During the original UK series of Robot Wars, the producers awarded seedings to certain competitor robots with pedigree or popularity from previous series. A seed is a preliminary ranking that can be used in arranging a sports tournament. It is called a seed because of the analogy with plants where the seed might grow into a top rank at the end of that tournament, or the seed might instead wither away. Seeded machines are 'planted' into the bracket in a manner that is typically intended so that the best don't meet until later in the competition. Therefore, the first and second seed are always intended to meet in the Grand Final, although this never happened in Robot Wars. Seedings were not used in the reboot.
Seeded robots automatically qualified for the Series, and did not have to go through the qualifiers. However, some of the seeds in Series 5 were decided after the qualifiers, due to the reduction of seeds from 32 to 24.
Seeds were predominantly expected to be the favourites to win each heat. In Series 4 and 5, where two seeds were placed in each heat, the higher seed was considered the favourite, whilst the lower seed was considered the second favourite.
The seeds were nearly always kept apart so that they could only meet in the Heat Final – although this only happened five times due to one or the other or even both being knocked out of the competition before hand. The only exception was in the Fifth Wars when Hypno-Disc and Atomic 2 met in the second round of Heat B despite both being seeded.
Because of their pedigree or popularity, certain UK Series Competitors were seeded in numerous series. However, no robot or team was ever seeded on all five occasions of seeds being granted.
Seeds were first introduced in Series 2, with only six robots being seeded. As a result of this, seeds were only placed in half of the heats.
The Second Wars featured seeded robots based on performance in the previous series. It was intended that the six Grand Finalists from the first series would be seeded, but as Cunning Plan and T.R.A.C.I.E. (or even reincarnations of these robots) did not initially return for the second series, seedings were given to Mortis and Killertron instead.
Griffon, the heavyweight successor to First Wars Grand Finalist Cunning Plan, was ignored in the seeding selections. It is likely that the robot's poor performance in the auditions led to it being omitted, although Griffon was eventually chosen as a reserve and competed when Reckless Endangerment pulled out at the last minute.Citation?
Mortis was given the second seed, despite being eliminated at the Heat Final stage in the First Wars. As a result, it was ranked higher than three of the Grand Finalists, including the successor to the robot which defeated Mortis. Similarly, but to a lesser extent, Killertron, a Heat finalist in the previous war, was seeded higher than both Cassius and Chaos. A possible reason suggested for Cassius and Chaos receiving lower seeds is that while they were entered by experienced teams, both robots themselves were new, and entering their debut series.
- In the Second Wars, four seeded robots made it to the Semi-Finals. Bodyhammer was the first seeded robot to lose in Round 1, after being eliminated at the Gauntlet stage, and Chaos lost at the Heat Final stage.
- Killertron became the first seeded robot to finish in its predicted position, finishing fourth overall.
- Despite three seeds making the Grand Final, the winner of the Series was an unseeded newcomer.
During a chat session with producer Steve Carsey, it was revealed that Series 3 was intended to have more seeded robots, to give the show a more "sporting feel". However, for unknown reasons, there were no seeds by the time the series was filmed. Nonetheless, normal expectations of certain returning robots and teams naturally still stood.
It should also be noted that despite the lack of an organised seeding bracket, the winner and runner up Panic Attack and Cassius 2 could not have fought before the final match of the Wars. Similarly, Beast of Bodmin could have only encountered Cassius 2 in the Grand Final Eliminator stage (where Hypno-Disc fought Steg-O-Saw-Us).
- "This year, just like Wimbledon, we've seeded our top 32 teams based primarily on past battle performance."
- — Craig Charles in the opening of Heat A
Series 4 featured thirty-two seeded robots, the most in any series of Robot Wars to date. Each heat featured two seeds, with a gap of sixteen in between; for example, Heat A featured the first and seventeenth seeds. The format of the heats would be that all of the odd-numbered seeds would be placed in the first eight heats, and then, starting from 16 and 32, the even-numbered seeds would be placed in heats until the second and eighteenth seeds were placed in the final heat.
The Fourth Wars featured seeded robots based on performance in the previous series. In consultation with The Steering Committee, the producers flagged sixteen robots based on their performances. This list included fourteen of the previous year's semi-finalists, omitting Bodmin Community College (who had presumably indicated their retirement) and Team Scutterbots (for reasons unknown), and including both Razer and Behemoth based on performances in The First World Championship and the International League Championship. Pitbull, Trident and Blade's Big Bruva were all on the original list of sixteen, though the trio would all subsequently not appear in the Fourth Wars and Spawn of Scutter was ultimately added to the list as the 10th seed, presumably taking the spot reserved by Pitbull. Trident and Blade's Big Bruva were seeded and ultimately withdrew at the last minute and two other robots (Centurion and Suicidal Tendencies) were seeded in their place.
The other sixteen seeds were selected as "discretionary choices". These ranged from previous semi-finalists (King Buxton, Mortis and Dartford Girls Grammar) and strong heat finalists (X-Terminator, Team Big Cheese and Berserk 2) to popular teams and entertainers (Diotoir, Sir Chromalot and Plunderbird).
In the agenda for the Steering Committee, Griffon, Facet and Sting were all flagged as potential discretionary seeds, though none of these robots ultimately returned for the series. They were replaced by Weld-Dor 2, Dreadnaut XP-1 and Stinger at various points.
The final seeding list was as below.
1. Chaos 2
17. King B3
At some point around the withdrawal of Trident and Blade's Big Bruva, Wheely Big Cheese and Killerhurtz were pushed into the top bracket. Killerhurtz's seeding remains controversial due to its poor record in the wars up to that point, as well as in Series 4 itself. It is presumed that Killerhurtz's high seeding was based on expectation and its international pedigree on BattleBots. The high placings of Razer and Behemoth, and lower placing of Steg 2 compared to Firestorm 2, have also attracted criticism.
Despite their heat finalist status and the large number of seedings to go round, two Heat Finalists (Inverterbrat and Darke Destroyer 2) were omitted for unknown reasons. Suicidal Tendencies was also missed out until its last minute inclusion. Peter Bignell of Interverbrat was on the Steering Committee but it is not known why Inverterbrat was omitted.
Of the top sixteen seeds, eight made the Series Semi-Finals. This was added to the three bottom sixteen seeds that made the final, to give eleven seeded Semi-Finalists.
- Series 4 was also the only time that the Grand Final comprised of four seeded machines and no unseeded machines.
- Chaos 2 became the first and only reigning champion and number one seed to defend its title. This made it the second robot in series history to finish in its predicted position.
However, in addition to this, Series 4 saw several poor cases of seed performances.
- Series 4 saw the most seeds lose in Round 1 – Evil Weevil 2 (12th), Gravedigger (13th), Cerberus (18th), Diotoir (21st), Weld-Dor 2 (28th) and Centurion (31st), with Diotoir becoming the first to do so in battle.
- Behemoth was the highest seeded robot ever to lose a judges' decision in the Heats, in its Heat Final against X-Terminator 2.
- Every Heat was set up so that the two seeds would not meet until the Heat Final. Among the 16 heats, this only occurred four times, and only twice did the higher seed win.
Due to the change in the structure of the UK Championship, the Heats still featured two seeds, but there were only twenty-four seeds. All sixteen Semi-Finalists from the previous series were seeded, with the four Grand Finalists and the reigning World Champion amongst the top five.
However, the seeds were certainly not chosen based purely on the Fourth Wars – the Third Wars still had influence on where seeds were designated. For example, 3 Stegs to Heaven and Firestorm 3, both of whom had lost in the first round of the Semi-Finals of Series 4, were seeded higher than Tornado, Dominator 2 and Wild Thing, the three who reached the second round of the Semi-Finals. This was likely because of their previous incarnations reaching the Grand Final in the Third Wars. Another possible Series 3 influence was with Hypno-Disc being seeded one place higher than where it finished, due to it being the runner-up in that series. Conversely, despite coming third in Series 4 and technically finishing above Hypno-Disc, Stinger was only given the fifth seed. However, this could also have been because Stinger never actually fought Hypno-Disc, as Hypno-Disc had taken so much damage in its eliminator against Pussycat that the third-place playoff was not held.
Due to the reduction of seeds from thirty-two to twenty-four, and Series 5 featuring twelve heats instead of sixteen, only the sixteen Semi-Finalists from the previous series were given automatic places in the Series. The eight remaining seeds were chosen after the qualifiers.
The most criticism has been levelled at the seedings of Mini Morg and MouseTrap, the former being ranked 19th despite only winning a single fight, and the lower being ranked below four heat finalists despite being a former semi-finalist. It was also the lowest seeding ever given to a returning Semi-Finalist.
- Of the top twelve seeds, nine made the Semi-Finals, and only Tornado failed to reach the Heat Final stage.
- Of the lower twelve seeds, only Spawn Again reached the Semi-Finals, resulting in a full ten of twelve Semi-Finalists being seeded. From the rest of the lower twelve seeds, S.M.I.D.S.Y. was the only one to reach the Heat Final.
- Like the Fourth Wars, the seeding process was designed so that the seeds would meet in the Heat Final (with one exception in Heat B). Only Chaos 2 and S.M.I.D.S.Y. met in the Heat Final, with one of the seeds losing in the first two rounds in every other heat, Hypno-Disc and Atomic 2 met in their Heat as well, but they fought each other in the second round, not the Heat Final.
- In Series 5, only three seeds (101, Mini Morg and Thermidor 2) lost in Round 1. However, an additional seven lost in the second round. Suicidal Tendencies also became the first seed to retire due to mechanical failures.
- 101 became the first seeded robot in series history to lose via a judges' decision in the first round, when it was beaten by Fluffy.
The Sixth Wars featured seeded robots based on performance in the previous series. The UK Championship format remained the same, but the Heats changed their format. Now only one seed was placed in each heat, resulting in a number of unseeded famous faces being placed across the heats.
The twelve seeded places were intended for the twelve Semi-Finalists from Series 5, with the four Grand Finalists getting the first four places. This series marked the only time this occurred in series history, due to Razer finally being seeded for its UK Championship performance alone. However, as Pussycat and Wheely Big Cheese did not compete in Series 6, the final two seedings were given to Stinger and Tornado instead. This was most likely due to their performance in the Fourth Wars, having finished in the top eight.
- Series 6 was the only series where no seeded robots fell in Round 1. Every seed made at least the Heat Final, with nine of the twelve making the semi-finals.
- Series 6 was the only series in which Chaos 2 did not reach the Semi-Finals, and the first of two which Panic Attack failed to do so.
- Firestorm 4 became the third robot in series history, after Killertron in Series 2 and Chaos 2 in Series 4, to finish in its predicted position, coming in third place. Additionally, it was also the first and only occasion where the third-place finisher from the previous series was seeded third.
The Seventh Wars featured seeded robots based on performance in previous series. The seedings were no longer awarded exclusively to the Semi-Finalists of the previous series; not only because the number of Heats had been raised from twelve to sixteen, but also as many of the Semi-Finalists from Series 6 did not return for Series 7. Only seven of these twelve returned, as Wild Thing retired after Series 6, and Razer, Hypno-Disc and S3 did not return following the second series of Robot Wars Extreme. According to the second run of the Robot Wars Magazine, had all of the Series 6 Semi-Finalists returned, Razer would have been seeded second, Dominator 2 fifth, S3 eighth, Hypno-Disc ninth and Wild Thing tenth. According to John Denny, 13 Black was originally seeded ninth at the time of filming, but was placed higher up due to other robots pulling out.Citation?
Tornado, Firestorm 5 and Terrorhurtz were seeded as the remaining Series 6 Grand Finalists, with Bigger Brother, Dantomkia, Spawn Again and 13 Black being the remaining Semi-Finalists that returned. To make up the seeds, nearly every returning robot that had reached a Semi-Final at some point was seeded, including Pussycat, Panic Attack, Behemoth, X-Terminator and Thermidor 2, despite some losing in the first and second round of Series 6 or, in Pussycat's case, not competing at all. Robots with four series' worth of experience and that reached at least two Heat Finals were given seeds as well (Bulldog Breed and S.M.I.D.S.Y., though Bulldog Breed's Tag Team Terror championship may have also been a contributing factor towards its seeding).
Dominator 2 was originally seeded for Series 7, but was forced to withdraw due to mechanical problems, so Ming Dienasty, another long-time competitor, was seeded in its place.Citation? The final seeding was given to Storm 2, which won automatic entry into Series 7 through winning the New Blood Championship in the second series of Robot Wars Extreme.
This series marked the only occasion where a robot was seeded despite not entering the previous series, as Pussycat and Storm 2 did not enter The Sixth Wars.
Ming Dienasty's seeding, as a replacement for Dominator 2, has been widely criticised because of its very poor success rate in the UK Series. Series 6 Heat-Finalist and Extreme 1 Annihilator winner Disc-O-Inferno was initially rumoured to have been given the fifteenth seed in Dominator 2's place.
- The seeds suffered enormously in Series 7 – of the sixteen seeds, only seven reached the Semi-Finals. From those seven, only three were Semi-Finalists from the previous year.
- Ming Dienasty became the second seed in history to lose via a judges' decision in the first round.
- Terrorhurtz became the first and only seed in the show's history to be barred from competing entirely, as it arrived at the studio in an unfinished state.
- Five seeds lost in the second round, including Bigger Brother, which became the highest ever seed to be flipped out of the arena.
- For the second series in a row, the lowest-ranked seed became the best-performing seed (Storm 2), finishing runner-up and beating the first seed along the way. This was also the third consecutive series in which the top and bottom seed fought each other.
- Despite the lower success rate, three seeds did make the Grand Final, including the reigning champion. However, for the first time since Series 2, an unseeded machine won the series, beating the lowest-numbered and highest-performing seed in the Grand Final.
Reboot (Series 8-10)
With a twelve-year gap between the previous series and the reboot, seeding was deemed inappropriate for Series 8. Despite this, each heat contained a single heat winner robot from Series 7 (or its successor in the case of Bonk); Bonk, Tough as Nails, Dantomkia, Storm 2 and Thermidor 2. The pilot also contained Reaper.
Despite a high number of returning robots, there were no seedings given out for Series 9 either. The draw was not split evenly in terms of returning finalists, emphasised by the final heat, which contained the defending champion and runner-up. A similar pattern existed in Series 10, with the Series 9 champion, runner-up and fourth-place finisher all competing in the second heat.
- In the four series where the eighth seed existed, the robot seeded eighth never reached the Semi-Finals, and became the only top sixteen seed to suffer this. This has been widely known by the community as "The Eighth Seed Curse":
- Even though seedings were used in Series 5, the seeded robots did not have their seeds mentioned when they entered the arena.
- In distributing the seeds in Series 4, two Heats deviated from the gap of sixteen formula. Heat H featured a gap of seventeen, whilst Heat I featured a gap of fifteen.
- Suicidal Tendencies is mistakenly announced as the thirty-first seed in the Northern Annihilator. If this was its true seed, then the aforementioned heats would have followed the gap of sixteen formula.
- In addition, the seeds that should have been in Heat F of the Fourth Wars (Wild Thing (11) and Sir Chromalot (27)) were swapped with those in Heat M (Gemini (8) and Berserk 2 (24)). It is possible that this change was intentionally made in order for Gemini to meet Chaos 2 in the second round of the Semi-Final, rehashing the rivalry between the two teams, rather than in the last match of the series.
- Series 9's lack of a seeding system notably saw the previous year's champion and runner-up Apollo and Carbide compete in the same heat, while third-placed TR2 was not given a space in the series.
- Likewise, Series 10 saw the previous series' champion, runner-up and fourth-place finisher (Carbide, Eruption and Aftershock respectively) compete in the same heat, while Team Outlaw's successor to third-placed Ironside3 was not selected altogether.