Article written in partnership with Quinn Nadu / Iconic Paintball
The NXL Mid-Atlantic Major has concluded and it may just have been one of the best NXL events in recent memory. After facing some criticism last year regarding the Royersford, PA location, the NXL wasted no time in going to work at creating a top-level infrastructure for the Northeast’s flagship location for competitive paintball. Vast improvements to the playing surface, a highly navigable event layout, and player-friendly amenities made this one of the best NXL events since the league’s formation in 2015.
The professional division was full of surprises, with a diverse Sunday playoff field full of new faces. San Diego Dynasty was able to clinch their fourth straight NXL Major event win, a new record, while teams like Revo, XFactor, and Thunder all showed that they still belong in the conversation as a top-level pro franchise. Dynasty faced some real adversity throughout the event and overall, the competition was fierce all weekend.
Easily in the conversation as the best event venue the NXL has ever had, the Royersford, PA location just outside of Philadelphia was top notch. The playing surfaces on the field were thick and lush with mature grass able to withstand the rigors and abuse of professional tournaments. From the Thursday practice session, until the final game of the weekend, the grass provided consistent and safe conditions for players.
The venue itself was ideally situated in an area close to the Philadelphia airport and surrounded by a ton of lodging and restaurant options near King of Prussia and beyond. The layout of the event grounds proved to be ideal for players and fans; the Premier field, host of the Semi-Pro and WNXL Divisions, was located next to the Pro field with private pits, as well as a large tented viewing area for spectators easily holding hundreds of fans at a time. The vendor’s area was situated between the pro field and the divisional area and created a concourse loaded with paintball’s best companies and newest gear offerings. The expanded grandstands were packed throughout the weekend as well and it was great to hear the cheers and noise from the stands during the pro games.
A Pro Division Full of Surprises
Photo by MCPhotography19 | NXL Media
Parity has always been a point of contention in the NXL since its inception in 2015. Paintball is a game that, at its core, rewards team synergy and leadership. The league has always been top heavy with programs like Dynasty, Impact, Heat, and Infamous leading the pack. However, the last season, and this event in particular, has shown the pro division is quite healthy from the top down.
On a layout that proved to play rather traditionally, a balanced attack on all sides paired with zone control were the key elements of success. The pro field saw a strong mix of historically dominant programs facing off against the presumed usurpers of the NXL throne. Uprising has always been a program of vast potential, but has struggled with their level of consistency throughout the grueling pro season. At the Mid Atlantic Major, they played a stellar event with a diverse offensive strategy that proved difficult to overcome throughout the weekend. Although they fell short in the opening round of Sunday’s playoff, their first Sunday trip in five years is sure to be a strong launching point for the remainder of the season.
Seattle Thunder has been looking for their identity since the conclusion of the Mid Atlantic Major last season, and it took another trip out to the East Coast for Thunder to find that same magic formula as a season ago. Through a highly communicative style and disciplined zone control, Thunder posted one of the best preliminary round records of the weekend and gained a solid opening match win against Impact for a 3-1 record and a Sunday berth.
Photo by Pb Scout Photography | NXL Media
Arguably the biggest surprise of the weekend was the deep Sunday playoff run made by San Antonio X-Factor. Typically regarded as one of the best teams in the world, XFactor has started off 2022 facing some adversity after finishing 16th at the season opener in Florida and missing the top eight at the Lone Star Open. Coming into the Mid Atlantic Major, the challenges continued with a shorthanded roster after it was announced that star dorito players Jesse Stephens and Colt Roberts would not be at the event, as well as Tom Guest and head coach Ryan Brand. After starting the weekend with losses to both Uprising and Damage, most teams would have crumbled, but the determined and experienced roster came together for a day two stomping of the MLKings and Latin Saints to earn a spot on Sunday. The level of tenacity shown by X-Factor is a great sign that San Antonio is ready to take back their spot at the top of the division alongside the rest of the NXL's elite.
A Route of Adversity leads to a Dominant Finals
Photo by MCPhotography19 | NXL Media
San Diego Dynasty has rarely faced adversity over the last two seasons of competitive play, compiling five event wins, two season titles, and back to back World Cup victories. However, when Dynasty stepped into the semi-finals matchup versus a red hot Baltimore Revo program, they faced their biggest challenge of the season thus far. Revo quickly surged out to a 5-2 lead behind the dominant center play of Benny Carroll and a consistent dorito side push from 2021 Dorito Player of the Year Chris Schehr. After the sixth point and another major penalty, the Dynasty pit was full of heated exchanges and it appeared the Dynasty magic had run out. However, in a way that few other pro teams ever have been able to do, the pits quickly silenced and strategies began to take shape behind the strong words of leadership from Marcello Margott, Ryan Greenspan, and Archie Montemayor.
When the horn sounded on the eighth point, just 3:50 seconds remained on the clock; more than enough time for paintball's greatest team. Dynasty then began a multi-point dissection of the Revo strategy. Marcello could be heard yelling for the center zone to be held more stringently and suddenly Benny Carroll was completely shut out the remainder of the match. Although Stephen Omara put a strong effort forward to stop the Dynasty onslaught, it wasn’t enough. In many years being a part of the game, I’ve never quite seen such a stark change in a team’s energy, but through the strong culture of the Dynasty pit, this match wasn’t won on the field, but mentally in the pits.
Dynasty would go on to completely dismantle Houston Heat in the final’s matchup, with a nearly uncontested match, winning 7-1. Archie's strength throughout the weekend in the snake was enough for the event MVP, and the bullying style of Blake Yarber in the center of the field during the finals shutdown of Heat earned Blake the Finals MVP.
Photos by MCPhotography19 | NXL Media
A View from the Divisional Fields
Photo by MCPhotography19 | NXL Media
The Semi-Pro division was arguably the most competitive it has ever been during the Mid-Atlantic Major. Top-level programs all came to win with well-known franchises like PBFit, Noobies, A-Team, Blast Camp, and Blitz all making the Sunday field. Blast Camp, the winner of the event, actually had one of their worst preliminary round performances in recent memory, going 1-1-2, and barely squeezing into the playoffs. However, all that matters is that you make it to Sunday, not the record you had. Blast Camp would have to win four straight matches to win the event, and they did just that. After barely surviving the offensive vigor of Indianapolis Mutiny, Blast Camp then shutdown the Royal City Seadogs, Annapolis A-Team, and finished the finals with an authoritative 5-0 victory over Colorado Blitz. Watching many of their games throughout the weekend, it was hard to deny the MVP level performance from John Schappaugh, who was an anchor for Blastcamp and produced through the center of the field for them consistently. This team very well may be the NXL's next pro franchise.
In Division 2, it was yet another dominant performance from the division’s top team, New Jersey Leverage. Few teams in divisional paintball have the level of communication and experience playing together like Leverage does. Chris Caputo has played strong for them throughout the season, but this was a roster that got high-level contributions from everyone. Zach Moran bullied through the center of the field and Brandon Domenico was a force down the dorito side throughout the event. This team is the leading favorite to win the season title, and looks to be on cruise control at the top heading into the final two major events of the season with a commanding season point lead.
Hailing from New York, Wrecking Crew once again showed the strong culture they are building out of HiVi Paintball behind the steady hand of owner Rob Bertuglia. Wrecking Crew didn’t drop a single match the entire weekend, posting a perfect 8-0 record and a Sunday playoff where they only gave up 2 points in four matches. It’s difficult to pick an MVP solely because of the level of depth this roster has; they get contributions at all levels and this is a program destined for greatness if they can stick together for a few more seasons under the watchful eye of coach Marcello Margott.
After falling just short in the first event of the season after losing a heartbreaker to Hootie’s Paintball in the D4 Xball finals, Tribe returned to the NXL with a chip on their shoulder and took no mercy throughout the weekend. After a 3-0-1 record in the preliminaries, they walked through DST and NY Fearful to get a grudge match against Hootie’s Paintball in the semi-finals. It was a game that never truly felt close and it meant Tribe would once again be returning to the finals for the second event in a row. After going down 1-2 early on, Tribe was able to assertively win the next three points and win the event 4-2.
Rewatch all of the Divisional finals on the NXL Facebook page (search videos).
Vendor Spotlight, Field One and the Dynasty Champions Club
At an event where the concourse was packed with fans all weekend long, no booth saw bigger lines than the Field One Paintball booth. After announcing multiple Hormesis exclusive drops would take place at their booth throughout the weekend, lines built up to as large as 100+ people at a time. Field One is the maker of the popular Force marker that has been used by Dynasty to win four straight NXL major events. Known for its durability, ease of maintenance, and soft shot, the Force is rapidly becoming the choice of many top level competitive players.
Also a part of the Field One family was the newly added Dynasty Champions Club viewing tent. The tent placed next to the pro field provided Champions Club members with VIP seating, free food and drinks, and a cool place to watch the pro games all weekend long, as close to the action as possible.
With season titles in the balance, the next event will decide fates
With the season title in the balance in the pro division, and a tightly contested race between Edmonton Impact, San Diego Dynasty, Tampa Bay Damage, and Houston Heat, the season title is still anyones to claim in the final two major events of the year. Rewatch all the action from the Mid-Atlantic Major on GoSports.com, or the NXL Paintball Facebook page for the Premier field (WNXL & Semi-Pro). The next stop on the pro circuit will be the NXL Golden State Open from August 5th-7th, a minor event which will help to create a clearer picture on the season points race. Sign ups are now open for all players, and fans can attend in person or watch on the GoSports webcast.