SpeedDart International and the Rise of Competitive Nerf

SpeedDart International and the Rise of Competitive Nerf

In 2022 the Dart Zone Pro Tournament was held at Endwar in Rochester, NY; and though it might not have had the best execution, it was very cool to see a larger entity put up a $10,000 first-place prize along with a livestream with multiple camera angles in order to show that this hobby can become a competitive sport. There are a few local competitive nerf organizations like Blaster Tag Association in the Bay Area that played King of the Hill, and Atomic Dart League in Georgia playing Ion Rush, which was the game format for Foam Pro Tour in 2019. They were fairly successful, but they never really ventured out of their local areas and clubs. SpeedDart International is a new organization that has made a competitive format to be played on an international scale for every club to use. The organization comes from a company called Black Raisins based out in Singapore. SpeedDart International began partnering with different clubs in the United States to introduce and test-run their game format before putting together a large event like the Foam Pro Tour. On Sept. 24th, at the Sports Domain Academy in Clifton, NJ, SpeedDart International presented themselves in a collaboration event with the United Nerf Ops; while I can’t speak about other competitive format games, this was really fun, and I really want to share my experience with SpeedDart.

The SpeedDart competitive format is a 5v5, single-life elimination game that ends when the round reaches three minutes or by hitting a buzzer in the end zones. Points are awarded at one point per tag and three points for hitting the opponent’s buzzer. Tags are counted as the player or anything on their body, including clothes, gear, and blasters. There are two buzzers in each team’s end zones, and they are specialized equipment made for SpeedDart. The buzzer ends the round, which means you can wipe out the opposing team for five points and hit the button for the three points for a total of eight possible points per round. The field was a 95’x95’ turf field with about 17 pieces of cover. Players are allowed to register with three blasters that average at or below the FPS limit. The matches are 5v5, with the base rules being an FPS cap, 60 darts per player per round (300 per team), with each round lasting three minutes. In one match, there are three rounds where two teams play and try to score as many points as possible in those three rounds. Every team played against each other in two matches, playing each team a total of six rounds. Once all the teams have played, the points are tallied up, and the winning team is announced. While I may be biased due to being on the winning team, this competitive format felt really fair because it rewards shooting skills and field awareness. 

The UNO x SpeedDart Scrim hosted three teams of five people to face off in a “round robin” tournament, the winning team being decided by the highest accumulated points. These matches went very fast; the high density of field cover let players move around the field more. This encouraged more aggressive plays. The field cover is intentionally angled so that you might be safe in one direction but more vulnerable in another, forcing you to either take out your opponent or move somewhere else. But more field cover made it harder to tell where your own teammates are, making field awareness a lot more important and making communication more difficult.

My team consisted of a Nightingale, Colonel Wasp 76, Woozi, Lynx, and a bolt action springer. We played with the Springers/AEG as back-row snipers and our flywheels pushing up. With this game format and field layout, we found that blasters with a higher rate of fire have a notable advantage, more so than blasters that hit the FPS Cap. I ran the entire event with my Nightingale (that I got from the Out of Darts’ Endwar Giveaway) and managed to do just fine while not feeling like I was outclassed. I’m really looking forward to getting a Momentum for myself to become my dedicated competitive blaster.

On the other hand, my teammate who used the Lynx admitted that using a springer felt pretty useless, and given the effective range, a flywheeler would’ve been just as accurate. Despite being outscored in the first two rounds of our last match, in the final round, we wiped out the other team and got the buzzer without losing anyone on our team. This awarded us the full eight points and snuck us into first place by only one point. If one of us had gotten tagged, it would’ve led to a tie with another team.

Of course, not everything about this gametype is perfect, and it has room for improvement. The way that SpeedDart is played allows it to be played at any FPS, which gives great flexibility to be run at any kind of event. The UNO x SpeedDart Scrim was played with a 220 FPS cap for both springer and flywheel blasters; there have already been discussions about shifting and balancing the FPS for Springers, Flywheels, and AEGs so that Springers can compete with the higher rate of fire blasters. But I’ve found that in the SpeedDart format, FPS doesn’t matter as much as mobility and rate of fire. The field is small enough where, unless there’s, like, a 100 FPS difference between springers and flywheels, a different FPS cap for either really isn’t going to matter. My Nightingale was hitting mid-120s in FPS, and I was still clearing a good chunk of the field with some angled shots. The amount of field cover and the field size definitely makes this a close-quarters battle where high rate of fire blasters are going to be much more effective.

Another topic of contention for competitive formats is the dart cap. Each team played with 300 darts per round – 60 darts per person per round, with two minutes to reload, swap sides, and mentally prepare for the next game. It’s recommended to have pre-loaded mags on the side for three rounds so that you can be ready for the next match. I only brought four mags with me, which led to me scrambling to reload my mags and be ready within the two minutes. I think 60 darts per player is a great sweet spot. It was enough darts to not worry about ammo conservation while also not feeling like people could just full auto without the risk of running out of ammo. Players are allowed to hand off mags to their teammates to redistribute the 300 darts amongst their team, but only after the round starts. This has been discussed to change, as redistributing ammo before a round can lead to different strategies amongst teams. But besides letting teams choose how they want to distribute their ammo amongst themselves, the dart ammo cap is at a great sweet spot that doesn’t need to change.

The last thing isn’t just for SpeedDart: having referees for competitive nerf is vital, but it's such a tough job. At the Dart Zone Pro Tournament, there was a lot of poor reception to how well the referees were doing. There were either not enough referees, or they just happened to miss tags. SpeedDart is supposed to have paintball referees, but there’s no way that’s feasible for many clubs. UNO x SpeedDart Scrim had two full-time referees and two-to-three volunteer players that weren’t playing at the time. It's not ideal, but since the only thing at stake was bragging rights, there isn’t a lot of incentive to cheat. It’s important to remember that the referees must pay attention to a lot on the field. They must watch closely for darts flying everywhere and players going out of bounds; it’s not easy. The SpeedDart rules say that you can’t call hits on your opponent, and only referees are allowed to call hits. In the first round of matches, the players felt that their hits weren’t being called, so in the second set of matches, the referees let the players call their hits just to see how it would go. Many players felt that this was a necessary compromise between the players and the referees as the SpeedDart scene grows and referees are better trained. But this further shows how important the referees are, and it is difficult trying to pay attention to so much happening so fast. We’re very thankful to the referees that we had at the event. 

So, thank you to Sports Domain Academy, the event organizers, our referees, and the players for making the UNO x SpeedDart Scrim what it was. While there are still some shortcomings, SpeedDart is a work in progress that had a great debut event for a new format of competitive nerf. Having an organization that is dedicated to pushing this hobby to a competitive level on an international scale is amazing to see. They’re putting in a lot of effort to form partnerships in other countries, like providing us with specialized equipment. They even gave our group SpeedDart merch and gear to raffle off to our players. With SpeedDart providing game equipment, unlike other competitive formats, the end zone buzzers gave us a sure way to know which team scored first. Apparently, this was an issue at the Foam Pro Tour and resulted in the referees having the final call of who won. Compared to the Foam Pro Tour, the higher amount of cover on the field with SpeedDart encourages players to play more aggressively and push up with less risk of getting tagged. This faster-paced and aggressive competitive format is intense while feeling fair and fun. The interest in competitive nerf has been stirring in the hobby so much more in recent months; with SpeedDart International trying to become the universal game format, I think it has the potential to become the competitive format for the hobby. - FoamShepherd

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I hope to start this in Greer SC in 2023!


This is amazing! Great to see this happening


Excited to try this with my local club. If FPT is the world cup, these are the leagues. So cool that competitive is branching out, time to wrangle my friends and form a team!


Excited to try this with my local club. If FPT is the world cup, these are the leagues. So cool that competitive is branching out, time to wrangle my friends and form a team!


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