Sunday, September 29, 2013

It's Vegas Baby! : 2013 NPPL Championships

While the tourist board for the city of Las Vegas promises that 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more) the NPPL is surely hoping  that doesn't prove true of their upcoming event. Registration closed "officially" last Friday and the event begins this coming Friday and the team list indicates 73 teams are on board including a handful of 3-man teams. It's hard to tell if the list is accurate as to the actual turnout given that rosters are missing in many cases and it isn't clear if inclusion in the registration list means their entry was paid. An accurate count will come when the schedules are posted.
'Pro' has 12 teams for Vegas and includes 3 new teams (although TCP Machine played their prelims last event in a combined pro/semi-pro bracket.) The big move came in the semi-pro (D1) division as 11 teams have joined the fray this time around. At a guess I'd say they were largely motivated by the limited competition and the opportunity to play the Race To variant of 7-man. D2 is very thin again with only 4 teams but that's an improvement over the Chicago event. The biggest numbers, as is the norm, come from D3 & D4. Although given that D4 also offers a 5-man Race To format there is a certain irony in the fact that less than half the teams signed up to play are competing in the traditional 7-man format.
It will be interesting to see how the league handles the logistics of the set-up. While the fields are fixed they will still need to deal with paint and a few vendors as well as staging, etc.
If you've been to the NPPL website you may have noticed the league has "partnered" with UStream to provide their latest webcast. UStream also provided the bandwidth for the Valken Cup broadcast if you happened to catch of any of that. UStream is a delivery system. It delivers whatever content its partner (customer?) provides. In the case of Valken Cup it was two camera angles showing two out of sync halves (more or less) of the same field with ambient sound. If you want to see what the NPPL delivers you'll have to tune in and check it out. I'ma try to catch some of the action but like many of y'all I'll be on the grind getting ready for PSP World Cup.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mr. Curious: Lining Up The Dominoes

Even as we approach the final push for World Cup Mr. Curious says the phone lines are burning up with calls soliciting players for Art Chaos. If you missed the last post on this look here. Rumor has it the Big 3 Russians from Heat aren't the Big 3--they are the Big 2--as Sergey won't be making the jump. While no official announcements have been made--or are likely before World Cup--word is at least one [and perhaps 2] Ironmen have been lined up (and one of them is making a few calls of his own.) As suggested before at least some old Philly Americans were at the top of the list and have been contacted but it appears a wider net is being cast. Mr. C says players from a number of teams have been contacted including Dynasty and X-Factor. Of course Kyle Spicka already plays for AC in the MS and is rumored to be on the list too along with another young Dynasty player. Word too is that Damage has acted proactively and locked up its players for next season already. Mr. C has heard a few names but intentionally chose not to reveal them because no official word has been released and it wouldn't be fair to those players or teams given the proximity to Cup.
When official word begins to leak it will be interesting to see how the teams that lose players respond and if it engenders a bidding war that may tear other teams apart.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Baca's Mailbag: Champs & Challengers

From our pal Devon:  What teams are you expecting to see move from D1 into challengers ... 
and how do you think they will do? 
Also what challengers will be champions come the first event next year?

I admit to having only a passing familiarity with the D1 teams so the best I can do is go by the numbers and past performance. Given current rankings (and results) VCK appears very likely to move up with only Revo, Boom & Red Storm in the running for the other spot. Boom has been consistent but Revo and Red Storm have been improving. Right now whichever of Revo or Boom that finishes highest at Cup will take the second spot.
If you mean their results, I think they would be doing very well to finish middle of the Challengers or higher. How they do as a team though will depend on their expectations, leadership and team cohesion. Unrealistic expectations will begin to tear them down from within as will unsatisfactory results. The key is to approach each event as an opportunity to learn and grow and improve by focusing on a series of achievable goals within the process. Only strong teams can survive. Challengers is both reward and the next challenge and it will be difficult.
Assuming the league doesn't modify the process it will be the TonTons and somebody. In all likelihood it will be Vicious. It is clear from this season's results Vicious (and Upton 187) are the Challengers who are closest to delivering consistent Champions level play. All the rest are at present pretenders although I like the potential of both 'Shock and Royalty.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Very Special The Monday Poll--on Tuesday

Aight, I might as well 'fess up upfront. It ain't really special. Nothing special about this post. It's all about the presentation, the packaging. A little lesson in there somewhere for the kids from Valken. If you build it they will come. Um, no they won't. Not if they don't know anything about it. In this instance 'special' doesn't mean special, it's just part of the title. Kinda like when you see the word 'real' on any can of aerosol cheez spread. It doesn't mean the contents have anything in common with an actual dairy product. It's part of the product name. Sneaky, ain't it?
Which reminds me VFTD has a very special consumer warning to share with y'all. (See, I did it again.) To all you iphone fanbois--do not, I repeat, do not test how well that new (and fake) waterproofing app works by submerging your phone. It isn't real! The app, that is. You've already been fooled once, don't get fooled again.
This week's poll provides you the opportunity to recommend ways the PSP can improve their events. Bring back the Masters division. Bring back Masters and make it R2-2. Include 10-man at every event. Offer 10-man as Open & Amateur when available. Include a Cali event every year. Have the top Challengers play the bottom Champions in order to move up. PSP Huntington Beach. Restore the 6 event season. You will be limited to one vote so make it a thoughtful and well considered decision. Next we'll review the results and during the week I will withstand another verbal drubbing from our friends at the PSP for continuing to be a rabble rouser. (I'm the rouser, you're the rabble.) Until next time.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Valken Cup: Half Full or Half Empty?

If a tree falls in the woods and there's nobody there to hear it does it make a sound? I suppose answers may vary depending on how tight one's grasp on reality is but there's only one answer to this next question. If a paintball industry leader hosts a unique invitation only event billed as the search for the world's best all-around paintball team complete with big money prizes but fails miserably to promote it does anybody care? The answer is not so much.
How do I know? Because it's happening right now. In fact it began yesterday. It's the Valken Cup. If that's news to you you're not alone. By invitation only 19 teams (that showed) are battling it out for world domination and the fat prize money. It appears at first glance that most of the teams that showed up were in the neighborhood (Left coast)--well, okay, Impact is there too as is X-Factor with at least a partial roster but the big money on offer didn't result in a big turnout. At least not one of high profile "pro" level teams. (Very likely conflicting sponsorship obligations come into play but even so.)
Part of the problem is probably the timing, given that the NPPL Las Vegas championships are right around the corner--I typed that with a straight face--as is the PSP World Cup with the Millennium's version of Cup having been held last weekend. For all but the jet-setting few it's an impossible schedule. The other part is the wretched job Valken has done of promoting their event. (I mentioned it in August and may be the only online paintball-related website to do so. Well, that's almost certainly an exaggeration but think back and try to remember all the press releases, social media blitz and forum threads dedicated to the Valken Cup. Can't, can you?)
Now that you know it's happening you can get some info at the Valken Sports Facebook page and at pbpromotionslive which has the daily schedules and scores. Yesterday was 5-man "woods" which were played on rec fields at the host site, Camp Pendleton's Paintball Park near San Diego. Today is 5-man pump on an airball field and tomorrow is straight up speedball. The team with the best combined score wins.
Just goes to show that having a pretty cool idea, 3 formats in a single event, fronted by a major industry player willing to pass around the cheddar doesn't automatically equal lots of high profile publicity or public interest (or even paintballers interest.) Me? Normally I'd be all about it but c'mon, it's Flugtag today!

Friday, September 20, 2013

VFTD Slacker Repost: Xball: Gunning & Running Drills 1

Listen up, Buttercup. I've decided to break the drills into two groups; individual and/or pair and team. This week is the individual drills. It's best to work with a friend (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here) so there's somebody around to motivate you and keep you honest because we both know you're a slacker.
Here’s the deal. There is no magic formula. These drills will get you started but you only get out of ‘em what you put into ‘em. The focus this time is on bunker runs, suppression fire OTB and using edge control to initiate movement.

1) Let’s start with a simple warm-up. You’re gonna need some simple targets–a few empty plastic gallon (or however many liters you Eurokids use) jugs and assorted length 1-inch PVC pipes will work. Easy version first. Put one of your targets behind a bunker. Any bunker. Put yourself behind another bunker and on a go command make a bunker run. Don’t run wide. Run at the bunker, moron!
Did you miss? ‘Fess up. You missed. Do it again. You stumbled. Again. Don’t slow down. Again. You run like a drunken hippopotamus. That big old jug ain’t so big after all, is it? Do it from the right. Do it from the left. Do it over and over. Tuck in your elbow. Now do it some more. Keep your barrel tip up. Run at the target bunker and have your drill partner tell you which side to run past at the last moment in order to force you to switch hands sometimes. Hate it yet? You’re just getting started.

2) Time to add a bit of difficulty. Place at least three targets behind bunkers at different elevations arranged so that you can run a path between them. That’s right, make your run at multiple targets and switch hands as you go. Boy, do you look like a dork. Try it again. Think you’re getting the hang of it?
Have your workout partner set up the targets for you so that you don’t know exactly where they are behind the chosen bunkers. Seem too simple? Then you’re gonna feel pretty inept when you either miss ‘em or have to stop running in order to hit them, aren’t you? Are you deaf or just stupid? You don’t get to quit until you get it right. Better try Reball next time cause you’re gonna go broke using paint at this rate.
(And for you slow learners it’s acceptable to go slow at first if you need to in order to be accurate. You could be as fast as the Flash but if you can’t hit squat you’re still a loser. Go as fast as you can without sacrificing accuracy.)

3) Now that you’ve warmed up a bit and got the blood circulating let’s pick up the pace. Take your targets and place them behind bunkers at the opposite end of the field. At breakout distances. On the go call break out and run and gun yourself into your chosen primary. Pick different primaries that require different routes as you repeat the drill. And pick different target lanes. Keep mixing it up. Are you starting with your gun down and back? Why not? Are the refs gonna let you do it differently from everybody else? Is that it? No? Then make sure you go thru the correct motions in every detail as you repeat the drill.
I’m getting tired of repeating myself. From the left. From the right. If you aren’t hitting the targets or at least putting your paint on the right lane you are wasting my time and yours. Is the player looking to lane your ass into the deadbox gonna come off his edge if your paint isn’t on target? So do it again. I said run and gun. Not walk and shoot. Pick up the pace. Which one is your off hand? Run the drill from your off hand side 3 times for every 2 times you run it from your dominant hand side. No more excuses. Run it again.

4) I’m gonna cut you a bit of slack. You and your training partner begin in the starting boxes at opposite ends of the field. On the go call one of you will be the sweet-spotter and the other will run and gun. (If you've been paying attention you've seen a version of this before. That's because I love this drill. And you will do it until you love it too.) Take turns. The object is to suppress the sweet-spotter in order to make your primary. Run left. Run right. Again. Again. I know you’re getting fatigued. Focus. These are the situations where you begin to make real, enduring progress. If you can perform when you’re mentally and physically tired you just might make a real baller after all.

If you don’t have a whole or complete field available, improvise. Make adjustments. Do I have to tie your shoelaces and wipe your nose for you, too?

5) Okay, almost finished. For this one you and your training partner choose mirror bunkers that are insert bunkers that lead to other, wider field positions. Begin blind behind your bunker and on the go call the object is to gain edge control over your opponent and run and gun yourself into your next bunker as you rotate out to a wire. By now you should know the drill. (Yes, that’s a joke. Feel free to take a second to laugh.) Do it from the left and the right. Start in a standing position. Begin from a kneeling posture. With this one you either get the job done or you don’t. There is no "I tried." Either you succeed or you fail. Regardless you’re getting a taste of what is required when the paint is flying for real.

Now hit the showers. You stink.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Federations, Legitimacy & the *real* World Cup

This seems an appropriate moment for a more serious take on this subject given some recent comments received. First however let me suggest that if you have no real interest in this topic--and why should you?--feel free to skip this one. Honestly I wouldn't blame you. Whatever ultimately happens is unlikely to effect the great majority of tournament players much one way or another--except to perhaps cost you a few extra bucks in the long run but that's pretty much inevitable in this sport. Whatever happens probably won't effect me either, so why bother?
It's no bother really. I discovered a long time ago that if I was interested in intelligent conversations about competitive paintball I would need to start them myself. So here we are.
Let me clarify a couple of things too before I get down to it. I am not opposed to the idea of international paintball cooperation based on a federations model. I'm not even opposed to the notion of a *real* World Cup that has national teams competing against one another. Nor am I opposed to someone else leading the federated parade (wherever its going.)
But I do have questions. (Another thing I learned a long time ago is that those ostensibly in charge generally don't like answering questions. It makes them feel accountable.)
Before I ask my questions though a little history review is probably in order for those unfamiliar with the last decade or so of major league paintball and the efforts to popularize, legitimize and televise competitive paintball. (Because all three efforts share one thing in common; to deliver the lion's share of the winnings to the winners. And if you hijack the game in the process it's easy to rationalize that it's being done for the general good when it's gonna be so good for you.) NPPL 1.0 (Pure Promotions) envisioned their league as the center of the paintball universe and ambassador of the game to the world and strove mightily to gain a foothold in TVland. To an extent that was fine, their dime their risk, but if it had worked it would have left everyone else on the outside looking in, including the pro teams that are the product the game is selling. The NXL effort was modeled after professional American sports leagues so the status of the teams and the players was resolved but, once again, a limited group controlled everything. (Of course at the moment paintball succeeds on TV the "winners" lose all interest in amateur paintball completely. And at the end of the day the great majority of players aren't affected much one way or the other.) The federation model being espoused by the EPBF (primarily) is a different animal altogether. If it is accepted and continues to draw in countries, tournament series, etc. it necessarily draws in the vast majority of the competitive players as well--whether they like it or not. The counter to this is that the federations function on multiple levels and operate as democratic organizations thus projecting the will of the majority if nothing else. Besides, much of the world's sporting organizations are structured this way so paintball should follow suit.
But there may be differences between appearances and reality and that is where my questions begin.
When, where and how many European national federations gathered to agree on the formation and structure of the EPBF?
Which European national federations voted in the current executive board? When and for how long a term?
What are the by-laws (charter) of the EPBF? Where can the public or at least member federations access them?
Has the EPBF contacted any of the international umbrella organizations (like Sport Accord) about membership?
That's just for starters.
Is it possible despite an unconventional beginning that the effort to build international federations is completely on the up and up? Of course.
Is it possible that the EPBF is being used to give an imprimatur of legitimacy to the Millennium Series given that control of the EPBF is dominated by MS board members? Could be.
Is it possible that both are simultaneously true? Or that those used to holding the reigns of power resist giving them up?
Call me cynical. (I've been called much worse.) But what is the EPBF really beyond a website claiming to be the final authority in competitive paintball in Euroland run by the same guys who have been running things for years?

Monday, September 16, 2013

CPS Milan

I can't decide what I think of this layout but I can tell you the first important decision to be made is whether to run or shoot OTB. (The correct answer of course is to run AND shoot.) With Home as an SD oriented like that there is little to no cover provided to one much less two shooters despite some decent lanes. At the same time the gaps are enormous so getting wide could prove difficult (relatively high risk) and unlike the Paris-Chantilly layout your primary insert options are limited. So the first order of business is to decide what to do. You must make an effort to control your opponent's breakout so you must find ways to effectively lane OTB. You must also keep your opponent honest which means you will have to attack the wire OTB often enough to keep them guessing.
Pro Hint: Run coordinated pairs. For example, player A is running for D1. He stays low and takes as straight a line as possible. Player B runs and guns the corner trailing the D1 runner attempting to disrupt the shooters laning for his teammate. Alternatively if your opponent has been consistently laning for the D1 runner send the corner runner first and trail the D1 runner. The primary shooter will elevate his lane when he sees the corner runner and the trailing D1 runner goes low under the adjusted lane.
For examples of how and where to find lanes OTB look at the red dots near the Home bunker. Snake side lanes are more accessible closer to the start than the Home bunker and there is also limited dead zone space behind the Pin to work with. On the dorito side the best lane (if any of your shooters can put it in place quickly enough) is tight to the wire side of the MT in order to catch both or either wire or corner runners. the wider the lane the greater the divergence between the two running lanes. There is also a much larger dead zone on the D-side that will allow you to set up lanes to either side of the field as needed.
Pro Hint: as a general rule when using a dead zone if you slowly move toward the wire before (sidestep while laning) making your break to your delayed primary you will avoid most attempts to counter your laning. (A player's natural tendency is to shade back toward Home if counter laning gets close and that more often than not only increases the likelihood of getting eliminated.)
Find a variety of OTB laning positions and incorporate them into your breakout plans but remain flexible enough to adjust the shooters positions (or lanes) if or when your opponent catches on.
The orange surrounded CK illustrates how many useful lanes exist in this snake. Bumping to snake 3 is a tougher position to play without gaining a lot and also increases the risk of being rundown. (I'm not advocating staying back in snake 2, only pointing out if the point bogs down or you are down on numbers snake 2 may be the place to be.)
The corners (in red) have real value but the D-side is less important than the snake side corner. The snake side corner is the only contain on snake movement. The average player will tend to play this position conservatively but whenever possible it should be played on your feet in order to attack both sides of the mirror corner, the insert MR and the MT. Obviously this needs to be done carefully but the improved elevation makes the corner much more effective and dangerous to your opponent too.
The MTs (in purple) can be doubled if or when you are having trouble getting players wide. Doubled up the MT's allow for secondary rotations to the corners or the wires using the wire player to help suppress the opposition.
The upfield MD (in green) at first looks isolated but it does offer enough options to be playable. The MD has contain lanes to both wires and may be more effective shooting snake side because there are fewer counter lanes. When shooting D-side the MD can be aggressively countered from the corner Can and MT but early in a point taking the MD allows a player to lane the gap feeding D1 and the corner. From the MD it is possible to move upfield to the Can or A and it is also possible to make the move to the wire as well.
Pro Hint: If the D-wire is your opponent's weak side and your opponent(s) have moved to the wire (D1 and corner Can) it is an easy rotation from the MD to either the T or D1 to counter.
In closing note the blue arrow with branching sub-arrows that illustrate a good, easy run to the center of the field or the MD or the Can. Note too that both sides of the A can be played OTB in order to cut down rotations to the wire (even though a Pin partially obstructs the gap feeding the snake.)

Since my comments for this layout are more abbreviated than usual if you have any questions concerning anything I've mentioned or that you are curious about feel free to put them in the comments and I'll respond in as timely a fashion as I can.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Not Like Riding A Bicycle

If only it were true. You know, the old adage that once you learn to ride a bike you never forget. Well, it ain't true and you do--forget. Not completely of course and past experience will allow you to regain a modest level of proficiency again fairly quickly depending on how good you once were but you don't immediately pick up where you left off. There is a difference between wobbling along down the sidewalk and pelting along the side of the road with speed and confidence. The same holds true for playing paintball. At least it does at a serious competitive level where the margins between success and failure are measured in millimeters and fractions of a second.
Then why do most of you prepare to compete as if the adage were true? As if once you've learned how to shoot your gun comfortably with either hand you can check that off your list and move on to something else. Or spend all your practice time on learning how to play a layout instead of first learning how to play. The real truth is, regardless of level, you can't even maintain a consistent level of performance (much less excel) without constant repetition of the fundamentals.
The ability to compete begins with the development of individual technical skills. (And the maintenance and improvement of those skills must continue as long as you compete.) But that is only the beginning. Further each player must learn the fundamentals of game play and that begins with understanding angles and the advantages (and disadvantages) involved in positional play. Next comes how one plays the game as part of a team and finally that team must build a belief and confidence in one another that the inevitable ups and downs of competition can't tear down. Short change or neglect any of those facets and your chances for success are diminished regardless of the level at which you compete.
More often than not, especially in North America, it is the measure of technical excellence that is allowed to slip away as if once learned it no longer requires attention. But wherever your weakness lies it is not like riding a bicycle. Rather it demands your constant attention and determination to outwork the next guy.
(Consider this not only a call to action if you need it but also a recognition of the very real limitations most compete under.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The View Before World Cup

1Feel free to pick your own favorite title. Be it the NPPL's World Championships, the Millennium's first ever true World Cup or the PSP's traditional World Cup all three events will be played within weeks of each other beginning with the Millennium's Paris-Chantilly event this coming weekend.
As everyone with a pulse--and an interest in competitive paintball--knows the NPPL is under new management and still struggling mightily. The Vegas event may have the second best attendance of the season but that's still only pushing 50 teams. And really, can anyone explain how staying in a dump like the Riviera on The Strip has any appeal to anyone old enough to take advantage of the entertainment available? At least before the tournament was right there--in a back parking lot--but still right there. And now that the league has sabotaged its own pro division the road to success is going to be a long and rocky one at best.
Of greater interest is the Millennium event north of Paris on the grounds of the Chantilly palace and museum complex. The league has been touting the virtues of the venue and its potential for reaching the non-paintballing public but who are they kidding? Only themselves. Sure, it's a lovely venue, even the horsetrack where the fields will be set up but is the gardens, museums and palaces crowd the ideal target demographic? Probably not. As for the players their idea of culture is Greek yogurt and a disco ball at the nearest strip club so I doubt there will be much cross over in that direction either. And despite the classy venue and (another) Nation's Cup tagged on to the proceedings attendance will be the second lowest of the season [but consistent with the Mediterranean Cup and Campaign numbers. The difference appears to be German teams attending the German (Bitburg) event.]
I also have a question or two about the national teams competition. Who picked the teams? The various national federations? If so then where did the U.S. and Canadian teams come from? And who is paying each national teams expenses? The whole event has the thumb's up stamp of approval from the EPBF (and the APPBF) but what about the UPBF or the NAPBF? And since the apparent definition of a World Cup is the participation of national teams why wasn't the first Nation's Cup earlier in the year also a World Cup event?
The weekend of the 20th of October is when the (other) World Cup will be held under the auspices of the PSP in sunny central Florida. It won't have any national teams or opening ceremonies but it will have the largest attendance and the best paintball teams in the world competing. Despite final numbers that will very likely exceed 300 teams it may prove to be less than expected. Current registrations total 330+ teams and given the consistently strong numbers this season the league was half expecting a turnout closer to 350 to 375 teams. And it could still happen but normally WC registrations come in early. There are those in the league convinced the webcast has been the primary cause of league growth but if WC doesn't sustain the numbers it leaves the hypothesis in doubt.
Can't we all just get along? Probably not. Formally laying claim to holding "the" World Cup poses a problem for the other World Cup even though Americans don't often pay all that much attention to what anyone else is doing. Using the formulations of international sport is a good way to get recognized as the representative of your sport even if your "elected" leadership are also mostly the Board of the Millennium Series and some of their business associates. And controlling national federations is a good way to protect your personal enterprises from competition. So while announcing the first true World Cup is the EPBF simply pushing its agenda or throwing down a challenge. Or both? And will that challenge be to join them or fight?

Monday, September 9, 2013

MS Paris-Chantilly WC Layout part 2

Back to the mind grind, kids. Here in part 2 we're going to build on the foundation laid in yesterday's post, part 1. The pale orange arrows indicate gunfighting lanes that will come into play on the occasions when each team is dedicated to that wire. More often one T or the other (and sometimes both) will instead be focused on playing the cross. And playing the insert MD is more complicated than a straight up gunfight as well given the variety of angles the opposition will use to contest the move into the snake. The better choice is to avoid the gunfight whenever possible and focus on the primary goal of pushing your lead into the snake. (Review the utility of the corner in delivering suppressing fire.) But when the corner can't be reached there are alternatives. The MD has most of the shots you need to make your move bu the MD is also the center of attention and many of the MD's shots are high risk--even for a strong player. Better to work in concert with a teammate and one good way to do that is from the orange highlighted CK that is mostly hidden (and forgotten) among the wire inserts. (It also may be used as an intermediary bump to the corner.) The CK has shots on its mirror, the MD, the corner Can, the insert T and from the low wrap, back center. (Note the blue and green arrows signifying the variety of primary and secondary moves available in the effort to access the wire. There are lots of combinations possible but all of them must go through the gap between snake 1 and the insert MD.)
The orange highlighted TCK has all the same shots and more, with better lines-of-sight but is a much higher risk position to take up early in a point. It is otherwise an ideal position once you have begun to press home your attack. In field-walking the competition layout and in your pre-event practice checking your lanes/shots and working out how the team (and various combination of players) will cooperate to press home the wire attack will be critical to your team's success.
Even with mismatched numbers due to eliminations OTB this layout has the potential to turn into a grinder of long slow points. A couple of ways to gain a dominating early advantage is predicated on how your team and T players approach making their primary moves OTB. (See the blue arrow and spot positions at the top of diagram B.) The blocking Pins that make it more difficult to edge the Home also provide some dead zone cover to players delaying making their primary move. For example the blue dot behind the Pin illustrates a wide open crossfield lane that used sparingly can, in conjunction will other laners, blow up one side of the field or the other. Additionally the same blocking Pin can provide cover from a Home shooter a nd allow a player to delay making his primary move in order to shoot an extra lane on that side of the field and follow it up by edging Home or edging Home in conjunction with a wide runner in order to take the Home shooter off his lane. And finally if your opponent fails to contest the primary move into the T's you should play one or the other or both on your feet, gun rolling to take almost immediate control of that side of the field and be prepared to press home that advantage. Of course these sorts of options only exist for confident well-prepared players and teams and if they aren't part of your teams arsenal you know where to begin your next practice..

Sunday, September 8, 2013

MS Paris-Chantilly WC Layout part 1

All modern field layouts are mirrored (each half end to middle is identical) but few are symmetrical (each half wire to mid-line is identical) and the fact the Paris-Chantilly layout is also symmetrical gives it some unique characteristics. Without a defined snake wire and/or dorito wire the expected tendency is for teams to play strong-side (the commitment of 3 or more players to one side or the other) toward their natural hand dominance. This means the strong-side will most often be to the right hand side of the field and since that is reversed for each team the match-ups will be strong-side versus weak-side (3 on 2) for each team unless a team intentionally chooses to break the pattern. [If you find yourself losing the simplest way to alter the pattern is to match strong versus strong.] 
While this layout follows the recent pattern of opening up the shooting lanes (especially the wide lanes) OTB it offers a nice counterbalance with more primary options than usual. On diagram A the basic lanes are in blue. Lane 1 is the perfect lane but odds are even your best laner isn't going to be able to get a consistent lane up fast enough to make that your basic OTB lane. (It can be effective however if your opponent routinely edges or holds a shooter back who later makes a delayed move to their primary.) Lanes 2 & 3 are both solid but now consideration must be given to what primaries you are attempting to deny. For example if you're shooting for a corner runner it becomes possible to dive under those lanes of paint further upfield. Take note of the purple lane. It is not passing through a blocking Pin, it is passing over that Pin. This is the ideal OTB lane for most situations if you have a player who can shoot it as it requires a taller than average player (or some modifying field condition.) But even if the shooter's vision is obstructed this is a lane worth looking at because it catches deep runners before their paths diverge and any diagonal upfield runners before they begin their dive and the blocking Pin placement is such that any taller player can easily shoot over it and downfield effectively.
The blue and green highlighted bunkers form the foundation of the basic breakout--at least I expect they will. The blue Home bunker can be played either direction as all the shots are identical. And either green T (aztec) can play the cross so that between them a strong effort is made to deny rotation into the the snake and to contest any snake player. 
Now let's revisit the idea of the strong-side and the weakside. Normally the side the Home shooter is playing would be considered the strong-side. (Two players breakout each direction and the Home shooter becomes the odd number.) But given the cross works from both sides it becomes possible to both disguise and shift the strong-side to either balance the field or press an advantage. The trick to making this fundamentally defensive set-up work is the mid-game transition to offense when either the Home player moves making a commitment to one side of the field or green T gives up the cross and commits to playing the wire. And this mid-game shift requires solid and consistent communication otherwise players will hesitate to act and/or be unprepared.
To close out today's post take a look a the red highlighted corner taking particular notice of the wrapping shots. An uncontested (unmatched) corner powers any effort to push that same wire and should be a focus both offensively and defensively. In part 2 we'll breakdown working toward the wire without a corner and the secret to taking command of a point right from the break.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Creating (Art) Chaos?

Mr. Curious says that the Art Chaos plan to enter the PSP next year continues apace even though the league cannot yet say just how or where the team will enter the ranks of PSP competitors. This is currently not thought to be a serious obstacle however. In the meantime rumors of the Russians currently rostered by Heat moving to Chaos are so strong as to be considered a done deal according to some. Additional rumors suggest AC will take a page from the old Russian Legion playbook with 5 or 6 Russian players augmented by 4 or 5 North American players and the preferred non-Russian players are former members of the Philly Americans like Jason Edwards, Ryan Moorhead and Tim Montressor. Given that they are former teammates of K-Fed it seems to make sense. There are no indications yet that any players have been directly approached much less committed to AC's PSP roster but if it were to happen it would blow up Houston Heat and have an impact on, yes, Impact and Damage.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Putting Out Fires With Gasoline

Here we go again. No Art Chaos rumorology today. Yes, I know what I said yesterday but trust me--this takes precedence. A breathless Mr. Curious contacted me this morning and said all hell was about to break loose over a post at PBN. After I stopped laughing I asked if he was taking painkillers--again. He assured me he was completely sober and this was serious. Impeccable sources told him Laurent Hamet put up post #662 (in the PSP forum thread pertaining to the TonTons hot guns at Riverside) and equally reliable sources informed him the PSP and Lane Wright personally were fit to be tied over the contents of the post.
Before going further we need to lay some groundwork. Yes, this relates to the TonTons hot guns at Riverside and the recent PSP statement regarding the incident and the league's final response. (The league forfeited the team's seed points from Riverside and put them on probation for World Cup. Neither of which affect the team's return to the Champions bracket at some point.) The post in question however does far more than object to the sanctions imposed, it directly accuses the PSP of ignoring all sorts of cheating and playing favorites among the pro teams. While not the first time some angry supporter has leveled such accusations it's the first time [in my memory] it's happened in public when the author was such a high profile figure in the sport (despite the fact it was posted anonymously).
So who is Laurent Hamet? He is the driving force behind the formation of the international paintball federations, an influential member of the Millennium Board, owner of Adrenaline Games (manufacturer of Sup'Air bunker) and former owner/player of the TonTons--among other things.
What did Hamet post? He begins by asserting that Lane is dragging the good name of the TonTons in the mud and that the virtually meaningless sanctions were unwarranted and amounted to a vendetta against the TonTons because Lane (and the league) doesn't want TonTons or any French team in the PSP. At which point he appears to threaten to pull the team from further PSP competitions. Then it gets good. He then accuses unnamed 'others' of using cheater boards and routinely shooting over 300 fps as the league turns a blind eye and offers as an example a short clip (apparently) pulled from a recent Ironman video showing Marcello adjusting his reg just before the horn sounded during what appears to be a match point. Next he claims there's routine game fixing going on as well and cites the Damage--Infamous match during the MAO prelims as a blatant example. And his final accusation was that some unnamed pro team captain told him at beginning of the year the league wouldn't allow either Infamous or Ironmen to be relegated and the aforementioned "fixed" match was proof.
(Today's words, boys and girls, are xenophobic paranoia.)
Besides being highly inflammatory and directed at the integrity (or lack thereof) of the league and its officers it is also something the league is taking very very seriously.
Let's look at the charges. Which league was it that restructured their pro division completely and invited the TonTons to participate in Dallas? Oh yeah, the PSP. The only time such a 'Wild West' scenario existed in the PSP was in the earliest days of electro-pneumatic markers and when the league became aware of the severity of the problem was the first, and for quite sometime, the only league to take meaningful steps to reign in such practices--and that includes the NPPL and Hamet's own MS. Then there's the video clip. Yes, it looks bad and the player absolutely should have been rechrono'ed but it isn't proof of anything except perhaps the same negligence that allowed the TonTons to reach Sunday play with creeping regs. First, there is no context. We do not know what instruction if any the player received from a nearby ref. We also don't know if the visible ref or another remotely checked the player's marker as that point began. We don't know if the player was turning the marker up or down. Second, it is routine practice on the pro field for reg keys to be tucked away where the players can access them if they need to when chrono'ed at the start gate. It is contrary to the rules but is a common practice that the refs are fully aware of. Note the player tossed the key back in the direction of the penalty box. Whatever the clip 'proves' it isn't rampant and ignored cheating. (For a reminder of the VFTD position on the Riverside controversy look herehere and here.) And the game-fixing claim. Let's look at the example given. It was the final prelim match on Saturday. The Sunday morning match-ups had already been decided as had Damage's seeding going into Sunday. They literally had nothing to play for--unlike Infamous. So where is the collusion? What did Damage have to gain? Damage has no ties to KEE and no love for Infamous. What team was affected? You guessed it, the TonTons. So apparently anything that doesn't go the Tontons way is somebody else's fault. (Projection much?) Which brings us at last to the secondhand accusation that neither the Ironmen or Infamous will ever be relegated. Well, it hasn't happened yet but Infamous has had to play three relegation games in four events so far and the Ironmen came within a hair's breadth of playing in two relegation matches. (If X-Factor had lost by less at MAO they could have taken the Ironmen spot and I assure you X-Factor didn't lose a match to help out the Ironmen.) Despite it's appeal to the conspiracy-minded the whole notion is preposterous.
The upshot of all this, according to Mr. C, is  the league will require concrete assurances the TonTons will show up for Cup. And there have always been elements within the PSP that have wanted to expand the PSP brand internationally that have, in the past, sparked occasional rumors about the PSP putting on events in Euroland. This could be back on the table. Additionally the league is seriously concerned about the stability of its relationship with Adrenaline Games as it relies (too heavily in VFTD's opinion) on them for bunker sets and have, in the past, made contingency plans to produce their own bunkers should the need or desire to do so arise. The potential fallout here could effect international tournament paintball dramatically and for a long time to come.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Apparently some upgrade to Google docs was blocking public access to the Dead Tree Archive of original View From The Deadbox magazine columns. If you attempted to access the archive and were unable to it is, once again, open to the public. Thanks to EC Lil Baller for letting me know there was a problem.

Is PSP Masters done?

In case you've been living in a cave (or believe Oklahoma D-Day is the greatest spectacle in paintball) then you might not know that the PSP has hosted a Masters division (for the old guys of paintball) at World Cup the last few years. Or that it appears there won't be a Masters division this year.
While admittedly never a big deal, in terms of participation, from day one the league got the Masters wrong by opting for a Race-2-4 format. (Largely at the insistence of a former owner who has been out of the game for years.) When originally proposed to the league it was as a Race-2-2 offering predicated on the idea that if it was a once a year just for fun opportunity for the older baller to have an excuse to come to sunny Florida and have some fun--then Race-2-2 would be less demanding, easier to get a team together for and cheaper to compete in.
Over the years there has been a small but loud Masters contingent that managed to put together around 8 teams every year, until now ... Without formal explanation it seems the Masters isn't worth the effort any longer. And that's understandable if unfortunate--but what about an alternative?
Looking at the numbers of registered Race 2-2 teams so far the numbers look a little thin to me. There's plenty of spots still available so what about, instead of canceling Masters without warning, the league offers Masters in the Race 2-2 format to see what happens? Sure, it's late in the day but if 8 teams of Race 2-4 Masters teams would have signed up there's 8 to a 12 potential Race 2-2 teams right there and who knows, with a little promotion, and a less demanding format maybe a new version of Masters can serve everybody's interests. Just a thought.

Tomorrow, Mr. C has the latest on Art Chaos and their plan to invade the PSP next season.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Richmond Cup Layout

I know, I know, I said it would the Millennium field layout--so sue me. (No, please don't.) Turns out our friends from Canuckistan are playing their 'real' Xball championship this coming weekend and requested VFTD take a look if I would be so kind--and being that kind of guy, well, here it is. As to the Paris-Chantilly layout--later this week.

For those of you unfamiliar with the CXBL it is played old Xball style, 25 minute halves and 15 bps. This matters because it affects the pace of play (a bit more methodical) given the extended time clock and lack of a race to element. As with any field using the 'technical' snake elevation is a critical consideration. Broadly, elevation is both a player's line-of-sight and height relative to the positions and players across the field. For example, a prop that allows the player to stand up offers a fuller field of vision and some line-of-sight, stream-of-paint advantages over players on their knees or tucked into the snake.
The top diagram (R Cup 1) illustrates the basic shooting lanes OTB along with the Home bunker's ability to counter the opposition snake reasonably effectively. The actual tournament lanes will need to be examined very closely as a few of these lanes depend on precise bunker placement and any deviation will alter those lanes. Note on the D-side the blocking Pin closest to the A can be shot over the top by any taller than average player and reach the back corner. It should also be noted that lane C (D-wire) is the least obscured lane but also the most difficult to execute and that alternative laning options to shoot the D-side should be explored--like the crossfield shots set-up behind the snake side Can & MT, for example. Expect teams to keep a Home shooter.
The middle diagram (R Cup 2) illustrates two competing characteristics of the design. The blue arrows show the diversity of primary bunkers available OTB. And the green fill in some of the possible secondary moves that follow. The way to take advantage is to very closely fieldwalk all the possible rotations and identify the opponent's positions that can contest your movement. These are your primary targets for elimination. (Note the best run to the A appears to be on the snake side but unless the opponent is routinely edging the back center or running & gunning wide it won't matter much. Also the early A-side play is as a counter to D-wire movement.) The thick orange arrows show blocked lines-of-sight that preclude direct gunfighting. This is particularly important on the snake side of the field as it will allow nearly free movement until a player reaches the T snake insert at which point the opponent can contest the gap with varying degrees of effectiveness. (See orange arrows and Home shooter lanes.) One effective way to respond to the layout is to have the T insert player turn his gun on the inside positions contesting the gap and slingshot a player from the MT into the snake. Alternatively a player in the corner TCK suppresses the opponents ability to contest the gap and the T insert player makes the quick bump into the snake. The key is to neutralize the opponent's ability to contest the gap.
The final diagram (R Cup 3) shows Home plus the basic support positions. By support I mean the bunkers the insert players use into the mid-point or longer (of a game) in order to help push the wire lead forward and keep the lead alive. The positions in red are the least contestable and consequently may be considered the best positions to play the support role from. (This is not necessarily always correct. Situational paintball can alter the standard equations and ineffective individual play can render moot positional advantages.) Those in orange can be contested directly and/or have limited ability to perform the complete support role. The blue indicates active or offensive support whereas the others are primarily defensive in nature. (I'll explain in a minute.) Why don't I show either Can as capable of laning crossfield? In the case of the dorito side Can because a player there can't see an opponent making the move into the snake until they are diving in thus they must maintain a near constant stream of paint to prove a useful deterrent to movement. It can be done but not very effectively for very long. The snake side Can playing the cross is essentially living behind the player's gun which is less than ideal. And should not be undertaken lightly. On the D-side the SD and Can are orange because they have limited ability to contain the opponent's movement and because they both are susceptible to suppressing fire from the corner TCK. On the other side the orange support positions have better contain lanes but may also come under even more aggressive fire from the snake corner TCK. And here is where elevation plays a critical role on this layout. The snake side MT can strngly counter the corner TCK, shoot the outside edge of the insert T and put paint on a player diving into the snake only when standing. Dropping to a knee or tucking in low and tight either reduces the laning effectiveness or takes it away completely.
When support players take up the blue positions their role becomes offensive in that the goal is to use those positions to help force their leads into wire positions and protect them as they are able. The other support positions are equally defensive in nature. Keep these factors in mind to use as keys to know how to respond to changing situations.
Finally take into consideration when you are either in close out mode or defending against the close out that there is a distinct limit to how far an opponent can move in your snake. If you know who the snake can shoot (and can't shoot) and can keep them in place with one gun then the greatest risk of losing the point comes from the D-wire.
Good luck to all the teams competing.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Monday Rant

There's a couple things on my mind today. I know, you should be so lucky. Allow me to clarify. There's a couple of paintball-related things I want to get off my chest, (Three things. English is a weird language. I've got something on my mind but need to get it off my chest. How's that work?) Nevermind.

As you may recall I have, in the past, been unkind to some paintball photographers in suggesting that purity of heart and possession of a camera don't a photographer make and despite all the bleating to the contrary limiting the presence of photographers at events was a good way to help support real photographers and materially improve the quality of their product. Well, today it's gonna be videographers. And I'm not even going to mention the musical choices that typically run the gamut from brain-damaging to soul-crushing. Look, I hate to be that guy but somebody needs to set the record straight. 80 or 800 disconnected clips of so-called paintball action do not a film make. Granted even a short clip can contain a lot of aesthetically positive values but alone or in aggregate those don't a film make either. They simply help shorten the already ridiculously short attention span of the average viewer. And possession of a video camera and a dream do not a filmmaker make. If you wanna make a film, even a short film, you gotta tell a story. A coherent chronological story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Simple as that--and yet obviously not so simple 'cus we almost never see real films or movies about paintball. Instead we get strings of clips, a special effect or two and the trendy soundtrack of the moment that assures even if it isn't cool it's loud. Enough already.

And there's Facebook. VFTD has a page and so do I. The problem is that you people, yes I mean you people, tend to treat them interchangeably or worse, you or the mindless drones behind Facebook pretending to be you are constantly inundating me with stuff I don't want to see and things I don't want to do. Nothing personal. Here's the thing. I am happy to friend like-minded paintballers on Facebook but that doesn't mean I want to play any Facebook games or join your groups or like the pages you like or do any of the myriad of utterly pointless time-wasters that are Facebook. So knock it off. Truth is I remove most of ya from my timeline too because I don't care what you had for breakfast or that the neighbor's dog kept you up last night. Sorry. (Okay, not really.) If on the other hand you want to contact me directly, with a question or just to say hello, I'm fine with that. I always respond to messages or you can post up on VFTD's page any time you like.

Tomorrow, the MS Paris-Chantilly field breakdown.