State Championship. With the number of full-court shooters, tall defenders will be in high demand and potentially short supply, as that role was typically taken by the 3rd robots in district eliminations. Even when they’re able to take their long shots, winning matches will be difficult for the less accurate full-court shooters, unless they have a pickup robot on their alliance.
Pure cyclers may have trouble as well. Though they’ve been able to outclass most of their opponents so far, there are a large number of talented cycling robots at MSC. Captains could look for an additional ability, whether it’s an extra-disc autonomous mode or high climbing.
Pickups could have the best time at MSC. To start, there really aren’t very many available. Every alliance will want to get extra discs in auton. Robots that can pick up are a near-necessary partner for an FCS, but they can complement any other robot type well. Two pickups on the same alliance could overmatch an opposing FCS by cleaning up their misses or starve an opposing pickup making them one-dimensional.
Versatility will be valuable to avoid being predictable. For that reason, it’s most likely that the Michigan State Champions will be some combination of the three strongest and most versatile teams: 33, 67, and 469. The Killer Bees not only have the best auton and would complement an FCS perfectly, but they can also score independently and effectively. Las Guerrillas may not have the best auton or the best FCS, but their ability to pick up from the floor, shoot in cycles, or shoot full-court will confound opposing alliances. Finally, HOT will run the best FCS at the event and has added a 50-point climb and dump to top it off. Any two of these robots could decisively take the Michigan State Championship.