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NPPL Huntington Beach
 March 24-26, 2005
Photos by Matt Dawson

Pro First Place - Sacramento XSV
Semi Pro First Place - A Team
D I First Place - Critical Paintball
D II First Place - Ballistic
D III First Place - Trouble

March 24th marked the start of NPPL, Inc.’s fourth season of the NPPL Super 7 World Series.  Teamed with tournament promotion group, Pure Paintball Promotions, the NPPL set up on Huntington Beach in Southern California to kick off their 5 event series for 2006.

Huntington Beach has been a premiere venue for paintball tournaments ever since the first held at that location in 2003.  Seated in the heart of Southern California surfing and beach culture the town of Huntington Beach is better known as Surf City, USA.  Literally millions of people flock to Huntington Beach each summer for activities ranging from concerts and surf competitions to simply enjoying the sun and sand. 

The Huntington Beach Pier, one of the longest recreational piers in the nation, is a community focal point, literally extending pedestrian traffic from the city’s downtown out over the Pacific Ocean.  It is no wonder that the Huntington Beach based NPPL, Inc., chose the beach just north of the Pier for the site of the first Super 7 event in 2003.  Not only is the site easily accessible and filled with the feeling of Surf City culture, but it is backed by a major pedestrian thoroughfare, exposing thousands of people to tournament paintball.

For 2006, the city and league moved the Huntington Beach tournament to a new venue.  Not that new though – it was simply moved to the south side of the pier.  Literally next door, and accessible from all of the same roads, parking and amenities, the new location has some advantages in a city parking lot that is closer to the beach area, putting the tournament trade show closer to the tournament game fields.  The grandeur and feel of the tournament has made Huntington Beach one of paintball’s “must play” tournaments.

For the pro teams of the NPPL, Huntington Beach is a fresh start, the first tournament of the new season.  The slate is clean in terms of ranking points.  Last year’s Champions, San Diego Dynasty started out on the same footing as second and third ranked Sacramento XSV and Portland Naughty Dogs.  The three teams to feel the ranking crunch at the end of 2005 were Pittsburgh Smoke, Toulouse Ton Tons, and Manchester Shockwave.  As the lowest ranked pro teams, they were stripped of their pro status, and relegated to semi-pro classification, while the top three semi-pro teams were able to move up and play pro.   Bob Long’s Assassins finished the 2005 semi-pro season in second place, and changed their name to the Philadelphia Assassins as they moved up to pro for 2006.  Second placed semi-pro XSNRG became New York NRG as they went pro. 

In addition to knock reclassifications there were other changes, as teams were bought and sold in the off season.  Spesh Robinson bought the London Tigers and is now playing the team's pro slot under the banner of the Pittsburgh All Americans, giving the crew from PA a move straight into Super 7 Pro.   Huntington Beach Red’z Sedition also changed hands.  Known as Anaheim Sedition, the team is now under the ownership of long time paintballer and Bushwackers owner Ron Kilbourne.  While Ed Poorman of Warped Sportz remains the owner of Avalanche, the team has changed its city affiliation from San Francisco to St. Louis, concurrent with a significant roster change. 

The off-season, between the Commander’s Cup and Huntington Beach is traditionally a time when team captains talk to rules committee members, and the rules committee plans out what rule changes will be implemented for the new season.  While a number of rules changes were initially planned, the ones that were actually codified for 2006 mainly consisted of correcting errors in the way the rulebook was written, or clarifying existing rules that players had trouble understanding. 

The two most significant rule changes for 2006 regarded team ranking and players leaving the Deadbox.  Previously, a player leaving the Deadbox (the station where players are required to go after they are eliminated) would be penalized by a one-for-one infraction (one of their teammates would be eliminated.)  Because this is difficult to enforce if a player steps out near the end of the game, the new rule places that player under a 3 game suspension. 

The change in team classifications is not so much a change, as simply updating the rules to reflect how things were done in the 2005 season.  In 2005, the NPPL closed its pro division.  Unlike past years, teams now have to earn their way to win pro, they can’t just pay a pro entry fee and step onto the field.  Under the new rule, a team that plays in the NXL and is not already in NPPL pro division will be classified as semi-pro.  The rule doesn’t mean that such teams aren’t of the caliber needed to play pro, just that since they didn’t come in before the pro division was closed, they will have to win their way through the semi-pros to get there.

Another new feature added for the 2006 season was pay per view video.  Previously, produced live webcams on the main NPPL field with a higher resolution version available as a webcast pay per view.  For 2006, the level of technology escalated to a full blown live-switched video production with multiple cameras and even slow motion replays available as a pay per view webcast.

Friday started with a whirlwind of action as Division III (the starting rank for Super 7 teams) through semi-pro (the highest open-entry division.) took to the fields to play 7 on 7 two-flag format games.  Seventy-three teams played in D-III, and by the end of games Friday each team had completed four or five of its eight preliminary round games.  The top four teams (based on average score as a performance indicator – no true ranking would take place until the end of prelims) played through the day undefeated.  These were No Limit Indecent, SCP Epic, Extreme Extractors and Tag.

Division II had only slightly fewer teams, at 70.  Like D-III, the top four D-II teams played the day without dropping any games.  These leaders were Sniper Force, Misfits, Goon Squad and Island Breed.  In Division I, with 36 competitors, a handful of teams only had three games on opening day and a handful faced five.  This made average score ranking less indicative of team performance, but interesting nonetheless.  As with the lower ranked divisions, four teams were undefeated at the end of Friday’s games.  Critical Paintball was at the top of the bunch, followed by MOD D1, though MOD D1 had only completed 3 games at this point.  Bushwackers International ranked third by average score, which spoke well of them, with five of their games completed (i.e. less games ahead of them to possible score low.) The fourth D-I team to make it through Friday unscathed was Team Mantis. 

The semi-pro division made it unanimous that each division would have four undefeated leaders.  Here the top four were Dynasty Dynamics, A Team, Dallas Storm and SA X-Factor.  At only 25 teams competing, Semi-Pro was the smallest division to take to play games on Friday – not surprising, as teams which can compete at that level are less common.  It would not be until the weekend that the pros would step onto the field for center-court action.

Saturday’s games completed the eight games of the preliminary round for all of the divisions.  For Division III this meant their top 16 teams being selected to advance to the quarterfinal round.  While no team made it through the prelims without dropping at least one game LAW finished in the top ranked spot with their combined scores totaling 702 points.  No Limit Indecent was only 2 points behind them followed by Tag at 689.  The Bubble – the gap between lowest ranked team to go on to the quarters, and the next team down was sizeable.  Thirty points separated WCA Vendetta and Fury Assassins.  The bottom 6 teams at the end of the prelims had a rough go of the event, not earning a single flag hang out of their eight games.

Moving up to Division II, there were again no undefeated teams, proving a good level of competition within the division.  Ballistic was the D-II chart topper at 698 points, followed closely by The Outfit at 694 and Goon Squad at 691.  TCP Horizontal Reign was the last team to make the cut, edging out TCP Machine by a mere 2 points. 

Bushwackers International ripped through their eight preliminary games never missing a max by more than 6 points.  They topped Division I with 770 total points.  Mantis Factory ranked second at 735 and Critical Paintball third at 689.  Nine points separated sixteenth ranked Faction from East Coast Underground.  Despite strong performance at the top of the division, bottom ranked Heaven n Hell, still managed a win in their fifth game, able to take home a tale of victory from Huntington Beach.

With only 25 teams scheduled and only 24 competing, the semi-pro teams each had a 67 percent chance of making the quarterfinals – pretty decent odds compared to the 22 percent chance afforded to D-III teams.  That said, the eight games of the prelims still sent semi-pro teams home.  Dynasty Dynamics ripped through their games undefeated, topping the group with 785 points.  Second ranked A Team, was also undefeated at 771 points although one score of 96 was an average of their other games filling the place of a forfeit.  Third ranked NXe Strange finished at 592, showing a solid performance lead for the top two teams.  Strange also had score from a forfeit but only received 95 points, as a team is given 95 points or the average of their other games, whichever is higher, for a game that their competitor forfeits.

The pro teams started their games on Saturday.  The pros only on the weekend format used in the Super 7 ensures that all of the pro games are available to be seen by spectators who can’t make it to the tournament on a weekday.  The 18 pro teams were split into two groups of nine, with each team playing all of the other teams in its group, for a total of eight preliminary round games.  San Diego Dynasty, the team that has won the Super 7 World Series every year it has been held, topped the first group, playing undefeated through the prelims for a total of 776 points.  Following behind them at 518 was Oakland Empire, with Los Angeles Infamous at 496 and New England Hurricanes at 477.  With the top four teams from each group advancing, that finish cut the Ironmen at 448.  Pittsburgh All Americans were next at 430, St. Louis Avalanche at 426.  London Nexus only pulled one flag during the prelims finishing at 145, still ahead of the Philadelphia Assassins –13, earned with no credits for flag pulls and a –100 game score generated by a ramping gun penalty.  In the second group, it was Sacramento XSV on top with 767 points followed by Miami Rage at 594, New York NRG at 529 and Portland Naughty Dogs with 517.  The cut knocked out DC Arsenal at 427 points, Chicago Evil with 361, Anaheim Sedition at 318, and Stockholm Joy Division with 268.  OC Bushwackers finished the prelims with no flag hangs at 69 points.

Sunday morning the teams again took to the artificial turf that topped the sand of the tournament’s fields to play out the quarterfinals.  Division III through semi-pro quarterfinalists were all divided into groups of four teams each, to play three games – one against each team in their group.  The top team in each group would then be selected to advance into the semifinals, and be one of the final four.  The quarterfinals eliminated three fourths of the contending teams from each division.  The surviving quarterfinalists were then ranked by their total scores to determine their seeding into the semis.

The quarterfinals reduced D-III down to Tag, Trouble, No Limit Indecent and Extreme Extractors.  D-II was trimmed down to Island Breed, Ballistic, Stoned Assassins and The Outfit.  D-I was led by SD Aftermath followed by Critical Paintball, Redz OA Mayhem and Faction.  The Semi-Pros were topped by A-Team Impact, California Bushwackers and Miami Raiders.

The pro quarterfinals were more arduous.  All eight of the pro teams played each other.  For teams that had been in the same prelims group it was their second time to face off, but the first time to play teams from the other prelim group.  No team made it through their seven game set without losses, a testament to the strength of the teams in the group.  That the top two slots would be occupied by Dynasty and XSV was a foregone conclusion to anyone who followed their finishes over the 2005 season.  Sacramento XSV was the points leader at 584, followed by San Diego Dynasty at 521.  New York NRG ranked third with 517 points and Miami Rage fourth with 324.  It was a 79 point break along the cut that put Los Angeles Infamous in 5th place for the tournament.  Portland Naughty Dogs 243 points earned them 6th place.  New England Hurricanes finished 7th with 238 points, and Oakland Empire in 8th with 208.

From the quarterfinals, the teams moved into the semis.  In this round the top ranked quarterfinals team played against the lowest ranked team, while the second ranked played the third.  Teams faced a best two out of three game competition, with the winners facing each other in the finals to decide first and second, and the losers being matched up to battle for third and fourth place.

In D-III Tag won their first game against Extreme Extractors, but lost the second two, while Trouble won two in a row against No Limit Indecent.  In the finals No Limit Indecent won their first game, but the second two went to Tag for third place.  Extreme Extractors fell twice in a row finishing second against first place Trouble.

Division II semifinals pairings were both over with back to back wins – The Outfit over Island Breed and Ballistic defeating Stoned Assassins.  Stoned Assassins tied their first finals game with Island Breed, but won the next two, securing third place.  Ballistic beat The Outfit, but then lost the next game.  They rallied for the third and won, finishing first place with The Outfit in second.

Like D-II, Division I had decisive semifinals – each pairing over in two games.  SD Aftermath fell to Critical Paintball and Redz OA Mayhem fell to Faction.  In the finals SD Aftermath posted back to back wins, taking third place from Redz OA Mayhem.  First place Critical Paintball did the same to second place Faction. 

Semi-Pro A Team knocked down Miami Raiders twice in a row in the semis.  Impact tried the same against California Bushwackers, but lost their second and third games.  Miami Raiders won their first finals game against Impact, but the second game neither team managed a flag pull or hang – Impact won on body count.  The third game also ran down the clock – no pull or hang, but this time Miami Raiders won on elimination and live player points, finishing the tournament in third place.  California Bushwackers won their first finals game, but the A Team turned it around, beating them for the next two games and taking home the first place trophy.

The pro semifinals and finals and finals were of course the center of attention, marking the culmination of the tournament.  San Diego Dynasty took down New York NRG twice in a row.  Sacramento XSV beat Miami Rage in their first game, but the second game went to Rage.  The last nail-biting game ran down the clock with no flag pull or hang.  The body count gave the game to XSV with a score of 18 to 16, just one more XSV player eliminated would have put the finish in Rage’s favor.  As it was, Rage was sent to play New York NRG in the finals.  Rage lost the first game, but won the second.  New York NRG won the third game for a third place finish. 

The big game was the finals match between 2005’s series champions, San Diego Dynasty and 2005’s second ranked team, Sacramento XSV, the match that would determine first and second place for Huntington Beach, and the first and second ranking positions until the next event.  The first game, XSV took down Dynasty.  XSV shot out all of Dynasty’s players and got the pull and the hang, only losing two players in the process.  The second game the win again went to XSV with a complete elimination of Dynasty, the pull and the hang, and only two Sacramento players in the dead box.

This first place win was quite historic for the NPPL Super 7 World Series.  Not only was it the first time any team but Dynasty had won Huntington Beach, it also marked the first time that Dynasty was not the top ranked team in the league.  The next shot at series ranking points would come May 19-21 on the grounds of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

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