Credit: Trae Patton/NBC © NBC Universal, Inc. Photo: Christian Porter vs. The Swon Brothers in Season 4 Battle Rounds

Battle rounds the epic duets between teammates have been the second stage of The Voice since the show started in April 2011. But since Season 1 there have been some changes to the show’s format that have brought about some major alterations in the way contestants approach the duet.

For the first two seasons, contestants went into the battle rounds knowing that only one victor would move on. This knowledge didn’t always produce the best performances. Sometimes contestants would try to outsing the others, and few seemed to actually be working together.

But in Season 3, the addition of the “steals” changed the entire landscape of the battles. Now when a contestant loses a battle, they have the opportunity to be stolen by one of the three remaining coaches. Each coach gets two steals, so the losing contestants have to really be worth it in order to get that button push.

Knowing this, contestants seem to be working with their opponents to produce the best possible duet. The harder they work, the more desirable they are to the other coaches.

Coaches have also been given an added sense of urgency because each coach is no longer guaranteed a spot in the finale. In Seasons 1 and 2, the Final 4 consisted of a contestant from each team, but now contestants are making it through based on America’s votes, not based on their team. So assembling the best possible team early is key for the coaches.

And in a sneak peek for the April 22 battle round episode, NBC teases a new development with the “steals” brought on by Usher.

“Just when you thought you knew everything about the steal, one new coach makes a daring play we’ve never seen before shocking fellow coaches and producers alike,” the voiceover says.

We have a feeling that Usher will be pressing his own button for one of his current teammates. This tactic has never been tested before, but we’ll see how producers handle it.

Are these changes to the battles too confusing or just exciting enough? Tell us your thoughts below!