Competitive Events & Brushless Releases: A 2023 Hobby Wrap Up

Competitive Events & Brushless Releases: A 2023 Hobby Wrap Up

Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2023’s hobby wrap-up! 2023 stepped up in a big way, with everything we got in 2022 and more. With multiple large-scale nerf events in the US, a slew of competitive games, and plenty of exciting blaster releases as well, I hope you enjoy this hobby recap for 2023.

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Before we get going though, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and recognize one creator in particular: On June 30th, 2023, Coop772 uploaded his last YouTube video and announced that after over ten years on the platform, he was retiring from creating foam-flinging content. Amassing nearly 950 million views, the impact that Coop772 left on the community was unmatched. Coop has a review for almost every blaster out there, and I’m sad that he won’t be able to review all the great blasters we’ll be getting in the future. Thank you so much, and we’ll miss you, Coop!

 

Events

2023 was great for large-scale community games -- for both HvZ and PvP. In the United States alone, the hobby hosted six weekends of flinging foam, including two brand-new events: Maryland Mayhem, PA Survival Fest, Endwar Weekend, Armageddon, APOC & BPOC, and Ragnarocktoberfest. Of those six events, I attended two of the ones closest to me: Maryland Mayhem and APOC.

Maryland Mayhem was a three-day event, with the Maryland Foam Tournament on Friday, the UMBC HvZ Invitational on Saturday, and 11th-hour casual PvP games on Sunday. It was an all-around 10/10 great event, especially as a first-annual collaboration between UMBC HvZ and the Maryland Foam Alliance. They’ve already announced their 2024 return this coming April, so definitely consider attending if you can!


APOC, the North East’s annual 300 FPS cap PvP event, was held in New Jersey at Cousin’s Paintball. With over 80 players in attendance, we pulled players from all over the country. As usual, APOC was held on the first Saturday of August, and though the weather is usually in the upper 90s, for the first time, we got perfect weather that didn’t cook us alive.

Additionally, with so many players coming from far away, it was decided to make their visit even better by adding a second day dedicated to competitive nerf. TNT Events hosted “BPOC” with help from our friends in the Maryland Foam Alliance and using their Flag Dash format.

Continuing with East Coast events, Endwar returned and was hosted at UNC Charlotte in North Carolina. It ran as usual, with FoamCon on Friday, HvZ Friday through Saturday, and the Foam Pro Tour capping off the weekend on Sunday. Due to the short notice changes to the date and venue, it had fewer attendees than in previous years, but it was said to be an overall improvement from 2022. I highly recommend listening to Five-Minute Respawn’s podcast about their experience of Endwar.

PA Survival Fest was another newcomer, intending to replicate Endwar 2018 and focus entirely on the Humans versus Zombies aspect of the event. Held at Mt. Aloysius College, PA Survival Fest also pulled great numbers for its first event, and plans are already in motion for its second in late May 2024 at Penn State.

 

Moving over to the West Coast, two major events returned from the (un)dead! Ragnaroktoberfest came back from a COVID hiatus with their famous “Stalking Dead” Humans vs Humans vs Humans vs Zombies game; Armageddon (APOC’s West Coast equivalent) was revived by BasicNerf, a community member whom we also have not seen in a long time. With both events being a success, I wish them more success in the future.

It is incredible to see six large-scale events in one year, with many players traveling across the country (or even internationally) just for this hobby. Thank you to all the moderators and teams in the background who made these weekends fun for us!

Maryland Mayhem and PA Survival Fest are high on my priority list for 2024 since they’re only a few hours’ drive, but many other events are also returning, so make sure to take a look at what is coming. You won’t regret it.

 

Competitive Tournaments

Another big part of 2023 was the competitive games that took place. It’s like playing competitive tournaments has been a bug that has bitten virtually everyone. Maryland Mayhem, BPOC, Endwar, and Ragnarocktoberfest all featured an entire day dedicated to their respective competitive formats, and other clubs and organizations continue to pop up throughout the United States.


The Blaster Tag Association King of the Hill Tournament at Ragnarocktoberfest was the first community competitive event that felt like an actual tournament a spectator could watch. They had a livestream with a multi-camera setup, a live updating overlay showing the timers and score, and live commentary with a rotating panel of hobbyists -- a real professional showcasing for the competitive aspect of our hobby!

I was fortunate to have TNT Events host competitive games locally almost every month, and it became a place to practice for my first-ever competitive event: the Maryland Foam Tournament. A big shout-out to TNT Games for not only hosting competitive games but also their insane effort in letting us learn different formats and rulesets.

Throughout the past year, I tried SpeedDart, MDFA’s Flag Dash, BTA’s King of the Hill, and San Diego’s Hotpot. While all these formats were great fun, by far, my favorite game type was BTA's King of the Hill. Again, a big thank you to TNT Events for hosting all these competitive games for us!

Finally, discussing competitive foam-flinging in 2023 wouldn’t be complete without NerfBall. Nearly a year after their teaser, Nerf finally announced their official pro-level game type in conjunction with the release of their pro-level Stryfe X blaster. Honestly, there’s not much I can say except to watch Luke's videos on the Out of Darts YouTube channel. His involvement and experience will say more than anything I could write here.


Seeing Nerf taking the lead with their own competitive format is so exciting. The Nerf Action Xperience is opening up soon in New Jersey, with NerfBall being one of the larger attractions, and I definitely want to try it for myself.

 

Blasters 2023

Every new year brings new blasters – both stock-class and pro-level. And ever since, the selection has continued to improve. From “The Mothership,” the Nerf Rival Pilot became super popular at the beginning of the year once the community found out it could easily take shells. Similarly, the Elite 2.0 Double Punch got points for its super cool gimmick, featuring a dual magwell and a binary trigger. I personally hope that someone will make a short dart kit for the Double Punch because it would make such a cool blaster for HvZ.

Finally, for their first pro-series offering, the Stryfe X gets solid performance out of the box, has a talon-compatible magwell, and includes a rechargeable USB-C LiPo battery, checking off all the boxes to be a great entry-level pro-series blaster.


We didn’t see as many Dart Zone blasters as in 2022, but the Dart Zone Max Outlaw was their standout for 2023. The Outlaw scores points for its 130 FPS performance, hammer prime action, and removable revolver cylinders, and it’s quickly becoming a community favorite for HvZ. I managed to find an Outlaw for $5 from a thrift store, and I like it a lot. Funny enough, a lot of previous Dart Zone releases have dropped in price. My favorite 2021 release, the Dart Zone Pro Mk-3, is on sale for $30, making great time to pick up some new blasters.

However, one of the absolute standout blasters of 2023 has to be the X-Shot Skins Pro Longshot. At only $30 at Target for a 140 FPS bullpup springer primary, It’s an absolute steal. The value proposition is even more remarkable when you could spend as little as $40 on mod parts to get it performing over 200 FPS. The “X-Long-Shot” is an absolute winner for the community and a very impressive showing for the first pro-series blaster from Zuru. I am eager to see what new pro-level offerings the big brand names will have for us in 2024.

Moving over to third-party blasters, the Worker Harrier, the Worker Seagull, and the XYL Unicorn have become very popular in a short amount of time. All three blasters are durable, injection-molded, pump-action springers that perform well, and they all fill a niche in competitive and casual PvP games at their respective FPS ranges. For around $100, The Unicorn has many especially great features, which makes sense given that the company received design input from Luke and from Valour of ValTek Armory.

Both online and on store shelves, the barrier to entry for this hobby keeps getting lower every year and continues to draw in new players. I, for one, look forward to what injection-molded blasters 2024 will bring.

 

Brushless 2023

This last part that I want to cover is my favorite. 2023 was the year for brushless flywheel blasters. After their debut in 2022, I thought that AEBs (automatic electronic blasters) would make a huge impact in 2023. Much to my surprise, AEBs have kept their head pretty low, and instead, brushless flywheelers made an impressive comeback. After long being unavailable to the general public, and as competitive foam-flinging has been gaining popularity, so has the demand for new brushless blaster options.

Momentum is a blaster built primarily for competitive play; it is compact, snappy, accurate, and can hit up to 200 FPS. I purchased my Momentum in the first wave, and I love it. On the other hand, the SPAMF But Flywheeler (SBF) is a super-stock brushless blaster that virtually anyone can get their hands on, including by purchasing a hardware kit. It even has a built-in tracer and BCAR. And while they are expensive, the time and skill needed to design and build these blasters make them entirely worth their premium price. Thanks to all the creators for spending the time and effort building these for the community to enjoy.

Conclusion

So, that was a quick recap of 2023 for our hobby! We had six large-scale events, and the push for competitive tournaments has never been stronger. Equally, the release of new blasters -- from fun favorites like the Outlaw and Double Punch to competitive springers and brushless flywheelers -- made 2023 feel like a big success for the community. Here’s to an equally successful 2024. - OnlyFoamDarts

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4 comments

I wonder if the SBF is more accurate than Momentum?

David Randall

#DudeBros4evr
#WeWillMissYouCoop!

CD Thompson

Can’t wait to get into this! Come March, I will have been in this hobby (at least taking it seriously ) for one year.
2023 was a fantastic year, I did not make it to any events due to being 16 and unable to play, and of course, traveling is difficult.
I am hoping to attend more events in 2024, and hope to meet Luke and my favorite Nerf YouTubers.
The Nerf Stryfe X was an amazing step for Nerf, and I love mine. I heard that at least one new pro Nerf blaster is coming in 2024, and for under $60!!
Thanks to OutOfDarts for all the amazing stuff I’ve bought from y’all, and the amazing support team, especially Greg who helped me so much this past year with my modding questions.
Have a great year everyone!!

CD Thompson

It was helpful to hear a bit about Momentum and SBF, to help me compare the two.

David Randall

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