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NXL Mid Atlantic Major, Full Event Preview

The National XBall League is preparing to arrive in Atlantic City for the first time in four seasons. It sets a return to the Bader Field venue, an historic arena which has featured major sporting events in some capacity for nearly 30 years. After some uncertainty at the NXL Lonestar Major, in which the pro division had to be delayed due to flooding, lightning, and tornadoes, the Lonestar Major pro division will meet its conclusion on the opening day of the Mid Atlantic Major.

The remaining playoff teams will finish their matches with the winner earning critical season points for the overall championship. Season points leader San Diego Dynasty was a surprise exit from the NXL Texas event after winning nearly a dozen events over the last four seasons. With Dynasty missing the final cut , it will completely redefine the pro division season championship race with a change in the top surely coming.

As for the Mid Atlantic Major, the event is shaping up to have perfect weather and nearly 300 teams signed up to play, smashing last years sign up by nearly 70 teams, a 32% increase year over year. Over the last four seasons alone, the Mid Atlantic Major event has become a major piece of NXL season consistently seeing one of the largest fields of competitors of any non World Cup event.

The Venue and Layout

The venue at the heart of Atlantic City, New Jersey, is surrounded by one of the East Coast's favorite vacation regions during the best weather season of the year. Hosted at historic Bader Field, the event venue will cover nearly 10 acres of land featuring a dozen competitive playing fields, VIP grandstands, live broadcasts, and an immersive trade show.

Due to the delay of the professional playoffs at the Lonestar Major, the layout, or the way the bunkers are setup on the field, will be unique for this event. Rather than a single layout played by both the professional and amateur players, the amateurs will receive their layout 10 days prior to the event, while the professional division will be on a blind layout. This means that the layout will not be seen by pro competitors until the first day of the event. In the past, blind layouts have seen more aggressive play and constantly developing strategy throughout the weekend and it should provide an exciting change of pace for fans.

The Breakdown with Kyle Spicka of ac: Diesel.

One of the leagues most respected professional players, and one of the best coaches in divisional paintball, Kyle Spicka had a chance to play the amateur field layout and give his breakdown on how he expects it to play;

"We had a chance to play the AC divisional layout against Paintball Fit for about 35 points on Saturday. I think I was able to gather a pretty good synopsis of some important factors and how the field may play out.

Gaining an advantage off the break will be key; to effectively shoot the outside runners you need to be in the center of the start box while moving up into safety behind the center maya temple. However, that comes with an added risk as this spot is very shootable for the opposition.

The snake side is going to be dangerous; I think you can always, AND SHOULD, expect a player in the snake. The 50 snake structure obscures much of the early moves in the snake and will cause chaos; creative players will excel here. The outside snake is effective if the snake corner isn't there to add pressure, but it’s very risky and very physically demanding to crawl the entire length. I don't think it would be used much at the pro level, but in divisional, teams are gonna sleep on the outside snake and let someone come down and shoot their entire team in the back.

One aspect of the field that is very evident; the dorito side has massive shootable lanes, but teams with good running and gunning skills could potentially have extreme advantages; they can place paint back into the middle and opposing shooters are wide open.  Players that make it farther than the insert can will have a huge advantage on the outside because there are very few bunkers that can slow these players from pushing the dorito side. 

The center bunkers will be critical in controlling and shooting the wide bodies, but their exposure to inside shooters brings a greater than average risk off the break."

The Pro Division Finishes Event Two

After two days of play, the Lonestar Major was reduced down to only the best teams of the event, concentrated into a playoff field that will conclude at the Mid Atlantic Major. There was quite a shakeup in Texas with the Ironmen, Heat, and Red Legion all going 4-0, and newcomers Blast Camp making their first pro event Sunday in their rookie season.

This event has a ton of implications on the season points race with a shuffle in the top three sports surely coming. The playoffs will start Thursday morning and be completed by the end of the day; with the coming heat wave, pro teams will need to manage player roles and points played in order to ensure they are ready for the Mid Atlantic Major to start Friday.

Pro Division watchlist

On the Hot Seat: San Diego Dynasty
Player to Watch: Marcello Margott

Dynasty is in unfamiliar territory. Not since Texas 2021 did Dynasty miss a Sunday and how they react to their underperformance at the Lonestar Major will have critical implications on the remainder of the season and the season championship race in the pro division. If San Diego can get back on track in event three, they can retain their spot near the top of the rankings, but another poor performance would make the rest of the season an uphill battle for paintball's most elite franchise.

Marcello Margott was nursing an injury during event two and the impact was noticeable; without arguably the best player in the world at 100%, Dynasty struggled to find traction and he is the player to watch for this event. Margott is masterful at rapidly breaking down fields and the blind layout should favor his high paintball IQ.

Looking like an event winner: Houston Heat

Player to Watch: Tyler Harmon

2024 thus far has seen Houston Heat on a tear under new Head Coach Ryan Smith. Their offensive potency and balance as a program is noticeable and they provide one of the hardest to scout lineups in paintball. They breezed through the prelims in Texas and were potent on that layout. Their depth will be critical in finishing event two and immediately transferring into event three with high energy.

Blind layouts favor one skill over all others; gun fighting, and there is perhaps no better gunfighter in professional paintball than Tyler Harmon. His versatility across all levels of the field combined with his athleticism and accuracy will be a critical piece for Heat early in the weekend as they figure out the field and it is likely we see Tyler Harmon come in clutch for Houston until they do.

Potentially back to NXL royalty: Red Legion

Player to Watch: Justin Rabackoff

The Red Legion is back! After struggling to find consistency the last few seasons, the addition of Justin Rabackoff has made this team incredibly dangerous. A third place finish to open the season, followed up with a dominate 4-0 prelim round in Texas has the Red Legion in position to steal the top spot in the rankings in a single weekend of paintball. Sergei Solnyshkov has been maybe the most consistent and high survival player in 2024 so far, and the relentless pressure that Rabackoff and Alexander Berdnikov have exerted has pro teams once again scrambling to find a way to slow down the Legion. Rabackoff is potery in motion and quickly proving he is firmly in the race for Icon of the Year, the leagues best player, for 2024.

Show or Go: Chicago Aftershock

Player to Watch: Alex Rodriguez

Aftershock has come back in a big way; a rapid rebuild of a roster is one of the hardest things to do in professional paintball, but in just two events, Aftershock has found themselves in the conversation as a challenger to the NXL's elite class of franchises. They started off slow in event one, but a 3-1 prelims at event two has them in a position to show they belong.

Assembling super teams can be short lived in the unforgiving world of professional paintball and a podium finish would go a long way in setting up Aftershock for the long term. Alex Rodriguez is still one of the games last true golden-age bullies in the center of the field and he is electric to watch. On a blind layout he should feast, and his creativity will keep teams on their heels.

The Expert Picks, Quinn @ Iconic

To Win Pro: Houston Heat

"Versatility is a key indicator on blind layouts and perhaps no team is more versatile than Houston Heat. With no real time to practice lanes and find shots, I think the depth of Heat, especially Ryan Moorhead and Konstantin Fedorov, are going to be a major problem early on for teams to solve. Coupled with near constant offensive pressure down the snake side from the all-star trio of Tyler Harmon, Chad George, and Conner Kelley, Houston should be sitting at the top of the podium come Sunday night. I like Heat over Red Legion 4-3 with Fedorov winning the MVP."

To Win Semi Pro:

"New Jersey Leverage responded to an event one win with another podium finish and looks to be poised and in control of their own fate heading into the third event. This will be a critical junction for New Jersey, as another top three finish would see them firmly seated at the top of the race, but veterans of the division like Noobies, Distortion, and RC Seadogs, as well as newcomers like New York Wrecking Crew are keeping up the pressure. In arguably one of the most contested divisions in the NXL, New Jersey seems like a safe choice for event three."

To Win D2:

"In a somewhat inconsistent division thus far this season, the top two teams in the season championship race, BR Factory and TPP Crew both lack a win through two events, with both event winners Brawlers and Brave, playing catch up with just three events remaining. However, consistency is the hallmark of a great team, and BR Factory has been the divisions most consistent team. I like TPP Crew to win event three, their backline plays very consistent and makes great fills when they are down bodies; if their offense can keep the pressure up, they have the experience to close out their first event win of the season and take over the season race."

To Win D3:

"The Texas Titans are firmly in control of the Division 3 race so far, and it would be foolish to pick another team until another franchise can prove otherwise. The Titans have lost just two of their 16 matches so far this year, making the finals both events and winning in their home state. However, I think a wild card to watch is Dynamic, they could rapidly unseat the top of the D3 rankings. They bring a lot of experience together and are fresh off a win at the MVPS Spring Skirmish last month. However, I still like the Titans to notch their second win of the season, and their third straight finals trip of the 2024 season."

More paintball, more action, the Mid Atlantic Major.

In less than a week, one of the best paintball events of the year is going to commence, with fans getting both the exciting resolution to the Lonestar Major, and the entire Mid Atlantic Major all in one incredible weekend of paintball. With major implications on the season standings for the NXL Pro Division Season Championship on the line, when the dust settles, the entire landscape of the pro division could be reorganized. As always, tune into to follow along with paintball legends Matty Marshall and Rich Telford all weekend long on the live stream of the event. If that isn't enough paintball, you can also catch all the divisional action on the Major League of Paintball stream. Follow the @NXLPaintball for updates throughout the weekend on social media.

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