Alliance Captain strategy for the Top seeds is very complex. If you find yourself in one of these spots, Katie and Brian have some great advice in here.
Something I would add on from experience either first hand or watching from the outside is that if you are the #1 or #2 seed, its wise to step back and look at the bigger picture of alliance selections so you can make defensive picking. Let me explain.
You are at an event, qualifications are winding down, and the rankings are as follows.
Your team, 1111, has been scouting all weekend and has narrowed your first picks down to three teams who you think are the best robots at the event: 2222, 5555, & 1313 (who had a rough schedule). You see these teams as a tier above the rest of the playing field and your scouts are debating their performance to finalize the picklist.
- Team 2222 has a climber
- Team 5555 can score a game piece consistently in auto/Sandstorm
- Team 1313 can output an extra 1-2 game pieces per match
Your top pick is 1313 and the alliances shake out as:
- 1111, 1313
- 2222, 5555
All appears fine because 1111 used their data and you picked the best team to make your ideal alliance, but you also allowed your biggest opponents to become allies. On top of this, they get to pick before you in the second round, sometimes grabbing a Sleeper or leaving you with one less option at a smaller event.
We often talk about Scorched Earth tactics by a top seed, but defensive picking isn’t mentioned as often as a viable strategy. The times to use it are rare and dependent on your event, rankings, performances, and how closely the top teams on your list perform together.
Taking a step back at the field to look at the bigger picture can give you a huge advantage. Here are some scenarios.
If I’m on 2222, I can approach 1111 and make a very strong case for why I should be their top pick. Together we can create a strong alliance and increase our success through the tournament if we can keep 5555 and 1313 apart. Both teams can agree that the combination of 1111, 2222, 5555, and 1313 in the finals is an ugly battle.
Say I’m on 1111 and 1313/5555 aren’t my top picks. I really want 2222 but through discussions know they are considering declining. Can I convince 2222 that its safer to accept my invite vs forming their own, many times similar alliance?
There are countless other scenarios, but these two get the point across.
From prior seasons on various teams, we’ve found ourselves in all of the positions in the example above (1111, 2222, 5555, or 1313) or similar scenarios: add 1-2 top teams, shuffle the lower rankings a bit, etc. Or we’ve been a team like 3333 watching it all go down and use that to our own advantage to focus on better third round selections.
Some years we’ve been burned by this scenario by not recognizing it sooner and in other years we’ve used it to our advantage and avoided a tougher time in eliminations.
Other times we use it to create entirely new game plans that we weren’t considering and no one saw coming. Either these pay off or we pack up early. Use at your own risk.