If Yankee Stadium is The House That Ruth Built, Major League Gaming (MLG) is The House That Halo Built. From its humble beginnings in a tiny LAN café on Manhattan's east side in 2003, the league has grown into North America's preeminent source for eSports competition, attracting the most highly skilled players from across the globe for tournament prize pools in excess of $100,000. Over its first nine seasons, MLG has moved beyond Manhattan across the Great Plains into Texas and California and north of the border into Canada, hosting Halo tournaments at massive venues like the Anaheim Convention Center for tens of thousands of spectators.
It's been a wild ride. Superstars like Ogre 2 and Tsquared have carved their names into the annals of MLG lore, forever altering the way the American public perceives the professional gamer. What was once considered only a hobby for pimply-faced basement-dwellers has morphed into a viable career path for thumbstick warriors across the country. With Halo 4 beckoning from the November horizon, let's recall some of the most iconic moments from Halo's history on the MLG Pro Circuit.
5. Carbon upsets Final Boss on national television, 2006
In 2006, MLG and USA Network inked a deal to air seven, hour-long tournament rebroadcasts on Saturday mornings. The "Boost Mobile Major League Gaming Pro Circuit" aired in the fall of 2006, profiling the lives of some of MLG's most prominent cyber athletes and highlighting the league's seven Pro Circuit tournaments. For the first time ever, eSports reached 90 million American homes. Final Boss, led by team captain Dave "Walshy" Walsh and anchored by the legendary Ogre Twins - Tom "Ogre 1" Ryan and Dan "Ogre 2" Ryan - had dominated for much of the 2006 season leading into the Las Vegas National Championships, but rivals team Carbon were hot on their tails. The Carbon of 2006 was a ragtag foursome of MLG misfits that nevertheless meshed with team chemistry and the most efficient communication in the league. Final Boss looked poised to win its third straight National Championship, but Carbon stepped in the way of the dynastic squad and stole the throne in one of the most intense championship matches the league has ever seen.
4. Final Boss reclaims the throne with a perfect tournament, 2007
No one had ever done it before, and no team would repeat the feat for another three years (Ogre 2 was on that team, too). Eager to reclaim their birthright as national champions, Final Boss picked up havoc-inducing young slayer Michael "StrongSide" Cavanaugh for the 2007 season and tore undefeated through the National Championships in Las Vegas. No coach, no headsets and not a single game lost. Just pure shooting and teamwork powered by a burning need for redemption.
3. The rise of Snipedown, 2008
No other player has ridden a more meteoric rise to the top of the MLG Pro Circuit than Eric "Snipedown" Wrona. At his first MLG event in 2008, Snipedown, a virtual unknown at the time, took seventh place with team Ambush. Veterans from around the league immediately began to take notice of the baby-faced Indiana native's pinpoint accuracy and raw slaying power. True to his moniker, Snipedown quickly became one of the most consistently dominant snipers the league has ever seen. He was picked up by Instinct for the second event of the 2008 season in San Diego. With veterans Mackeo, Roy and Lunchbox, he improved to a second place finish, but was dropped only minutes before the next tournament's roster deadline. Triggers Down (SK, Hysteria, FearItself) quickly scooped up the roaming free agent and went on to win MLG Orlando in dominant fashion, with Snipedown exacting revenge on the Str8 Rippin squad that narrowly beat him last tournament and the Instinct squad that left him out to dry.
But that was just the beginning of his historic 2008 season. At the next event in Toronto, Snipedown replaced Neighbor on Str8 Rippin and won his second tournament in a row, making him the only player in league history to win back-to-back tournaments on different teams. The new Str8 Rippin (Tsquared, Legit, ElamiteWarrior, Snipedown) placed second at the penultimate event in Dallas before taking first at the Las Vegas National Championships. Snipedown picked up the Old Spice Rising Star Award for his 2008 season, calling it a "six-month-long dream that I haven't woken out of."
2. Ambush upset Str8 Rippin, 2008
It's rare that a team closes a 10-kill deficit at any point in a team slayer match, but closing a 10-kill deficit against defending champions Str8 Rippin with just two deaths to spare? Impossible, right? Trailing 37-47 in Game 5, Team Slayer on the Pit, Ambush (Pistola, Nexus, Heinz, Mudvayne) proved that with some timely power-up grabs, a little patience and the roar of an entire venue behind you, anything is possible on the MLG Pro Circuit. Ambush picked up 13 of the next 14 kills to win the game 50-48. They sent Str8 Rippin into the Losers Bracket and the crowd into an absolute frenzy. It was perhaps the greatest comeback the league has ever seen.
1. Ogre 2 wins his fourth National Championship, 2011
No other player has been more dominant over the past nine seasons than four-time Halo National Champion Tom "Ogre 2" Ryan. The 25-year-old veteran has more first place finishes than anyone else in Pro Circuit history. He was a National Champion at Halo 2 in 2005 and 2007, Halo 3 in 2010 and Halo: Reach in 2011. Few gamers have maintained the same level of professionalism and success. If there were an MLG Hall of Fame, Ogre 2 would be its first inductee. While many of The Old Halo Guard like Walshy and ElamiteWarrior have powered down in retirement, Ogre 2 looks poised to continue his dominance in Halo 4.