Predictions Week 4: Fortifying the Castle
As the season progresses, more and more teams are getting a grasp of Stronghold. Qualification captures have risen by roughly 2% per week, reaching 5.67% in week 3. Playoff captures have risen twice as fast, with a 21.03% rate in the third week of play. Oddly enough, playoff breaches were slightly down in week 3 (81.79%), perhaps as alliances adapt their offensive and defensive strategies to a game that revolves much more around tower scoring than earlier in the season. More and more teams are figuring out how to score in the high goal repeatedly, at least when they’re given time and space to set up their shot. Those who can put up points in the face of defense, or even teammate traffic across the outer works, are the ones that distinguish themselves. More than anything else, that requires a quick alignment and release of the boulder.
Depending on which event you watch, the game has looked quite different. For instance, he blazing high averages in Indiana this season are not only the result of the quality of teams present, but also the run and gun offensive strategies employed there. Across the state line in Ohio, an Hoosier team would have faced much more opposition to them attempting to line up and fire. The west coast has shown a willingness to bolt on mechanisms to later alliance partners in an effort to block shots. In contract, MAR teams have been told to play defense as they are, focusing instead of disrupting paths of travel and physical alignment. While there’s no guarantee that specific strategies and tactics will converge everywhere, seeing which emerge as the predominant approach is particularly intriguing. Especially as teams gather for the last scheduled universal FRC championship.
PNW District- Philomath
The Pacific Northwest has been waiting 3 years for this district event. 29 teams are descending on the central Willamette Valley to Make Philomath Great Again. PNW powerhouses Shockwave and Skunkworks have met the last 2 years in the District Championship Finals, with Skunkworks prevailing both times, but they have never met at a district event. 4488 won Wilsonville 2 weeks ago, but not without some teething issues in the finals. They played great defense in the finals, but they really want to go back to what they do best: Shooting. Their shooter had some accuracy issues, but with 2 weeks to improve they should be able to Eclipse the field. **1983 won in week 1 with a breach strategy, but struggled adding their shooter last week at Central Washington. They still came away with the “Cling Bling,” earning both a event championship and Chairman’s Award gold medals. With such a short turnaround, we’ll have to see if Ex-Caliper can lock onto the goal to bring home their 3rd victory of the season. Bear Metal and IRS are coming from the Seattle area to join the party as well. ** 2046 looked good in week 1, narrowly losing to 1983. With 3 weeks to tune, they are in a very good position to bring home their first banner of the season. 1318 has not looked as great as they had in the previous years, but their shooter was starting to look better on Saturday at CWU. With the right alliance partners they could do well, especially with 2 events of practice already. **955 **had a solid showing at Wilsonville, and their bot has potential. They were only doing low goal cycles in eliminations, but if they are able to get their shooter dialed in they could be a force to reckon with. **2990 **had one of the best driven robots at Wilsonville, and could very much be a dark horse for playoffs. 997 should be competitive too, and could be great if they can get secure mounting for their tote defense.
FiM District- Livonia
The improvement of teams over the course of the season is one of the best aspects of a district system. Quite a number of the top teams at Livonia came out ready to topple defenses and capture towers, and are now poised to improve their performances further. Combined with a young back end, this should be a fascinating event for any FiM follower.
548 carried the offensive load for the #4 alliance at Southfield, reaching the semi-finals despite literally playing matches 2v3. If they find a stronger alliance, they have a legitimate chance at taking home a banner. Claiming a banner is something that the similarly numbered 3548 has already done. RoboRavens2 seeded 3rd, were selected first, and stormed 6-0 through the Southfield eliminations, including knocking off the Robostangs in the semi-finals. Low goals were the name of the game for the #1 alliance in Southfield, but also the #3 alliance in Pittsbugh, captained by 1023. Bedford has seeded in the top 5 twice already this season, and built powerful alliances capable of capturing the tower. However, technical issues have haunted them both in the Waterford and Pittsburgh finals. RUSH also went out of Michigan and captained an alliance to the finals. 27 led the underdog #7 alliance to within 1 point of a victory in Cleveland. Despite not only being the captains, but having to sub out an alliance partner after QF3-2, RUSH accepted defensive duties in the eliminations. 503 also found their way to the finals in their first event, as the #2 pick at Center Line.
Not every team is heading into Churchill with success in their back pocket. 314 had their best season ever in 2015, but failed to reach the eliminations at Kettering in week 2. They showed flashes of being an effective low goal cycling breacher, and they have the potential to shoot high, so expect better results now that they have the wisdom gained in their initial outing. However, they have a steep road ahead of them to reach DCMP, let alone CMP. Another team with a career season in 2015 will be unbagging their Stronghold machine for the first time. 3641 reached the finals twice last year, captained the #2 alliance at MSC, and were playing in the eliminations on Newton.
With a number of the 5000+ numbered teams competing for the first time this season, the back-end of the draft might be a little weak and qualification schedules volatile. With that in mind, a well constructed lower seeded alliance could make a deep run here.
The inaugural Rocket City event may be a contest to see who can acquire their second win of Stronghold. Several top teams have already picked up a banner in 2016, helping illustrate why the Von Braun Center will be hosting one of the most competitive events this season.
**16 **Bomb Squad has already swerved their way to number one in Rock City, their extraordinarily hard to defend robot makes them a favorite. However the inconsistency of their high goal shooter and switching to low goals during eliminations leaves questions about the Black Widow machine when compared to other elite teams. After claiming their first blue banner of the season uber competitive Ontario, Canada, **118 **is ready to take their Arsenal to Alabama. Despite the tough elimination rounds in GTRE The Robonauts were able to continuously get to their sweet spot on the batter, and with some time to get their climber dialed in they could make the robot in their reveal video a reality. The already regional winning trio is rounded off with the team among them who has had the most time to reflect and refine on their design; **179 **The Children of the Swamp. 179 has a lot to prove heading into Rocket City if they want to hang, literally, with 16 and 118, and with their vision tracking turret they just may be able to do it.
**4188 **will be entering Rocket City as their third competition in as many weeks, coming off a Win then Finalist appearance in their first two district events and are looking to show how strong the new Peach Tree District is. **624 **had a solid performance at Alamo finishing with a silver medal, and with their history of successful team ups with 118 they could look to add another win. **79 **used Orlando to work the bugs out of their machine and eventually began to consistently scale; look out for their continued improvements. **456 **and **364 **are coming off teaming up and an early quarterfinal exit from Bayou but the feisty southern veterans can’t be counted out yet. **343 **was the only team in the finals of Palmetto that did not get a ticket to championships and are looking to correct it this weekend. 2783 breached their way to the top 5 in St. Louis, and their batter shooter helped provide enough offense to captain their alliance to the semi-finals. Also keep an eye on how 283, 1902, 3490, and 5006 build off their initial events in 2016.
Since it’s introduction in 2005, The Finger Lakes Regional has slowly grown in competitiveness and is now known to be one of the strongest regionals in the Northeast. This year, the pressure will be at an all time high as 9 teams attending FLR have already won a regional or been a finalist. 1126 (SparX) is looking to continue their early season success. Their nimble robot will look to adapt to a different game that they saw in Pittsburgh, which they won with FLR attendee 1559. Speaking of wins, 5030 is coming off of an impressive showing at NYC and will look to repeat. The TVR finalists 5254 and 20 are both attending FLR, looking for redemption one week later. 5254 is much more consistent, but 20 showed promise with their high goal shooting in the finals. Fellow finalists 1511, 2383, and 3015 are also coming to FLR with changes to their robots to ensure that they will not get second place again.
Other strong contenders include 2791, 340, and 1507, whom have all shown flashes of greatness with somewhat frustrating early season results. 2791 has the most upside of the bunch, having improved into one of the best high goal shooters at Tech Valley by Saturday afternoon, but all 3 teams could be strong X-factors in the eliminations. FLR could serve as a preview of DCMPs and Champs, as defense will be played during qualifications in an effort to control the final rankings. Scoring will be tight between teams in eliminations and scores will come down to the end game.
Contrary to what the dearth of events in week 3 might have you believe, there’s Stronghold to be played in California. The second ever Ventura regional will play host to a roster filled with many of The Golden States’ finest. Headlining the field are two former world champions in 330 and 973. Two weeks ago in Long Beach, the Beach Bots’ alliance twice broke 170 points and four times captured the tower exclusively through high goals. However, despite that outrageous offensive firepower, 330 was denied gold by the #1 alliance in the finals. The Greybots were bounced from the eliminations one round earlier in Madera, but their high lobbing shot showed enough to earn them a spot on the #2 alliance at a very competitive event. 3309 and 696 were the next two teams selected after 330 in Los Angeles. Both of their eliminations alliances were focused primarily on breaching and the low goal, but the Friarbots and showed the potential for 5 point scores during qualifications and the Circuit Breakers have the capability. If either team can improve their high goal finishing, especially when under the scrutiny of eliminations defense, they could move up from a middle seeded alliance to potentially earn a spot on a top two alliance.
With three California events already in the books, many teams at the event have 2016 experience already. 207, 1266, and 1572 each reached the semi-finals or finals as second round selections at their previous event, and will be looking to build on the knowledge obtained there to transition to a more primary role in Ventura. By contrast, 1515, 1868 and other Californian middleweight teams will be playing catch-up, as they try to iron out all the bugs in their machine and adapt to the rigors of Stronghold for the first time. Leading the pack of debut machines will is Hall of Famers, 1538. Daisy Chupacabra embraces the Swiss Army knife approach to arm design that has served many teams well this year, with a single multi-function manipulator capable of intake, launching, defense manipulation, and scaling. The Holy Cows stand the best chance of being able to knock off some of the Stronghold veterans.
Upset in Flagstaff quarters, but locked up CMP tickets anyway- 1619, 4499
Trying to rebound after disappointing outings- 1339, 2996
Rarely breached, but a dangerous shooter- 1592
Breaching captains in Arizona- 662, 1011
Complete scoring and intake rebuild- 2848
Trying to bring back hardware to Brazil- 383, 1860
Burned out in the Palmetto semis- 1296
Swift low goal scorer- 3005
Batter scorers with scaling arm- 3478
Proven favorites- 148
Brazilians right at home in John Deere territory- 1156
Iowan favorites taking down the Stronghold for the first time- 525, 967, 3928
Dangerous shot when left alone in the Courtyard- 3284
Alliance captains at last outing- 1208, 1730
Minnesotans looking for banners- 2512, 2883, 5172
Low goal, high hanging powerhouses aiming to improve on a GKC win- 1775
Established low goal threats looking to up their game- 188, 1310, 1325
Don’t let them shoot unchallenged- 1241, 1305, 2013
Breached the winners circle in Mexico City- 4403
Showed potential at GKC, but want even more- 1806, 4522
Low goal cycler with 15 point autonomous- 932
Making their 2016 debut- 4587
Gunning for their first ever regional win- 1671, 3250
San Diego champs- 2102
Can they get the 30 point autonomous?- 1678
Perennial CA powerhouse making their debut- 971
Trying to take the next step and entrench themselves as CA powerhouses- 701, 1323
St. Louis #1 seed and champion- 1675
2015 World Finalists making their 2016 debut- 2826
Trying to replicate their strongest season ever- 2062
Working towards being earlier draft picks- 192, 706, 1732
CHS District- Central Maryland
Breached the top 8 in NoVA- 612, 623, 888, 1629, 4505
Favorites after a strong performance in Bethesda- 836
Early picks in DC- 686, 1389
High goal scoring- Rare
CHS District- Central Virginia
Fresh off hanging their first banner- 5546
Effective high goal scorers when left unchallenged- 122, 1086
Breached their way to #1 seed in Blacksburg- 5279
Working their way up the district standings- 339, 346, 401, 422
FiM District- Lansing
Returning from their Indiana siege- 68, 3357
Scaled to the Kettering finals- 5460
Want points after QF exits- 1684, 2611, 2612, 2959, 4381, 5238
FiM District- Marysville
Rookies with a 2016 award already- 5843, 5860, 5926, 6020, 6085, 6098
Hung their way to the Kettering#2 finals- 3534, 5926
Looking for a deeper elim run- 217, 1025, 4130, 5046
#1 at Kettering #1- 5150
FiM District- West Michigan
Top seeded champions- 85, 1918
Part of the dual scaling #8 at Walker Warren- 74
Hanging around in the Lakeview finals- 5980
Firing their first ballista shots of 2016- 2054
Building off highly ranked showing- 107, 3546, 5710
IN District- Perry Meridian
Breach and capture rates in Indiana- Higher than anywhere else
Defense in Indiana- Practically none
Final pick last week, still hit autonomous high goals- 1720
Playing for pride, practice, and a third banner- 1024, 1747
Contenders aiming for the first win of the year- 71, 234, 292, 1501, 3559
NE District- Rhode Island
Looking to Build a Kingdom- 125
Preparing for Attack- 190, 228, 2648, 3719, 4048
Planning to Capture- 1058, 2836
NE District- UNH
Out for another Conquest- 319, 1831, 1786
Welcome to the Battlefield- 1519, 166
Ready for a Second Siege- 95, 131, 2371 1153, 5813
Grizzled Veterans- 95
Trojan Horse- 5962