Are Defensive Rookie Robots Burning Bridges?

I’m currently a member of a rookie VEX team. We made a DR4B with the original intention to focus on towers, but we found that we could play very effective defense against trays by knocking out cubes. Naturally, we began doing this. However, some experienced teams within our organization, as well as an instructor, have warned us about this. They claim that focusing on defense too much as a rookie team will alienate other teams (they won’t like us anymore), up to the point where no teams will pick us and we won’t be able to pick any teams (this might be an exaggeration). In your experience, is this true, or should I expect teams to be able to look past these previous games and pick us?

Edit: Seems like a lot of people didn’t know this, which is understandable because I didn’t write it. Although stacking isn’t out focus (otherwise we’d have a tray) we can still stack fairly well, sometimes outstacking (mediocre) trays, and towering works well too. Defense is just a big focus against teams we normally wouldn’t beat.


Team 902E was disqualified for merely being defensive. Their robot got stuck in their opponents’ wires, and the ref. said that 902E purposefully got ‘stuck’ so the other teams would lose.
I agree with DavisHS. You should be able to learn defense–our bot is defense, too. But be careful, because VEX favors the offensive more than the defensive.


I think people would actually approve of the good defense. I know that I would be impressed if my opponent defended me well
Annoyed, but impressed


The old adage I like to live by is “actions speak louder than words.” In that sense, I believe teams’ opinions about your team are (for the most part, excluding unsportsmanlike behavior like throwing or otherwise shady behavior) completely irrelevant. If you’re a good team, you’ll be pickable. If you’re not picked, excuses such as “we played defense and people don’t like us anymore” shouldn’t be your calling card.

Your coaches and more experienced members aren’t 100% incorrect, though. If I had a robot that was meant to play the game but was so dysfunctional I was forced to purely defend, other teams would see that and my reputation as a competent team would suffer. That said, playing defense is a part of the game and most people seem to understand that.

A word of advice for you, assuming you’re a rookie team: play to win, not to get picked. Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon. Thanks for asking about this. Lots of teams really need to see this thread :slight_smile:


Lets do a match where you are paired with another defensive robot. You can’t score, the other team can.

The four of you stumble to a 0-0 tie, or the other team wins 1-0. In either case you are at the bottom of the results.

Lets say that you are unlucky in the draw and you end up with a defensive both 1/2 the time. You will end up at the bottom of the rankings. Lots of teams only look at the top 25 teams to pick from, you are not going to be in that list.

You need to be able to do some kind of scoring. You may get assigned to defense by the captain of the team, but you need to be able to help out with scoring.

100% this, read the rules, take the referee training, if I’m calling penalty issues, you are eating most of them.

@m8r has some great advice “A word of advice for you, assuming you’re a rookie team: play to win, not to get picked. Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon.”


Don’t be merely defensive. If a very offensive robot kapows you, you can’t say anything. It’s in the rule book.


The one problem with defensive robots is that they don’t tend to do as well in the qualification rounds because they rely on having a good partner to win, which means that they usually need to rely on getting picked by a higher seeded team for elims. Personally, I’ve been picked several times in alliance selection with the sole purpose of playing defence, but if not for them having good scouts and me being experienced with alliance selection, I doubt that I would have been picked those times. If you do want to be a defensive bot, I’d recommend trying to build a good offensive bot that also has a good drivebase and maybe wedgelets so that you can do well in qualifications. As for teams not picking you because you played defence against them, I don’t think that that’s necessarily true, but it depends on the maturity of both teams, the way you play defence, and how you interact with them outside of the match. If you’re rude to them in they way you play defence and in person, they won’t want to pick you, but if done right, they’ll see first hand how good your defence is and will be much more likely to pick you.


We can certainly score and sometimes outstack trays. Just that defense is an important focus of our bot.

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Ok. So on your “Here is why you are picking us” card (You have one right? It’s a 3x5 card with “WHY TO PICK TEAM 23” and a picture of the robot on the front" and details on the back that you hand out at every event)

  • We can score xx point using our Tardis stacking tray
    – Tardis tray can hold 11 cubes
    – Reason 2
  • We can and are willing to play defense by
    – Feature 1
    – Feature 2

Teams want partners that can score, but are willing to play a great defense. They will say “Ok, we are going to score, we want you to play defense, but if we get 20 points behind, come back and score”

Thanks for the later edit, we all didn’t know you can score points.

Good luck!


Where I live, nobody hands out cards. We just walk around and ask people what their robots are… that’s an interesting idea, however, and I’ll try to see if I can do that at the next tournament.

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I 'm a team coach for a middle school team & I’m so glad to see this question. It’s a really good one, for teams of all kinds and for life. We came up against a defensive bot at our last competition which nearly broke our bot. Though it was within the rules, this bot knocked into our bot on purpose and took down stacks. It was a simple chassis that couldn’t stack but could push blocks into it’s goal. So once it did that, it’s main objective was to get in their opponent’s way from doing their jobs. The alliance team was stacking away while the simple bot got in our way. While it may be legal, I feel it’s poor sportsmanship and not what the rules intend. Defensive maneuvers are necessary and part of playing any game and occasional bumping by accident happens. But if you don’t have the skills then you should improve on them… Don’t physically hurt or sabotage the opponent in place of improving yourself. I liken it to intentional fouls that injure players… it’s wrong. I hope that more coaches are posing this type of dilemma to their teams. I hope more will choose to be good humans.


I agree! What you guys should be doing is focusing on creating a robot that can score. Most of the defensive robots that I have seen (with an exception to 2W, the god of all defensive robots), could score. You guys should be experimenting with different lifts and intake systems. Who knows, maybe the one that you have during this season could be the META for another one.

Clarification: I’m not entirely sure if you’re all thinking the same way I am: by defensive robot, I mean a robot that “attacks” other robots. Specifically, we hit cubes out of trays. It might sound strange but that’s what a defensive robot is to me.
We can stack though, and we can stack pretty well. However, in presence of a powerful traybot we usually just tower and defend.

Yes, including defense in your strategy is very important, but I think that their coaches aren’t disagreeing with that it sounds like they are referring to building a robot only for defense.

Ok, then if you guys can score, than stick with that! I was thinking of something like a Wallbot.

See personally I would not pick a defensive robot and in fact I might even decline an alliance invitation from one. While I see no problem in developing a defensive bot I personally favor offensive bots and try to pair with them. The reason being, an offensive bot can, in fact, play solid defense but a defensive bot can’t necessarily score that many points. And while defense is a certain way to play the game, I tend to go the score a lot of points very quickly route.