Is scouting dead?

Scouting —researching other teams to be knowledgeable and make informed decisions during alliance selection— has been an integral part of vex for quite some time now, but have we reached a point when scouting is no longer necessary?

Tower takeover was the second year using our beloved new bo1 2-team elimination system, and as a senior with spreadsheets from previous seasons calculating stats like OPR DPR CCWM and TRSP etc, we noticed these values were no longer necessary.

Our reasoning here is that everybody knows who the top 5 or even 10 teams are in the state, just by playing through qualification matches and looking at skills scores. With the old system, scouting was most useful when it came to picking a third alliance partner, because it was much harder to differentiate between robots that weren’t in that first pick tier. However now that this second pick is gone, the ability to differentiate those teams no longer seems necessary.

Inversely, it is now more important for the higher seeded captain mid tier teams to have done their scouting research than it might have been in the past.

How has the new alliance system effected the scouting schemes of other teams? Since top teams are more often organizationally equipped to use scouting data than the mid tier teams who might need it most, is it possible that a major decline in scouting will occur? Does anyone think scouting is more important now?

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Scouting is hardly useful for alliance selection anymore for the reasons you mentioned. It does help with qualification rounds where you may want to gauge teams’ ability to strategize. It was extremely useful for our state championship where we simply didn’t have the time to go scout out every single opponent for our qualification matches.

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I agree. It is mostly for finding out how good the teams you’re going up against are.

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I still see scouting as an integral part of a successful team.

Maybe it is not so useful at the regional level, but it is still extremely important for high level events, e.g worlds.

For those teams that have been consistently successful in worlds, there are always a huge group of scouts supporting these teams.

Even for teams like ours that can only bring 1 or 2 scouts along with us for worlds, but we do have a huge group of members back at home that are still awake in the middle of the night to help us view through the livestream and matches and taking down all the necessary data.

And we still find all these data important for us to plan our game-by-game strategies, how to work with our alliance, and of course the long list of teams that might be our potential alliance for eliminations.

And once you are in eliminations, that’s when all the scouting data is even more important. You want to exploit every weaknesses that you can identify in your opponents.

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When it comes to scouting for me, it’s not just seeing the positives of your alliance, it’s also about finding the weaknesses of your opponent. The weaknesses must then be used to your advantage. For example, while scouting an opponent, we learned that they have an H drive, but the strafing wheel in the middle was slightly lower than the forward facing wheels which means that only 2 wheels would be touching the ground at a time. Using that info, we played defense accordingly.

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I agree with this 100%. Scouting is super usfull to look at your opponents, this year a couple teams in my state would almost allways stack green cubes on blue side, and stack orange cubes on red side. Knowing this we can easily use it to our advantage in a match and win

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Scouting is still important but it has changed for me from the stats and spreadsheets to identify good teams to trying to identify teams not to pick or accept. Since TN is a pretty small region I know almost all of the good teams either personally or by their reputation. This way I can do minimal scouting at comps and focus on securing a good alliance by talking to those teams. At larger comps like worlds using stats can help filter out teams and also help you get a sense of what you are up against in matches. Like @meng said in previous years at worlds we have had several scouts visit the pits of all of the teams in their matches. While stat scouting isn’t always the best scouting, you want to be familiar with all of your opponents’ strategies and tactics. I even rewatched some of our opponents’ qual matches before going into the finals at states so that I could their defensive strategies.

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If scouting is lost, alliances will become pretty bad after all the obviously good teams are picked. Teams in picking positions will start picking teams that are terrible even if there are better teams lower down. For example: Our team at state, with the 9th seed, picked the 27th seed which had a terrible schedule but were way better than any team below us. If we hadn’t scouted, we would have picked the 10th seed which would have been a bad pick.

I see scouting being very useful at worlds. This is because upset potential in a game like tower takeover becomes very big as medium alliances can beat really good ones. Just having the knowledge to find the best team you can pick takes you to the next level and will give you an extremely good position later on.

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In my opinion, scouting isn’t dead, it’s just changed. Before, stats were a great way to determine how good a team was, and that is still somewhat true. However, for at least this season, it’s more about taking notes on robots and finding strengths and weaknesses in opponents robots. So scouting is still incredibly useful, but it’s changed a bit from looking at statistics to looking at the robots.

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Agreed. There is less of a need when you are in an area where you can identify the best teams without the statistics. Good point at higher level competition I’m sure it’s essential.

I’ve noticed the same thing in NJ. The top tier teams know each other through a state discord, or maybe private scrimmages and we keep tabs on each other to see how the robot performs independent of qualification data. When it comes to alliance selection, top teams just pick whoever is available or working best that day. Most of the in-person “scouting” occurs online or at private venues.

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In fact, differentiating between top alliances had more to do with which side of the bracket you landed on than how well your robot performed statistically. Autons were the most important differentiator this year.

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imo depends on the game

scouting for an alliance partner is pretty unnecessary, by the end of quals you know who your optimal partner is. scouting is good for qual matches though, where you can gauge your opponents and your partners to determine what sort of strategy you need in that match. but really you don’t need to interview every team at an event, you can tell half of how good a robot is just by looking at it, and then the other half you can ask or observe.

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If you don’t have to scout, there probably isn’t that many good teams you face.

Scouting is NECESSARY because there are so many small nuances that will affect how your alliance partner will work with you. For example, during Tower Takeover, we had to calculate scores of teams we knew we could beat at autonomous and teams we could not. Then based on that score plus what the teams put up during the matches . Finally, what their strategies were, affected who we would choose. Many times, we chose lower seeded alliances because they worked better with our autonomous and game strategies.

If you are not within the top 8-12 teams, you are just hoping to get picked…

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This isn’t always true. When was the last time you saw a quals ranking that aligned with your predictions before the comp and when was the last time you saw an alliance selection turn out how you predicted? What if a team got carried to first seed and all the best teams reject them? If you hadn’t been scouting how would you know who to pick? What if one of the top team’s robots broke down in the last qual and you didn’t know it because you weren’t scouting? That could screw you over for elims. I think scouting is still and will continue to be very important.

not necessarily. scouting is helpful, but at one point it becomes a waste of time if you go around asking every team everything about their robot.

I only scout those who I have qual matches with, and then only half the time, as the other half I can tell that the robot isn’t going to be a threat at a first glance.

well, I never said anything about going off of rankings. That’s a bad idea, rankings are never an accurate representation of team’s skill. But by the end of quals, I’ll have watched enough matches that I’ll know who the real best team are. then I like to ask my top 3-5 picks if they’d want to ally for elims. (or beg to pick us if we’re lower), and I’ll make a list of all the teams in the order that I’d want, so I’m never out of options.

I mean if you have the manpower to interview every team, by all means do, but for a smaller team like mine, I really think it’s a waste of time.

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In the past, I think data based on statistics has been far more valuable than data collected in person. Most claims have a tendency to be amplified, and it’s been better to let the numbers do the talking. How many times has an alliance claimed their auton is flawless only to have it fail all of elims.

Recently tho, I think in person scouting has actually become more important than statistical analysis. There were a number of cases where two teams allied multiple times, and those alliances were considered prior to qual matches taking place. Were any of us really shocked when 7K and 2114X allied at google? While statistical analysis might’ve led to the same conclusion, and there’s no reason not to additionally have that data, I think making connections with other teams outside of comp is potentially more important.

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For my team, it was really helpful this season. Mainly at state. If you look online at their stats it can be a bit helpful to see how consistent they are. But if you at least scout the teams you are going against and teaming with for qualifications at the actual tournament this is extremely helpful. Because you can talk them it to telling all of the information about their robot and team. So my team was able use this advantage and get at their weaknesses.

I bet there were some top teams here [#wishing] happy they scouted further down the chain:

It looks like scouting means different things to different teams.

For instance, scouting for our team is basically paying attention to the teams that have a chance of winning the tournament. On this premise, we go over what their autonomous does, what their strategy is, and main strengths and weaknesses. We don’t scout any team we are not with or facing. Our coaches and mentors sometimes points out certain teams that are doing well and could either be an alliance partner or someone we face.

We never go off record or what people say. We go by what we see on the field only.

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