Drac Thalassa goes by the codename Lord Drac. Wearing mirrored sunglasses and a blue and white “Knights” jersey, he deftly leaps over a tire stack and maneuvers around a warren of wooden crates and concrete barrels before ducking for cover to dodge a barrage of foam darts zooming toward his head. Pinned down by enemy fire, he crouches low, dart blaster in hand, and takes stock of his attackers positions before plotting his next move.
Thalassa is not a character in a hackneyed video game or action movie, nor is he in any mortal danger. The self-described “nerf vampire” is a blaster-play YouTube star with over 600,000 subscribers. He’s also the captain of the Knights, one of five teams to watch in the newly minted National Blaster League.
Sponsored by the folks at BUNKR, a company that sells inflatable battlefield obstacles (those aforementioned oil barrels, wood crates, jumbo tires, and concrete blocks) that can be stacked together to create fighting positions or fortified hiding spots for Nerf battles, the National Blaster League is both a competitive foam-ball-and-dart league with real-life players and a full-fledged television (well, YouTube is the real-life incarnation of EPSN Ocho, right?) show designed to sell more inflatable battlefield obstacles to use at home.
In its debut season, the league comprises top talent from the online blaster community and players go mano-a-mano in “King of the Hill,” “Capture the Flag,” and other epic multi-player showdowns. The matches are all cut into eight-minute YouTube episodes that have a reality T.V. series feel, complete with pre- and post-bout shenanigans, player confessionals, and cartoonish commentators calling the shots. Think Dodgeball but for Nerf dart wars. It’s completely family friendly viewing and safe for kindergartners and elementary schoolers to binge watch, which is no doubt the intention. In fact, Ethan and Cole (ages 10- and 6-years-old) of the YouTube channel Extreme Toys TV steal the show in episode 2 by piloting blaster drone reinforcements to bail out Lord Drac’s Knights and clinch the victory.
As for the action on the battlefield, the goal is to blend real-world dart battles with video games and objective-based play. “Blaster play can be pretty chaotic,” says Casey Karls, a spokesperson for the NBL. “We are bringing some structure to it.” In addition to referees patrolling the playing field, similar to paintball, “we have game modifiers and power cards that are drawn by players before each match,” adds Karls. “For example, there’s a blaster swap card where a player can force an opponent to exchange blasters, and there’s also ‘teleporting’ where mid-game a card can be used to safely teleport a player to the flag or the other side of the field.” Body armor is another potent power card, allowing players to get tagged twice (take two hits) before having to use up one of their lives and re-spawn at their base, while the “Safe Zone” card grants players temporary immortality while they hold a position.
While the debut season, which kicked off this week and will air weekly until Christmas, was confined to professional players, phase two of the NBL will be open to the public ⏤ although it’s unclear how many teams will be added to the league or where the battles will take place. Originally, officials had envisioned national events moving around the country. That said, they are already accepting audition tapes for foam dart-firing fiends with a knack for nailing moving targets. Aside from showcasing your sharpshooting prowess and signature takedowns, tryout videos should be tagged @nationalblasterleague and include actual battle footage along with blaster tips. If you think you’ve got what it takes to join the illustrious ranks of the NBL, tap that itchy trigger finger here for the full instructions.