We’ve watched 7 weeks of Ultimate Ascent and everyone is getting ready for one more. I’ve heard over the course of the season that UA is an ‘incredibly defense heavy game’ and a game where ‘defense is completely ineffective and useless’. I’m curious as to how these arguments are backed up and if there are any numbers behind either of them.
So my question is: How useful is playing defense in Ultimate Ascent? What techniques are there that people do that are not useful? Which techniques for defense actually are worth deploying?
Before this thread gets started, I need to qualify that ‘defense’ is a massive umbrella in Ultimate Ascent: There is full court shooter defense, Cycler defense and 50 pt climber defense, etc… all are certainly different and each has its own intricacies. It may be valid to say that defense on cyclers isn’t worth playing but it certainly may be on full court shooters.
Ultimate Ascent is so much fun because there isn’t a straightforward answer to this question. IMHO You need a tall defender to beat a really good FCS, but you need offense to beat a really good alliance of 3 cyclers.
Not so bold prediction for CMP: The race to Einstein will be won or lost on the way back up the serpentine.
This is another interesting thing about Ultimate Ascent.
In most games, something like a FCS would be unstoppable force. Imagine a robot in Rebound Rumble that could sink three-pointers from that feeding slot, it would be king of the field.
But that super fancy FCS this year? All you need is a couple pool noodles to stop it. All of a sudden, even rookie teams with barely functioning robots who can slap on some noodles or angle aluminum and polycarb can stand up to the best bots out there.
Although I didn’t watch Portland or Seattle, not defending a FCS is not a bright move, because it is a so easy to do.
Evident at MSC when (I forget which team) put on pool noodles to defend against 67!
Although UA is a defence heavy game, I think it is more so an offensive/driving heavy game. An alliance with 3 strong cyclers or FCS is definitely stronger than 2 and 1 defensive robot. (This relies of course on strong Auto/Climbing and of course 2nd pick). The thing about UA (and FIRST games in general) is that it really depends on what your opposing alliance is composed of.
The exciting thing about UA is that Alliance Selection will be very interesting! It will be hard to predict which teams are going to be picked based on which strategies they want to employ. I anticipate some perennially strong teams being lost in the rabbit hole.
I also think that scouting is even more important prior to going to CMP.
Teams at the very least need to know who the climber/dumpers, FCS and effective floor feeders are prior. There are just soo many.
You cant go into a match against an unknown effective FCS, and expect to win that match.
Not entirely true. Defense was certainly attempted in Seattle, but what really sealed the deal was a strong third robot who could play as a screen for the FCS. 492 kept blockers off our FCS (948) and left them free to pound at the goal.
In Central, our partners 1425 had plenty of defense played on them, but something they were good at was moving and shooting around blockers. They have a really skilled drive team and scored under pressure, unlike most FCS.
FCS’s will have a tough time at champs, especially if that is all they do. It is really crucial that you can fill other roles if need be, especially in quals. Floor loading and cycle running will give both 2471 and 2130 a leg up at champs. They might not have the accuracy and point capability that 948 had in Seattle, but the versatility will be just as important, if not more so.
First off, that was 217. Second, I think it depends entirely on how evenly teams are distributed into divisions. At MSC, some excellent teams didn’t make it to eliminations.
You say that interesting alliance selections make Ultimate Ascent interesting. I could make the same case for Rebound Rumble. Some teams were picked just because they were a wide bot - if they had been long, the triple balance would have been impossible.
Defense has actually probably had one of the largest impacts in Ultimate Ascent. At kickoff, many people thought that because of the placing of the pyramids, it was insane to get anywhere near robots shooting near their pyramid. However, with the rise of full court shooters, defense quickly became a good idea. Taller robots with more material higher up were successfully able to block full court shooters, however alliances without them were knocked out consistantly because of the sheer scoring power of full court shooter. For example, 3173 had an average score of 80 at the Boston Regional. This was not an easy team to beat, regardless of who their alliance partners were, this is shown in 3173s continuous success throughout the elims in both the Finger Lakes and Boston Regional. The only way to have any chance at stopping full court shooters, like 3173 or 148, is to have a defensive tall robot, or as shown in silicon valley, have them fall over on the way to their feeder station.
Throughout the build season, the idea of defensive robots was radically under estimated. Nobody thought that any team would pull off a successful full court shooter, so nobody would see any need for defense. It just goes to show that you can never overestimate the abilities of FIRST teams.
The one robot design that is defense based that I believe would have a great impact would be a fan robot. This is basically a robot with a gigantic fan on top of it, that would blow vertically and blow all the discs off their paths. It would be the ultimate defense robot because it could defend any sort of shooting from any area on the field. It could just station itself beneath the opposing alliances goals, and prevent the alliance from scoring at all. This robot would probably not have a whole lot of luck getting a high ranking because it’s design is not conducive to getting a whole lot of auto points or winning all of its matches, but it would definantly be picked. It would probably be picked as a 1st pick by the top seed, with the assumption that their robot was effective in matches, and they would be the first team picked not only because they can basically shut down most of an alliance by themselves, but also because none of the top seeds could risk going against them in elims.
FCS can be shut down with height - but so can runner robots! Most of them shoot through the pyramid, with the disc coming out just below the second rung. A well-placed 60" robot can at least deflect those shots easily.
Harrassing climbots and runners (like how 48 did at FLR and CRR*) is also a great defensive strategy.
In addition, ‘jamming’ teams at the chokepoint by the pyramid as they come out of the feeding station (I equate this strategy to a defensive back working on a wide receiver near the line of scrimmage) has proven to be a respectable defense-on-the-fly technique.
*Interesting to note that at QCR, 48 really didn’t ever take a defensive position in eliminations, other than a few bump-and-runs. This game is different at every event, and with every alliance pairing. It’s the most dynamic and strategic FRC game I’ve seen (2005-present).
We have been effective at cycling shots at the pyramid. But we are building an actuatable wall for defending that we can easily attach or remove. It is a critical ability. We are going to try to be the team that can block and still score significant points.
There was a fan rookie robot at GTR-West (4716 who qualified for the championships as a GTR-West finalist due to the Wildcard). Karthik refereed to them as a Peacock due to the tail fan the robot had. They can only play defense but against the 1114/2056 juggernaut they were not fast enough to keep up (1114 would elude them by darting under the pyramid which they were too tall to get under)and because they did not score any discs in autonomous it put their alliance at a tremendous disadvantage.
They were a great defensive robot! I’d go as far to say that they were the integral part to making it to the finals. They played lights-out D on Lo-ellen in Quarters and shut-down Theory6 in Semi’s.
They would have been good enough to stop 2056/4814/1114, except they made a few mistakes that 1114 capitalized on. Instead of staying closer to the center of the field, they attempted to defend Sims in between the loading station and the pyramid. Since their “Peacock” could not get under the pyramid, 1114 took that opportunity to evade them. I think if they would have stayed closer to the center, their defense on 1114 would have been magnified.
How tough is it to play defense on a climb and dump robot?
After poking around in the rules and the Q&A for a while, here’s what I’ve gathered:
Letting the climber push you into their pyramid is bad; probably gives you a technical and gives them a free 30 point climb.
It is possible to legally play 2 on 1 defense against a single robot.
It is legal to block one of the feeder stations, but not both at the same time. It is not a penalty to touch the opposing feeder station as long as you’re not also touching an opposing robot that is in the feeder station.
Those indicate to me that climb + dump robots should be defended on their way to the feeder station and back. But after they reach their own auto zone again, it gets really risky to try to defend them unless you think their drive is too weak to push you around.
Defensive strategies will be a factor but the days of picking a robot to just play defense and hang for 10 are long gone. There are too many ways to score points, too many robots that can do it, and too many alliances that will need to be taken down with sheer firepower.
I don’t expect any “pure” FCSes on Einstein (robots that can’t cycle / hang past 10 / do something else well without tipping).
As a FCS team attending the championship, we are hopeful that we could be seen as a great late 2nd round pick for two other strong teams, forcing another robot to be taken out of play to sit in front of us. This could make the game effectively 2 vs 2 except for autonomous and the endgame. In this way, the robot could be a “defender” in that we would prevent another robot from taking action during the teleoperated period.
I don’t think this is necessarily true… Even if you put up a perfect defense against a FCS, it is still going to score at least as many points as the defender. More likely, it will score at least a couple of Frisbees, meaning that its alliance partners (who are effectively playing a 2 on 2 game) will have an advantage. The key will be for the FCS to no mindlessly shoot into a pool noodle. Rather, it must move around a little and find open shots; the worst thing it can do it drain its allies disks by needlessly firing away - and taking them away from undefended cyclers.
I am not saying that there will be a pure FCS on Einstein, only that it is a real possibility.
After putting up 7 discs in autonomous, our team will gladly sit in front of your FCS, blocking your shots and your protected feeder station for the cyclers.
This strategy leaves the field relatively uncongested for the alliance defending the FCS, and pretty blocked up for the FCS alliance; even though it removes a bot from scoring, it is still inhibits the FCS alliance beyond just blocking full-court shots.
Remember: Both alliances will likely have robots with a 7 disk autonomous routines. Overall, in elimination, scores should be reasonably close after the 15 second autonomous period. It then becomes a contest to see which team of three can score more points. If you spend the entire 2 minute blocking us, you will score zero teleop points. We will likely score 3-5 disks (down from about 40). Therefore, in teleop, our team would outscore yours. Yes, our protected feeder would be plugged up if we just stood there. However, the unprotected one would not be. Unless you are going to remove yet another robot from offense, our partners could use the unprotected feeder unhindered, so the loss of the protected one would be inconsequential.
That sounds like a decent strategy and would result in a net gain for your alliance. The problem is that all of the teams with a 7 disk auto must fit under the 30” pyramid bar. I haven’t seen one that can then extend up to 84” and effectively block a tall full court shooter. If you are one of those teams and decide to go that route I would suggest you reconsider. I think your floor pickup (which you must have for the 7 disk) would be wasted sitting parked on the opposite end of the field.