10-man. Revival of a world-class format, or novelty act?

10-man. Revival of a world-class format, or novelty act?

The 2021 paintball season marked the resurgence of teams and players from paintball’s yesteryear. Names that adorned the pages of magazines over 2 decades ago have begun to make their way back onto the scene through 10-man Mechanical events - The events they thrived in all those years ago. Teams like Image, Aftershock, Ironmen, and All Americans are bringing their alumni out of cozy retirement and thrusting them into competition. Are they dominating the leagues, harkening back to the success of yesteryear, or are they facing the challenges of adjusting to a new style of play?


The answer, of course, is the latter. The mechanical 10-man leagues have brought back the legends of paintball and pitted them against their peers, as well as the athletic, aggressive, runners and gunners of the NXL. Who has come out victorious in this endeavor? If you’ve been following paintball media, you are well aware that Infamous has swept the 2021 10-man Mechanical tournaments as if they haven’t had much competition. Infamous had an amazing winning season in the NXL, and they have effortlessly dominated the mechanical 10-man format.

Image. Aftershock. Ironmen. All Americans. Ground Zero. Misfits. Farside. Adrenaline. KAPP Factory. Master Blasters. Annihilators. A quick glance at these names would have anyone who played paintball in the 90’s and early 2000’s believe these teams would be the top contenders at any given 10-man tournament. Why is this not the case? While these legendary names in paintball have brought out their heroes from yesteryear, other teams have brought on top talent from the NXL. Some team’s rosters consisting mostly of NXL Pro’s.

Many patrons of the 10-man Mechanical leagues believe the NXL Pros have their place, and it’s in the NXL. If NXL Pros continue to play 10-man Mechanical, will the heroes from yesteryear continue to participate knowing they will be competing against people half their age who play every weekend? Will they lose interest in competing at that level? Were the 10-man events designed to give our heroes from yesteryear a venue to dazzle us once again, or show them they aren’t as good as they once were? Perhaps it’s somewhere in between.

In an email from ICPL Commissioner Jason Trosen, it looks like there are a couple main topics up for vote:

Number of NXL players per team:

  • Option 1: Continue with the current rules - Pro teams are allowed to have as many pro rank players as they would like but the combined pro players classification points cannot exceed 62,000.
  • Option 2: Pro teams may have up to 3 NXL pro ranked players.

Mechanical Marker Rate of Fire:

  • Option 1: Keep the current rules for mechanical markers.
  • Option 2: Try and create more restrictions on mechanical markers in an attempt to slow down the rate of fire. ***Note from Trosen: “As of right now I don’t have an answer on what this will entail. We will work with the manufacturers to come up with the best solution.”

We caught up with Jason Stylupla of Trademygun Outlaws who has played the 2021 10-Man Mechanical season with the OG Ironmen. Jason’s perspective is on the growth of the sport. 

“I believe that in a pro division you should be allowed to have as many pros (new or legacy) on the team. However, from a business perspective I think you’re going to see teams slowly start to fade away as they aren’t able to pull the same talent as others. As far as the future goes, I think they’ll cap the rosters with the number of pros on a team whether by points or some other fashion. I like the fact that they have expanded the lineup for the events and added an overseas event as well. Allowing for teams to venture overseas and compete with other ICPL teams that don’t normally see each other. The growth is good for the sport.”

Rodney Squires of Dynasty Alumni has been playing 10-man Mechanical since the beginning and had some strong opinions on the league:

“I heard the ICPL is changing the rules to only allow 3 NXL pros and I’m all for it. Otherwise you are making the ICPL just like the NXL. The idea for 10-man is unique in that you can have a group of guys go out and compete even if they are not playing every weekend like the NXL players. The ICPL was created because the league destroyed a huge demographic of players with the NXL. In 2003 when X-Ball was created, they alienated 50% of the player base because not everyone was a “super athlete”. In fact, most the guys funding teams had to participate in a style of play that had passed them. These guys may not be in the best shape, but they have a mind for the game still. The 10-man leagues should cater to those guys.”

Dirk Gadberry, captain of the OG Ironmen agreed with limiting pros and wanted to see more woodsball.

“The only reason I would like to limit current NXL pros is cuz not every team has access to the players. They tend to gravitate to a few teams. Hard for OG’s and weekend warriors to compete under current roster rules. 10-man needs to focus more on woodsball cuz hyperball didn't start until ‘97. And if that's the case we need to lengthen the games cuz it takes more time in the woods. I think that's why ICPL is going to 3 days at the major events. I say that cuz the league was only hyper for 1 to 2 year before going to 100% airball.”

Brandon Lambertson of SC Ironmen / Miami Effect / Infamous Alumni and Liquid Paintball shared an idea about an aged based league.

“There needs to be an age based mechanical league. Like the player points system but instead of points you have to have an average aged roster. I think that would not only encourage more older players to come out but it would help keep people from building “super teams” and turning the mechanical events into the very thing the these events were meant to be the refuge from….hyper competitive events. In an age based league you couldn’t simply pick the best players available and stack a team. You’d have to be creative building your roster and effectively use players that might not otherwise get chosen to a team, both young and old. It could be fun and good for the sport. Paintball is at its best when it’s not forced to conform to a single format identity.”

Whatever the leagues decide to do, the outcomes are pretty clear:

  • Do nothing? More NXL Pros will play 10-man mechanical. This isn’t a bad thing, but we may discourage the heroes from the past from playing the events. We may end up seeing the two formats jockey for the spotlight like we did with the NPPL vs. NXL in the early 2000’s.
  • Limit the number of pros on a 10-man roster? This solves the potential danger of older players losing interest in competing, but creates another possible issue. Can you call the league or players within it “pros”. Sure you can, but if EVERYONE is pro, then is ANYONE really pro?

In addition to the number of NXL Pros per roster, the age-old debate of ROF (rate of fire) is back. Mechanical guns such as the Emek, Shocker, and Luxe are not your daddy’s mechanical guns. Many players are capable of shooting them faster than the NXL’s 10.5bps, catapulting the ROF conversation back into the spotlight. This time, it’s a much more difficult thing to police. Rodney Squires added: “I think the rate of fire debate is pointless. It’s a mechanical gun, get over it. There will always be some kid who can fit his tiny fingers in the frame and walk the trigger. That doesn’t mean manufacturers have to change, it means the other players have to out smart the kid with small fingers.”

Still, It looks like 10-man is here to stay and the answer to the classification conundrum seems simple: Remember who created the demand for the 10-man mechanical events and cater to that demographic. Sure, they have to call it something other than “pro”, but a “Legends” classification doesn’t sound too bad. A “Legends League” sounds even better. Or perhaps the rules remain the same and more NXL pros join the fray, creating yet another battle of formats? Change looks inevitable, as a league cannot compete with itself. Can we just bring back paintball at the beach? Some free fruit and water would be great too, wouldn’t it?

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  • Colonel Sanders

    I’m too drunk to taste this chicken

  • Colonel Sanders (probably)

    I’m too drunk to taste this chicken

  • beer league paintball

    uncapped semi 300fps. everything else is nerf.

  • Mother Goose

    This year was a dream. Started with Woodsball World Cup in NY, ICC in PA and WINDY CITY ICPL at the Badlandz.

    I played with Team Fox, Veterans Militia and Legacy respectively. Legacy was last active in 2001 prior to 9/11. We were in our 20’s and 30’s having a blast playing 5 and 10 man around the Mid-West with cockers, Mags and Angels. Life caught up.

    We finally were able to get back together for the Badlandz and we had a blast. We got our AZZes kicked and we still had a blast. It was humbling. But with Father/Son and uncle/nephew on the team it couldn’t have been better.

    We’d like to hit some NXL but ICPL is far more laid back and a hell-of-a lot less expensive. Most of us are still shooting the cockers from 20+ years ago.

    Beer in the staging area and pits!
    See you on the field.

  • Harvey

    Here is the reality of the situation. This is called ‘pro’ ten man but the desire by those that brought back 10 man was to allow more to compete. Having super teams of 10 pro NXL players counteracts that. Lets face it a 50 year old who was pro 25 years ago isn’t going to compete against an 18 year old NXL pro…its just not going to happen. So here we go

    limit the pro teams to having 3 PRO NXL players…period. There are still a TON of pro teams that aren’t rostering a pro NXL player that may now have the opportunity to scoop up 3. This will lead to more parity within the teams. One team winning half the events isn’t good. Something needs to change and this is the most reasonable way to do it. Keep it simple, putting points into the situation goes against that keep it simple principle. Rate of fire is rate of fire. Unless we’re going to mandate people play with cockers and mags then people are going to use whatever gun lets them throw the most paint. Personally I think its great that trigger finger speed is again a skill. That left in the late 90s when Angels came on board and the BPS race was on. You can’t and don’t want to remove AMPs, Emeks, etc. when companies are creating markers for the new game in town. Mechanical is still mechanical.

    Play among all the teams…anyone who has been around can tell you about the days where you played Am B, Am A, and Pro’s in every division. KEEP THIS!!! This is classic paintball. It allows the lower divisions to see how they stack up. Separating the pro’s from the am’s is a bad move.

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