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5 man February 20 - 21, 1999
By Splat-1 Adventures,
Team Strange Wins!
The 1999 Indoor Nationals
By James R. “The Mad Dog” Morgan
With the way things happened a lot of players had a difficult choice to make this February. We could either go up to Toronto to be in Skyball, or go to Knoxville and play in the Nationals. Me, my problem was solved when I was rushed in for immediate laser surgery on my eye (not because of anything to do with paintball. I had a retinal tear). The surgery was successful, but the doctor said I couldn’t either fly, or even play paintball for a month…AUGH. I mean I had everything ready. I’d practiced my skills, gotten hotel reservations, and even polished up my rubber chicken. But no, now I was relegated to being a mere reporter. And since Bill and Dawn were going up to Skyball, they let me cover the Nationals.
The Nationals is one of the premier events in paintball, and ranks only with Skyball as the best indoor event. For the past few years, Randy Baxter of Splat One Adventures, has managed to use the indoor Arena of the Roane State College in Harriman Tennessee (About 35 miles west of Knoxville), and converts it into the largest indoor arena in the country. The area normally designed for equestrian events is draped all around in stopper netting allowing players and bystanders to watch from either the large bleacher area, or from the elevated walkway which goes three quarters of the way around the arena. In the area not covered by the walkway, they made it into a staging area, which allowed the players getting on and off the field in the quickest amount of time possible.
The playing field was laid out like this: a structure made out of railroad
ties, A frames used to hold up roofs, and stopper netting dominated the
middle of the field. In the middle hung the flag, from a rope connected
to the roof. The irregular “Triangular” fire slits, low walls, and
large area covered with nothing other than stopper netting made it the
most strategic portion of the field, but it also gave many players fits.
It soon became nicknamed “The Dream House from Hell”. Four other
Half “Dream Houses” were constructed; both near the sidelines of the 25-yard
lines of both sides. There were of course the ever present plywood
crosses which seem to be at every indoor event, and the addition of two
other sets of obstacles made this somewhat different from a normal indoor.
First were the cattle fences that were placed all around the field, These
fences, covered in stopper netting, gave everyone full view of an opponent,
but stopped even the most determined effort to pick off a player through
the netting. Then there were the four vehicles, One Humvee, a dune
buggy, and two jeeps were spread equal distant around the field.
And several times a player managed to take out another behind them, by
shooting under the car at the opponent’s legs
As a side note, I’d like to help stop a bad rumor that is going out across the Internet and grapevine of the players. Brass Eagle isn’t going to discontinue the making of the brightly colored VL revolutions as I’ve been hearing rumored. They will be hard to find for a bit, because when Brass Eagle took over Viewloader and dropped the prices, the company was simply swamped with orders for the black and clear. In order to fill these orders, the company is using every machine they got, and isn’t making colored loaders right now, but when they get caught up with these orders, they’ll go back to making them. So you will be able to get them again…just wait a month or two.
Exactly 149 players showed up to play in the “Top Gun” event to determine the finest single player in the country. In this event, one player faces another with each player only allowed 100 paintballs to used. He has just three minutes to gain as much points as possible in the quest to make it to the top 32 players who would play in the next round. Having paid a pre set price; the player was provided with his paint and air and was guaranteed five games. In order to gain points, the player had to do the following: eliminating his opponent - 40 pts, getting the first flag grab – 10 pts, hanging the flag – 15 pts, with the following bonus points possible. After a winner goes through a successful chrono check he will receive 25 bonus points (Shared if there is a tie), and also will receive 1 bonus point for every 15 seconds still left on the clock after a hang. Field speed was set at 300 fps.
This format obviously favored the quick and aggressive, those players who became timid because of the 100 round limit would have to learn quickly, or win every one of their matches to make the cut. But it was possible for a player to lose even two of his matches, but to make the first cut if he had done well enough in his other three games, and managed to get some points in his losses. Naturally, because of the large amount of players and so many games, it wasn’t wise for the entire field to be used. So, the field was divided into equal thirds by stopper netting and three games were always played simultaneously. Each participant had a referee individually covering him or her, with an ultimate judge overseeing all three fields. The players were given one minute to get into position, three minutes to play the game, and another minute to exit. So every five minutes the next game was on.
All games started the same, the player had to face away from his opponent, at a small potion of white picket fence and waited for the starting buzzer. The flag would be at midfield (or on the sidelines at midfield) and would be needed to taken to the opponent’s starting point to hang. The average game lasted will past a minute and a half. With the lack of paint making too many players timid. (I guess some players, with the fast firing guns, couldn’t figure out a strategy now that they couldn’t hose away). However, some games were quick and over within the 15 seconds that made it a max. There were some games to note…believe it or not, most of them were from the Adcock family..three generations playing paintball. The littlest one, I believe his name was Justin, used his speed, small size, and Angel to full advantage to make the cut of 32. Robin played, but didn’t do as well…. But the one I heard the most retelling about was the grandfather, a man over 60 they tell me and had heart bypass surgery, who had made a successful bunker charge on a player less than half his age. Just goes to prove you don’t have to outgun what you can outwit. I also witnessed a “Keystone Cops” type of match where one player ran out of paint and the other player’s gun broke at the same time. For a few seconds, neither player was cognizant of the other player’s predicament. But when they did realize what happened, both players ran for the flag and it was a real game of “Capture the Flag” for a minute. And of course, with competition as fierce as this, there were a couple of what I call “Mutual Suicide Pacts”, where both players had the paintball that eliminated them in the air at the same time.
In the quarterfinals, a player kept his points from the preliminaries,
and added the quarterfinal scores to it. So there could be cases
were a loser from one game could still make the next round, and a winner
from the game couldn’t. So with each precious point worth it’s weight
in gold, they went at it again. Soon, it was down to the top 16.
. For the top 16, the entire field was used...making the strategy
of the old games useless. The crowd picked a favorite as little Jason Adcock
was soundly rooted for every time he went onto the field. He did
his best, but was not able to make the final 8 when he went head to head
with “Cha Cha” who would later take third. The top 8 games didn’t
go as I figured they would. In fact most of the final round games
happened in much the same fashion. The two players would meet in
the opposite sides of “The Dream House from Hell” and try and put a paintball
through the slits onto his opponent. Most of these games went near
the limit of the time. As the impatient paintballers had been weeded
out in the preliminaries. In fact, all the final games ended almost
the same, with a player getting a break on the opponent’s hopper.
Saturday was a full day, with almost 70 teams all playing their four ten-minute games in the preliminary rounds. The field had been changed somewhat the night before, but the teams who showed up the previous night were given 20 minutes to scout the field. The teams were separated into twelve divisions of five or six each. Each of these teams would play four other members of their division in their first four games. The fifth game they would face would be between division leaders of one division against another (i.e...Division 1 leader faces Division 2 leader, Division 3 leader faces Division 4 leader). Then the second and third placed teams that were still mathematically able to make the cut of the top 32 teams would face each other. Leaving all the teams who didn’t have a chance to make the round of 32 playing their fifth and sixth game in the next morning’s “Kelly’s Heroes” format.
The 5 Man was a ten minute center flag, with points gained for the following: eliminated opposing players -5 pts, first flag pull - 10 pts, flag possession -15 pts, flag hang -25 pts, and like the top gun, there were victory points. After a team successfully passed it’s exit chrono check, a team would be awarded 25 victory points, with additional bonus point awarded for every minute left after the flag hang.
Now, I’d helped a group of first time players have some fun playing the game the previous Thursday, with their parents watching, but that Saturday was different. All day, people who I’m sure had never even heard of paintball were stopping by the arena to give this sport a look. I saw several kids with their parents, a boy scout troop, a church group, and several local businessmen come in and look over this game they’d only heard about and look over the venders tables. I feel that a lot of potential players, interested parents, and potential sponsors got their first real good taste of the game. I’m sure that a few kids were able to comfort their parents about their fears and let them play on their local fields.
Now with the fifth round over, the 12 Division leaders, plus the four highest scoring teams that did not win their division, were automatically entered in the round of 32. (These teams received 109 pt byes for their sixth games), the remaining teams, ranked by score, played; 17th against 18th, 19th against 20th , until they had all their sixth game. The top 16 remaining after this round joined those already entered in the round of 32. All 32 teams would meet in combat and with this last chance, the bottom 16 teams had to do or die to make the top 16 slots as decided by the points. Then the top 16 scores would meet in a single elimination format.
For the most part, I saw three major strategies being used. The one I saw the most I termed “Power forward”. All five members of the team between the thirty-five and forty five-yard line. Three players would be behind the “Dream House from Hell” and another two players would be at the barreled crosses at the 40-yard line on both sidelines. Another often-used tactic was a combination of offence and defense I termed “The Nickel Spread”. On this strategy, only one player would be behind the “Dream House from Hell”, the two sideline players would be behind the plywood crosses at the 40, and the other two players would set back at the splatmat fences or the half “Dream Houses” to lay down longballs. I figured that with the “Dream House being such an obstacle in the middle, that at least one team would try to load one of the sidelines in an attempt to punch through the enemy’s defenses. But no team I saw tried that approach. It seemed that a lot of teams were in “Play Not To Lose” mindset instead of “Win..Win..Win” that distinguishes the top-level teams.
The key position of the field was not the “Dream House from Hell” as many thought. The most key piece of tactical real estate was definitely the two barreled crosses at the 40-yard lines. These bunkers, separated from their mirrors by one of the vehicles, were the sole avenues for a player to get into enemy territory. A player had to move from his bunker, around the vehicle, and be able to eliminate his mirror in order to have a chance. In fact many teams sacrificed a player just to do this. Once the bunker cross player was eliminated, if the other members of the team kept their opponent’s head down, the team could now start pouring into the sidelines to flank the players behind the Dream House. Those teams who had deployed in the nickel spread were better able to deal with this situation when it happened, but the “Power Forward” deployed teams were doomed. The majority of games went well into 8 minutes, and it was rare for a team to attempt a flag grab unless at least 3 of the opposition were eliminated.
A lot of teams seemed to take one loss for each victory..At the end of the fourth game most of the division leaders were barely into the 300-point range, with teams like CYA, Image, and PD All stars being exceptions with 400+. But they now had time to return to their hotel rooms and rest, as it fell to the other lower point teams to meet early the next morning to play in the Kelly’s Heroes Bracket. Where I watched Glenn Palmer of Palmerized lead his squad to victory in this event and therefore win his team free entrance into next year’s nationals.
A lot of teams realized that although they’d made the round of 32, they had only one chance of making the next cut, that is to max the other teams as quickly as possible and hoping that the top teams would lose. A lot of teams tried their best, and this was the most aggressive series of the day. In this event, no team was a doormat for the others; rugged ruthless firepower and daring tactics marked those who’d make the cut. Those teams who showed the least bit of hesitation were generally heading home early. A couple of teams actually did do some “UnderDog Glory” by managing to beat some of the top ranked teams, but in the end, only the teams within five of the spot had any real chance of making the cut.
Now came the sweet 16; points are a thing of the past. It’s now a single elimination event between 16 teams: All Americans, Bad Attitude, Crush This, CYA, Diggers, Team Energy, Team Extreme, Fallen Angels, Illusion, Image, PD All Stars, Saberwolves (Claws), Saberwolves (Jaws), Team Strange, Team Swat (Black), and Wildfire 1. As you would expect, none of these games were wipeouts, a close contest that went nearly down to the wire was the norm in this round. These teams who changed their strategy to “Don’t Lose” instead of “Gotta Win” usually took the other team to the time limit on the field, but usually lost the game to the aggressive teams such as “Team Strange”, “Image”, and “All Americans II”.
The quarterfinal rounds saw a few surprises, as the All Americans were upset. Leaving Image, Team Strange, Illusion and Team Swat (Black) as the only teams left to fight for the gold. In two vicious and hard fought matches, Image and Illusion were defeated and eliminated.
Now we come to the Finals; Image Vs Team Strange. As you could expect, the bleachers were full of people cheering on their favorites. But since a lot of teams went home, the mezzanine was practically bare…it is a long drive for some people. When the horn went off, both teams came out rushing and deployed well forward. About a minute into the game, a good (or lucky) hit managed to take out the sideline Image player. Then a member of Strange player, getting good cover from his teammates, managed to get around the Humvee and get into the all important Bunker Cross bunker. After he did that, the remaining Image players then pushed heavily the other side of the field. With a player in the bunker laying out what paint he could (as he stuck his head and gun out only for the microseconds allowed by Image), the center players went down in quick order. With the center eliminated, most of the Strange Players, followed their comrade around the Humvee side to assist in the Coup De Gras. From then it was over very quickly, the flag was grabbed, hung and the remaining Strange players were designated victorious. All Hail the Strange Ones, who received their goodies and awards for their accomplishments soon afterward.
Now let’s not forget to thank the people responsible for the event: Although there are many people who did an excellent job, we should note the following:
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