Have You Ever Wanted a Lower Seed After Quals?

This is a discussion about the tournament structure generally, and how desirable certain seeds are specifically. Our current tournament structure does not strictly incentivize high seeding. What I mean by “strictly incentivize high seeding” is that I can fairly easily construct hypothetical scenarios in which a team would rather seed second than first, sixteenth over eighth, etc… I can dive more into that if anyone wants, but I’m more interested in the real-world effects of the tournament structure than the hypotheticals.

Have you ever, at the end of quals, wished your team was a lower seed than you actually were? What seed were you and what seed would you have preferred? Which event? Why did you feel this way?

Note that I’m most concerned with these kind of thoughts between the last qual match and before alliance selection. Plenty of us have at some point been envious of the 7 captain that snagged two great picks, but that’s not what I’m interested in as that kind of desire has no impact on match play. I’m more interested in learning how common it is that teams feel like they would have been better off with a lower seed and the potential for match-throwing in quals as a result of these incentives. I’m not trying to shame anyone or “expose” teams, so please don’t use this thread to bash other teams that you think have thrown matches, just talk about your own experiences. There’s nothing at all inherently wrong with wanting a lower seed, and I would argue it’s better to have this discussion openly so that we can shed light on how common it is.

I’ll start with one from my experience:
In 2017 at Minnesota 10K Lakes. There were in my mind 2 very apparent top teams, 5172 and (my team) 4536. 5172 was the only team at the event with reasonable fuel scoring capability, in addition to being one of the best gear scorers. My team was probably the best gear scorer at the event, getting 4 rotors thrice while no one else got it more than once. We both had mutually agreed to pick each other if either of us became the first seed. Unfortunately for the 2 of us, 2500 ended up seeding first and scorched us out of working together. This meant that we had to play 5172 in the semis instead of the finals (we seeded third, 5172 seeded second), which meant at least one of us would not be advancing to champs.

Given the choice, we would have absolutely swapped our 3rd seed for the 4th or 5th seed so that we wouldn’t end up on the same side of the playoff bracket as 5172. We even recognized this before our final quals match, and had to choose to play for the win that match even though we were pretty sure it would be hurting our chances of going to champs. I don’t regret our choice, but I hate that we were put in that position. I don’t speak for 5172, but I think there’s a good chance they felt similarly to us.

Your turn, please share! but keep it civil.

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This applies to many other events and will probably be the most common scenario people bring up here. On Archimedes 2019, we seeded 9th and ended up the 8th alliance captain. Though we pulled off the upset and it ended up working out for us, going into alliance selection we wished that were a lower seed and wouldn’t have to captain a low alliance. We were confident we would be picked by an alliance, worst case as a 1st pick on low end but best case as a 2nd pick by one of the higher alliances. Being one of the lower alliance captains is very commonly a quarterfinal death sentence so when you’re seeded about 11-7th I feel its common to want to be seeded lower so you can get picked and not be a captain.


Yes , because being Captain 5-8 is daunting



If we had won the last match on Turing this year, we would of been top 8, facing either 254/3310 or 5199/1619 which is exactly where we didnt want to be since we couldn’t climb. While we could put together an alliance that could climb, it was arguably safer to be the 3rd/4th pick instead of hoping a good climber would still be around as a 3rd/4th pick (which with 6986 staying out for as long as they did, we may of been safer than we thought.) We actually tied, which placed us 15th, but quite honestly I didnt feel much safer there either (twice now we have placed at 12-20th at DCMP and went unpicked) and personally would of rather taken the loss over the tie.

My fears didnt really matter (at least, in theory, I cant be sure they wouldn’t of picked us if we lost the last match) as we were still picked by the 7th alliance, but the group was built well enough to knock the #2 seed out in a QF upset.

The other one was 2014 CWU, we played a little too well and managed to become 8th seed captain. We were 100% not prepared, and had a swift loss in QFs. Very similar story for 2016 West Valley, which is partly what prompted us to start taking scouting seriously.

I love it when alliance captains from teams that don’t know what they’re doing pick based on highest ranking. Good times.


In 2018, my team was ranked 11 and 12 at our 2 district events. Both times we ended up being the #8 alliance captain. We ranked that high almost entirely on defense alone, and could hardly score on our own. Needless to say, not very good captain material. There were arrangements going around that if we were still around in the second round of picking someone would have picked us up, but we just barely ranked too high both times.

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SVR 2019, would have gladly taken 4th over 3rd alliance.

Someday I’ll successfully avoid the 254 side of the bracket.


This has absolutely happened to us at team 4557 but one time in particular. At the 2018 New England District championship, our team did fairly well and ranked much higher than predicted. Our rank after qual matches was 11 which none of us expected. I remember when quals ended, I was standing with our lead build mentor and he just said “S**t, We are ranked too high!” And everyone was confused. Well, he believed during alliance selections, we will move up in the rankings after the top 8 teams start picking each other… that ended up being the case. We were put in the number 8 seed alliance captain spot and we picked teams 95 and 4564 but we went against teams 195, 319 and 5846. Our strategy was to shut down the opponent switch because we knew that we would lose the scale very quickly. For our second quarter final match against them, we were winning with our strategy! Then, our alliance partner 95 accidentally drove into the null zone and racked up some penalties which led us to lose the match sadly but it qualified us for ten world championship so that’s what matters!

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Being a district team, ranking high and being an alliance captain are both great sources of district points. You essentially get to double dip on those points, once for having a high rank and a second time for your position during alliance selection. So, no, I can’t set I’ve wanted a lower seed at an official event since the formation of FMA.

Absolutely. If we can’t seed 1 or 2 or 3 and have a ‘top’ pick, I always get a sinking feeling if we’re in the 4-8 range. We routinely joke about it, but we’d rather be a 2nd pick of 1 or 2 than the 1st or 2nd pick of 4-8. That 4-8 area, even with the serpentine draft styling helping, is very difficult to win from. The 1st or 2nd pick of the 8th alliance always give you that sinking feeling. Work hard and hope for the best, but you’re going up against the two best robots in your first round.


On the one hand, we were elated to become alliance captains for the first and second times this year.

On the other hand, captaining alliance 7 and 5 at regionals with only a handful of Level 3 climbers is a bit of a death sentence for banner-hanging. (All four top seeds at both events made semis.)

This works out well in “Stack” Champs Divisions. Newton 2016, 217 (as the 7th alliance) was able to get 3476 and 4678. This alliance of fairly good bots was able to take out 1519/118, 67/5172 and 1241/254. This was the best case of being lower in the bracket working out, giving them a trip to Einstein. I do not think 217 was capable of doing thing from the 4-5 seed as they would have gotten a worse 3rd robot.


It seems like there could be different strategies depending on whether you’re at a district event or a regional event.

If part 3 of this series

adds ideas to get picked that could lessen a teams/alliances chances of getting ranking points, which I think it will, AND there’s more incentive at regionals to be strategically savvy, @Caleb_Sykes Does your match prediction program see a significant difference in accuracy between the last 3-4 matches in regionals vs. district events?

I have always felt that If my robot/team is good enough to win the event, then we should be capable of winning from any seed. Some seeds certainly provide an easier path to victory, but strong scouting and strategy can go a long way to make up some lost ground.

In particular the 6 seed seems to have treated us better than most over the last few years.

Hm. I think we would have taken a lower seed at Hopper 2016. Decreasing our chances of playing 1678, 148, or 971 was something we would have welcomed.

But yeah basically would never voluntarily take a lower rank at a district event.

At El Paso Regional in 2018 we were seeded 12, we hoped being someone’s second pick, by asking other teams for not to pick us… we ended up being alliance captains and we went against 3310 and 624 on our first match. If we were ranked lower we could have been picked by an alliance instead of worrying about going agains aliiance 1

I think there’s a reasonable chance that we aren’t picked on Hopper 2016 if we aren’t a captain, so I’ll take our quarterfinalist finish there. The only lower seed that may have given us a better finish would have been precisely one seed lower (just do dodge the match-up against 971/1323/193/5254), but that still results in us facing the same alliance in the semi-finals.

This thread is starting to make me think teams should have the option to decline the alliance captainship while still being allowed to be selected. If there are only as many teams who haven’t declined left as there are Captain positions then all of those teams are forced into captainship with no inter picking.

That sounds like a potential nightmare for the scorekeeper to manage. Hopefully the FMS could be made to support it and take some load off the scorekeeper, but still lots of potential headaches as you have to run through each team to find out if they acccept/decline.

It’s also hard enough to explain alliance selection as it is (although the video this year helped take the load off of MCs). I’d be curious to see how well laypeople react to a change like you’re proposing.

As always with these kinds of suggestions, someone should try it at an off-season. Off-seasons are great proving grounds for alternative tournament structures. I like the variety there.