Tell me about your favorite hidden gem alliance selection picks

I miss talking about alliance selections and picking, so here’s a question: who is your favorite hidden gem pick that you or another team picked up in alliance selection, and what was the story behind it?

I’ll start with mine, 5952 at the 2017 Tech Valley Regional. My head scout and I noticed that while 5952 could reliably score ~4 gears a match, their climb rate was ~50%, which wasn’t good since it was pretty essential to have all 3 robots climb in every playoff match. We observed that they missed climbs more often later in the event, so we talked to them. We learned that the problem was their Velcro roller not sticking to their rope strongly enough. There were no other problems with the climber.

Ultimately, they were unpicked by the time our alliance’s chance to pick came along (we think everyone else got scared away by the climb numbers), and we begged our captain to pick them. After lunch, their climber was good to go and they played a key role in helping us score the fourth rotor, which allowed us to upset 195’s alliance and walk away from the event with our first ever blue banner.


2020 FiM Kingsford - we (857) were in the last scheduled match (80) but a replay match was played right after it. Students are in the pit trying to make our last pick list decisions (we were rank 3) and I’m watching the replay match on the nearby pit TV. I saw 6569 shooting at the high goal and climb, though the climb didn’t count because of the partner stuck beneath them. We ended up picking them in round 2 as the #3 alliance captain.

We then go and triple climb most playoff matches, and win the Finals by 1- and 2-point margins, leading to our first blue banner in 20 years of being a team.

The really impressive thing is, scouting all the matches after the fact, aside from one match, 6569 would appear to have been a terrible pick, having earned climbing points only 1 match and not always shooting very well, but they came in very clutch in playoffs.

The silly statistic is this was the second year in a row at the Kingsford event that the #3 alliance had 6569 and won against the #1 alliance with captain 3875 and first pick 4391.

Edit: should look up more team numbers before just typing them.


This is a little different direction but our rookie year we unexpectedly ended up ranked first after qualification matches. This was of course a very challenging place to be for a team that knew almost nothing about selecting an alliance. We decided first to pick team 34 Rockets because they had won the event the previous year, had cool light up rockets signs, and a sign that says “Plays well with others”.

This was 2003 and matches were 2 vs 2, but alliances were 3 teams, so we had to come up with another team. This was the proverbial look out into the crowd and find the team that was the most spirited so the alliance picker could come up with a number, and that team was Cyberwolves 647 from Killeen. They were the best team we could have picked.

Even knowing that playing the third team in a two team match, meant mostly being on the side cheering, they performed great in the match called upon. With their sideline support and 34’s experience, we pulled an upset to win our 1st regional (something we’ve only done twice).

Afterwards we learned more about 647. The regional was just a couple weeks after the war began in Iraq, and many Cyberwolves parents were in the military at Ft. Hood, with a good number deployed. Their mentors and supporters expressed a much appreciations towards us for selecting them, even I’ve heard a couple years later.

The last piece of my story is that it was a couple years ago that I learned that a future WFA recipient was a 647 alum, @AllenGregoryIV. I haven’t asked whether he was part of the 2003 event and had recollections of it. I do have many DV video tapes that I intend to archive, eventually, and would be sure to post recognizable folks when everyone was much younger (when they talk about the war in Afghanistan approaching 20 years it really brings that fact into focus) .

This diverges from a story of a robot with hidden abilities, to a team that was hidden that we lucked into picking and had a special and memorable experience with.


For a team that I selected, team 4182, Viking Robotics was an improbable steal from the 16th pick of the draft at 2020 Northern Lights. Well-organized and prepared team, practiced and flexible driver, good low goaling ability, and rock solid climb (only missed 2 in qualifications, and wasted no time in the pits explaining why that would never happen again). I expected them to be unavailable much earlier in the draft. Along with our first pick, team 2052, these folks saved us when our climber broke in finals and got us the win. Plus they joined us in our team’s wacky cheers! What’s not to love?

For a selection made by another team, I’d say team 1796, RoboTigers, in 2017, falling to 125 and 5687 in the Carson division. As an arguably top 10 gear robot in the division, they were the perfect complement to the raw shooting power of 125 and the masterful gear cycling of 5687. With 125 soloing 40 kPa and 5687 and 1796 duoing the four rotors, this alliance took Carson by storm and made a big statement on Einstein - they likely would have made finals if 1241 had not played some stellar defense (even sacrificing their climb) to prevent 5687 from getting that last gear for the fourth rotor. Moreover, 1796 made it to Championship that year off the waitlist! They did not need to repeat the waitlist luck in future years, as they have won all 6 regionals they have attended since then.


At the 2020 Palmetto Regional, 694 and 4020 chose 1758 to complete the #1 alliance. The available teams for this selection looked like this:

1758 and 1051 were available with remarkably strong OPR for the final playoff selection. 1758 and their high contribution potential had been ignored likely because they could not climb. They didn’t even have a climbing mechanism. However, they were one of the top shooters at Palmetto and got their OPR that way. 1051, on the other hand, was a climbing machine but scored very few shooting points in teleop.

Selecting a shooting bot would make it that much harder for opponents to defend three shooters, they could keep shooting throughout the entire match, they could possibly earn foul points since they shot from the protected area in front of the Power Port, and it gave that much more room for two robots to climb and level without the tight quarters of a triple climb.

Alliance #1 was the only playoff alliance at Palmetto without triple climb capability, but the selection strategy paid off and 1758 poured in its share and more of points reliably every match.

1758 without a climber onboard was truly the hidden gem at Palmetto 2020 that helped the #1 alliance methodically work its way to victory.


2012 Newton Division at the championship. It was my rookie year on 68, and we had gone on an absolute tear after being a very middling (read: bad) team earlier in the season to find ourselves ranked 3rd in the division behind 548 and 1717. We took 28th-ranked 330 with our first pick, and they played admirably, but the real steal was taking 88th-ranked 639 in the second round. It was a very outside the box pick, but they played a perfect back-court defensive role and we won two rounds before bowing out in the division finals. That run, though it comprised only four wins, was probably the reason I got as hooked into this program as I did.

Other high/lowlights of that event: Our charter bus driver getting in a screaming match with a parent over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s VIP tour party blocking our view of the field during a match, trying to watch the notorious 2012 Einstein matches while being evacuated from the very top deck of the dome because of the ongoing storm and tornado warning, and having to load out of the flooding convention center at the end of the night because we were the last alliance eliminated before Einstein.

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2987 at the 2018 iowa regional. I thought they were a top 3 team at the event and somehow fell to the 10th pick. They were already a regional finalist at their first event.

Here they are against the regional finalist alliance and they look like the best robot on the field:

I absolutely remember every bit of that event.

That was my 1st robotics competition ever. I remember getting our auton to work and in a practice match driving under the divider and playing auton defense against 148 (I wouldn’t do that in a practice match now but I thought it was cool at the time), I remember being the “student drive coach” I’m pretty sure I just stood there for most matches.

I believe in 2003 the third robot on each alliance had to play in 2nd match of each round, so it wasn’t just cheering.

I remember the drive coach for 34, literary lifting me into the air when we won the final match of the regional. I believe if I’m not mistaken, you all (1108) sat out the last match of the finals to have us (647) and 34 play it because we were short robots that could basically climb on top of 118 and your robot was tall and we didn’t want it to fall over on the ramp.

The scoring in 2003 was really complicated in the playoffs, it’s wasn’t W-L. You got a match score based on your score and your opponents score if you won. I believe it was your winning score + double your opponents losing score, and if you lost it was just your losing score.

The finals according to TBA has our alliance losing match one 54-8, and then winning the 2nd match 35-33, I believe because both of the robots on 118’s alliance stayed on the ramp, had either of them been off we lose the event.

So total match scores or whatever it was called was. Red 109 to Blue 103.

That was an awesome event, and kept me very excited to do FRC for the next 3 years of high school. I’m very glad you all picked us.


I have a lot of stories, but I think my favorite was 639 at the Buckeye Regional 2014 (Marking Code Red Robotics second appearance in this thread).

At the time I was in charge of scouting/strat for 910, and Buckeye 2014 was the first time we had gone to an outside regional since FiM became districts in 09. We didn’t quite know what to expect.

On Thursday my senior scouts and I did some pit scouting, just to get a vibe from the teams there. We found out that something like 75 percent of the teams at the event had mechanum drive trains. For those who don’t remember 2014 was a hard-hitting, defense-heavy game affectionately nicknamed Aerial Assault by many people. So we came down from Michigan with a 6 CIM (I think? I didn’t do robot stuff), six tread wheel, beast of a tank drive train and proceeded to smash and crash our way to the number one seed (completely unexpected, as I said we had no idea what to expect at this event).

639 was the only team at the event capable of pushing us, they had something ridiculous like 8 wheel tank drive or something like that. This pro-defense build combined with their decently skilled drivers and wide, open top intake made them the best inbounding robot at the event. I believe we had them ranked somewhere around 7th or 8th overall on our master picklist going into alliance selection.

I expected them to go mid-first round or early second in the draft, purely based on the fact that scouts should have picked up on the fact that they were the best defense bot at the entire event (let alone a fantastic inbounder). Our first pick, 846, was in agreement with us and we kind of wrote 639 off as a team that wouldn’t be available to us at robot 24.

But the picks kept happening and 639’s rep stayed on the sidelines. We watched and waited, trying not to get our hopes up. Then it came back to our pick and they were still on the board. The MC had barely finished saying “Alliance 1, who would you like with the final pick” before my head scout practically grabbed the microphone out of his hand to pick 639. We went on to win the event and take home 910’s first ever blue banner as alliance captain.

This is one of the stories I use a lot to emphasize the importance of scouting to my students and the types of non-numerical intangibles that are important to take into account.


IN District Tippecanoe Event in 2019 our alliance picked 3494. We did not have them down as a high scoring robot, and i’m pretty sure it was 7457’s idea.

Turned out, 7457 was paying a lot more attention to defense than we were and ended up picking a robot that could basically shutdown at least 1 of our opponents (sometimes 2 for brief periods of time). They also had a reliable hab 2 climb if I am not mistaken.

Ended up helping us win the event. It gave our team (and 7457s) their first event win.


271 FLR 2019.
46th rank. Arguably the best (strongest) drivetrain at the event.
Went unnoticed (or at least under appreciated)by alliances 2-7.


Come on! I love 2987 and that was a great pick, but the best pick you’ve ever been involved with is taking 2052 with the 18th overall pick on Carson in 2019. 2052 carried that alliance to Einstein as a 4th robot. I think you could make an argument in hindsight that they would’ve been justifiable as a 1st round pick at that event.

I can’t attribute the pick to some great scouting insight or piece of data that we used to determine they would be a massive steal… they just consistently beat us up whenever we play them, and we have a rule on our team for alliance selections stating: “if you have the opportunity to pick 2052, pick 2052”.

Easily my favorite pick of my FRC career.


Gotta agree with you on that one for sure. I remember looking at the scouting data from 3015 after you guys picked us and going “what’s this 271 team all about and why do we want to pick them? They barely scored.” Then I saw the robot, best defense bot our alliance could’ve picked. It’s amazing they didn’t go sooner


A story I’ve shared before, and it stands out as confluence of scouting and strategy.

2012 Queen City Regional, 45 slid into the 8th alliance captain spot with a wide-framed robot and a 6-4 record. They picked the best remaining offensive team, 781, a long-and-skinny frame, then rounded out their alliance with rookie team 3940, another wide robot. The alliance then spent every second on the practice field, refining their triple balance routine.

They marched right through, going 6-0 in the playoffs and earning their twelfth blue banner.


I think you mean 3875, I’ve gotten us mixed up before too. Though we have in the past lost to an alliance ranked below ours. I don’t know if it was a hidden gem, mostly just an overlooked gem, but at that event 1076 fell really late in the selection for how good they were, leading to the stacked 6 alliance that won the event.


Another example that I had absolutely nothing to do with (I wasn’t even in the same division) but I remember distinctly was 1671, who was chosen in the second round by the number 1 alliance of 118 and 1678 in the 2015 Newton Division. That alliance ended up winning the championship, and at least as a spectator, I was shocked by the effectiveness of 1671 as the 24th robot from that division. I believe they pretty consistently could put up two fully loaded stacks per match on Einstein, which was a real difference maker compared to other third robots, who could mostly not reach full height or not always handle the recycling containers effectively. They made that alliance a true three-headed scoring monster in a game that demanded offense out of every robot on the field.


The most common one that comes to my mind is 469 falling to the second pick of the first alliance of 33 and 2834 at MSC in 2017.


I remember talking with other mentors over lunch that year and one of them brought up the fact that 469 was the third bot on that alliance. I was shocked! They were immediately my favorites to win states.

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2008, World Championship in Atlanta, GA, Newton division. I was on Team 968 RAWC. We went undefeated through quals. We had impeccable scouting data: Every team, every quals match, every point scored and every penalty incurred by every individual robot, and a photo of every robot. The night before alliance picks, we did many hours of the “if this happens, then what happens” analysis, I mean, MANY hours, to predict every possible scenario in how elims would end up. We then went looking for the ideal picks, and we came up VERY empty, even in a field of 80 teams. We weren’t happy with any of the robots near the top. We felt that their scoring potential was too low, or they would break at some point during finals, and it would cost us dearly.

We ultimately whittled it down to 233 or 2056. Team 2056 had a great machine, and their performance really was ticking up in the latter part of quals. They were ranked #2. If I recall, they were doing something like 6 hurdles, which was up there with the best of us who were doing 8 hurdles if my memory serves me correctly (it has been 13 years). But, we knew this was probably their peak potential, and that defense could slow them down. We took a look at Team 233, the Pink team. They were ranked WAY down in the pack, 31. Their robot had not performed great, aside from one or two matches early on. They were plagued with technical problems, including the robot completely dying on the field, I think more than once. We knew this robot’s potential, we loved it’s mechanical design and robustness, but the lack of consistent strong performance through quals scared us to death in selecting them as a first pick. We watched both 2056 and 233 closely during their last matches on the morning of finals day. 2056 was working, maybe not at peak, but it was very workable. 233 had not improved any from the day prior, and may have even died on the field again.

So, we went to our friend Mike over on 233, and the conversation was like “Dude, what’s the deal? You’ve got this amazing robot that keeps failing out there. We know this thing can work awesome. What’s going on.” We wanted this robot, but didn’t like what it was (or rather, wasn’t) doing. Mike explained the series of failures that had happened and assured us they had been fixed, and the vehicle was back to 100% peak performance. We hadn’t seen it for most of champs, but again, we knew what that machine was capable of, and we knew it could do well under defense. We liked that it’s mega roller claw could reach into the corner and grab the giant ball from places where other robots couldn’t. We also knew Mike was a trustworthy guy, as our teams had history going way back. So, on a leap of faith, as the number one ranked team, undefeated, we picked as our first pick, a team ranked 31st, whose robot hadn’t really been working previously.

By the time second picks came around, there really were not many favorable options at all. Any of the robots left that could score any decent number of points we felt would either break down or incur a penalty and cost us the title, or get in our way and slow down our own scoring. And then there was Team 60 from Kingman, AZ. They were ranked 30. Their robot had no real scoring potential other than driving in circles around the track. But, their drivers were great, they knew the rules, their robot was robustly constructed with quality, and they were good at getting in between the opponent and their ball, and staying out of the way of their partners. Miraculously, nobody else in our division realized any of this (or they did, and didn’t realize the benefits of these attributes), and Team 60 was available as the last pick for Newton. Yes, please!

We swept the Newton finals undefeated with our alliance of 968, 233, and 60. Onward to Einstein. We were facing 1114, 217, and 148. Talk about stacked. Even on Friday night, before we had ever settled on 233 and 60, we knew this would be the alliance we would face on Einstein if we won Newton. We also knew that if we got past Semis on Einstein, champs would be ours, as the other semis bracket was weaker. In Einstein semis match 2, the 968 robot suffered a fatal hit to one of its 3/4" bore 12" stroke pneumatic cylinders, bending the rod over at almost a 90 degree angle. We are shocked. It had never happened before through multiple regionals and champs, and we didn’t see who or what hit it. We didn’t have a spare…

I called up my friend George on our partner Team 60. “Hey, do you guys have any pneumatic cylinders? It’s an emergency.” George says, “What size?” and I tell him. He replies, “I think that’s the size we have, you need it?” Umm, YES! A few minutes of running around the Georgia dome later, we had the new cylinder swapped in, and we were good to go for Einstein semis match 3. We knew this was make or break it for us.

Einstein Semis Match 3 was hard fought. Team 233 did exceptional scoring hanging right there with us. We were back in action with the new cylinder, working great. Team 60 played exceptional defense as they racked up the lap points, really slowing down 1114 and 217 who were absolute scoring monsters. We waited for the final score… We lost. It was over.

As it turned out, Team 60 incurred a penalty for crossing back over the tape line. You couldn’t do that in 2008 Overdrive. It was just by a few inches, but the ref caught it, and the ref wasn’t wrong. We must have watched the video 50 times.

As disappointed as we were, we were still happy to have gotten than far, and were confident that we had made the right picks with our alliance. I’ll have to go back and watch these matches again sometime to refresh my memory. It’s been many years.


We were so proud of that pick! I still have a poster board in our shop with 3494 hastily written on it (to wave from the stands to confirm the pick). We were lucky to have played in qual 71 with 3494 shortly before alliance selection and noticed that they were playing another level and style of defense than everyone else. They were also early adopters of the Neo motors on their drivetrain, so they were pushing all the CIMs around.

At that point, I don’t think defense had really solidified itself as the dominant strategy in Deep Space. When we saw how open our side of the field was with a teammate playing defense, we thought it was our best shot in the tourney. We entered alliance selection thinking we needed a rocket bot (4272) and a solid defender to match, and ideally both would hit level 2 in endgame. 3494 was the missing piece!