Nearly 8000 matches has whittled down 2524 teams to 400. The 600 or so remaining matches will reduce those 400 to 96, 12, and then, finally, only 3. Seven weeks of grueling competitions followed six weeks of countless hours. The culmination is now, as St. Louis will once again play host to the finale of the FIRST Robotics Competition season.
In the end, only one alliance shall be left standing. Amid confetti, tears and cheers, we will have our Ultimate Ascent champions.
Just as with every season, the division aren’t perfectly balanced, but all will still be very competitive. Newton lags behind in just about every metric, but there will still be multiple alliances formed there that are capable of going toe to toe with anyone. With the wide variety of “classes” of robots, and many hybrid machines, each field will take on its own personality depending on its composition. Archimedes is overflowing with robots capable of loading from the ground and scoring additional autonomous discs. Seemingly everyone on Galileo can launch discs the length of the field. These difference will shape the strategies and alliance selections on each field.
Even after seven weeks of competition, there’s still no clear best strategy or alliance structure to play Ultimate Ascent. With the depth of competitive scoring machines in each division, the option to go full offense will be there, and most alliances will likely opt for it to a certain degree. With the exception of full court shooters seeking “fullbacks,” very few teams will be selected with the intention of exclusively playing defense. That doesn’t mean defense won’t be present, but that the most successful alliances will often stress situational defense and fluid play over dedicated defenders.
Full court shooters pose many interesting questions. Utilizing a high impact full court shooter as a primary scoring threat handcuffs both alliances. As demonstrated at MSC (and elsewhere), even the best scoring machines often require a defender to stop an accurate 3-pt shooting FCS. Full court shooters who target the middle goal or who miss a large chunk of their shots don’t pose the same kind of threat to high powered alliances as a direct scorer, but still may have use in a support and secondary scoring role. Attempting to outgun a top notch FCS is a risky proposition, especially if the other alliance utilizes their two other robots to defend or climb. On the other hand, full court shooting is a predictable strategy that often requires the commitment of multiple alliance partners. Some FCS are very capable cyclers as well, but these often have a lower release point and are much easier to block. While some of the high release point FCS can score effectively from the pyramid, it’s not their ideal game and they’re much easier to defend than teams that can drive underneath the pyramid. Yet, high release shooters typically require an 84" blocker rather than a 60" one, which greatly limits the opposing alliance. It will be curious if this leads to a demand for robots with retractable 84" blockers, such as 222, 3414, and 3284.
At most regional events, hitting multiple autonomous shots and being able to run three cycles likely put a team into the first round of alliance selection. There will be plenty of those teams left sitting on the St. Louis sidelines come noon on Saturday. Elite cyclers will still stand out and continue to find themselves incredibly useful in elimination play, but the second and third tier scoring machines are going to have to find ways to make themselves stand out. Consistency and versatility will be two very important factors, as teams will have to demonstrate they’re up for the grind of a long elimination tournament.
The winning alliance is going to have to deal with a variety of different strategies and different robots on the way to gold. No alliance is going to the best in every aspect of the game, and they’ll have to adapt in order to deal with opposing alliances who have a larger potential for points in particular areas. Likewise, they’ll have to respond to opponents who attempt to neutralize their strengths. Ultimately, it will be simple. Survive and advance.
A panel of FRC veterans and experts were polled to help create a Top 25 list after the regional season. Seventeen ballots were collected from some of FIRST’s most respected minds, including Woodie Flowers finalists, former FRC champions, and mentors of Hall of Fame teams.
A quick word about formatting to help you understand and interpret the rankings. The first number, which follows the #, is the ranking. A “#T-” indicates a tied ranking. The second number, in bold, is the team number. If a number in parenthesis follows, it’s indicating the amount of first place votes the team received. If there’s no parenthesized number, the team received zero first place votes. The number in brackets is the total number of points the team received from all fifteen ballots.
#1. 1114 (12)  - Top teir cycling machine paired with a speedy climb and dump maneuver allows them to put up huge point totals. Three more regional wins at very competitive events helps cement their reputation as the top team in Ultimate Ascent.
#2. 2056 (1)  - Consistently burying additional autonomous shots helped them achieve the #1 ranking at all three regional they attended this year, ahead of 1114. One of the best front court sweepers in all of FRC.
#3. 469 (3)  - Captained four alliances to victory as either the #1 or #2 seed. Jack of all disc related trades, master of just about every one.
#4. 254 (1)  - The addition of their 30 point hanging mechanism at SVR elevated their play to a whole new level. Rare combination of being able to load from the floor and hang for 30.
#5. 1986  - Absurd 48-1 record on the season. Very consistent 7-disc autonomous routine, plenty of cycles, and solid hanging mechanism.
#6. 118  - Great at acquiring discs from the floor or human player station. They don’t have all the features of their release video, but they’re still a huge force to be reckoned with, and went 18-1 in the eliminations in route to three victories.
#7. 987  - Awesome vision-guided turret system allows them to score rapidly from just about anywhere, and aids with their famed center disc autonomous routine. Won San Diego and reached the finals in Las Vegas.
#8. 67  - A top 10 ranking, despite not winning any events in 2013. HOT is peaking at the right time, and showcased an incredibly accurate full court shooter and quick climb and dump routine as the #1 selection at MSC.
#9. 1717  - Went 28-3 with wins in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Once again has a terrific swerve and autonomous accuracy.
#10. 33  - Went undefeated at Grand Blanc, and won 58 matches in total so far in 2013. Their seven shot autonomous propelled them to three district wins.
#11. 868  - Their focus on performing one task better than anyone else paid off, as their cycling machine deftly maneuvered around traffic at both regionals it attended. Best pure cycling machine in Ultimate Ascent.
#12. 2590  - Top selection at MAR championship thanks to their quality ground pick up and high scoring autonomous. Reached the finals at both district events, including winning a stacked Hatboro-Horsham event.
#13. 359  - Alliance partner malfunctions caused them to be upset in the finals at their home event, but two other regional wins propelled this cycler up the ranks.
#14. 610  - Swift cycling machine that can shoot full court when left unguarded. Won GSR and lost to the combined might of 2056 and 1114 in Waterloo.
#15. 1477  - It took four regionals for them to finally reach the finals, but a 18-0 trip to Arkansas helps erase the earlier upsets. High upside scoring machine with a variety of autonomous routines.
#16. 148  - Effective full court shooter with a 20 point climb that won two of three events.
#17. 2169  - Incredibly quick and accurate full court shooter that’s very difficult to block. Took home gold from Duluth and Denver.
#18. 2054  - Rode their quality accumulation and autonomous system to a #1 seed and finals berth at MSC, after two convincing district wins.
#19. 1538  - Wide pick-up and quick shooting help them score bunches of points both in autonomous and tele-op. Topped 200 points twice at the Inland Empire regional with 2485.
#20. 1806  - Dangerous full court shooter who can run cycles in a jam, and contribute 40 end game points via a level two climb and pyramid goal scoring.
#21. 1983  - Solid cycling robot provided enough scoring to help three different full court shooters reach victory this season.
#22. 3539  - Consistent 7-disc autonomous routine coupled with front court sweeping made them an ideal partner for 469 at MSC, and they have a gold medal because of it.
#23. 111  - Smart play and a 5-disc autonomous propelled them to victory at a tough Wisconsin regional, but they couldn’t escape the semis at Midwest.
#24. 1310  - Finalists twice this season to the 1114 and 2056 combination, but likely would have won many other regionals. Strong scoring machine that saw scores above 150 several times this season and flirted with 200 during the GTRW quarters.
#25. 624  - Highest ranked team not attending championship. Strong scoring machine that suffered some tough breaks during the eliminations at all three regionals they competed at.
Others receiving votes: 341 (45), 1718 (38), 11 (36), 1334 (35), 1918 (35), 948 (33), 195 (32), 3467 (32), 973 (30), 126 (25), 225 (21), 2729 (20), 20 (18), 217 (17), 79 (12), 2000 (11), 862 (10), 103 (9), 2630 (8), 2485 (8), 125 (7), 1218 (6), 25 (5), 180 (5), 701 (4), 1421 (4), 27 (4), 2415 (3), 3310 (3), 4343 (3), 4451 (3), 2471 (2), 71 (2), 744 (2), 1241 (1), 4265 (1), 245 (1), 1507 (1), 234 (1), 801 (1)
Each division will have it’s own prediction thread post tomorrow, but here’s a layout of how they will work. “Tips”, “locks”, “dark horses”, and “sleepers” will be named for each division. In this context a tip is a team to watch, with a solid chance of going deep. A lock is a team that’s guaranteed to do well, with a 50% chance or better of making the divisional finals. A dark horse is a team that has played very well all year but hasn’t generated a lot of attention and stands a strong chance to surprise a lot of people. Sleepers are teams that have shown flashes of brilliance but haven’t been able to put it all together yet, but have some potential to shine in St. Louis if they can play well. As always, if you don’t like the predictions, go out there and prove them wrong.