ICYMI: A bite-sized recap of 20 years of Halo Esports

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Coming into an esport with 20 years of prior history can be daunting to new fans, so here’s a very brief rundown on what’s happened so far before Infinite kicks off the next 10 years with the Raleigh Major.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Major League Gaming began tournaments in 2003 for the first Halo game, Halo Combat Evolved. These were all LAN tournaments taking place around the USA, with 10 events each that had average prize pools of about $5-15,000 that year.

The second tournament in the circuit, the MLG Philadelphia event, has gone down in history as being the first with the Ogre twins, Daniel "OGRE1" Ryan and Tom "OGRE2" Ryan. The two were without a doubt the greatest players of this age of Halo, with OGRE2 officially crowned the all-time greatest Halo player earlier this year.

Their team, Shoot to Kill, won two MLG tournaments running, before being stopped by Dave “Walshy” Walsh’s Team FFA lineup. Walshy then joined the twins on that team for the rest of the year, with the trio crowned the 2004 MLG Champions in New York.

Halo 2

The following year saw the esports scene move over to Halo 2, Ryan “Saiyan” Danford added as Shoot to Kill’s fourth, with StK rebranding a year later to Final Boss.

From Walshy’s first tournament on the team in August 2004, Final Boss lost just a single game in two straight years. Eventually, the end of 2006 saw Carbon take them down in a number of tournaments to be crowned the 2006 champions and take a then-record $100,000 in winnings.

The following year saw Saiyan dropped from the team in favour of Michael “StrongSide” Cavanaugh. While Final Boss weren’t as absolutely dominant as before, they took the 2007 title -- the last before Halo 3 was released at the end of that year.

Halo 3

While Final Boss began the game strong, very quickly it was apparent that the skill gap had lessened and they started to struggle, exiting tournaments outside of the top four. To remedy this, Final Boss dropped Walshy in a pretty dramatic move, before OGRE1 retired at the beginning of 2009, officially ending the twin’s reign as the best in Halo.

In their stead, the most dominant team of 2008 became Str8 Rippin, which was captained by current HCS caster Tom “Tsquared” Taylor and included SSG’s current coach, Kyle "Elamite" Elam, as well as the rumoured FaZe Clan player Eric “Snip3down” Wrona. Not only did they win the 2008 title, but Snip3down, who had only recently joined from their main competitors also Triggers Down, was named MVP.

The following year, Triggers Down fought back, as they replaced Snip3down with “The Wizard” -- Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese -- leading to three MLG titles before he joined the “GOAT” -- OGRE2 -- for the end of Halo 3 in 2010 and into Halo Reach.

Halo: Reach

After ending Halo 3 with three more MLG titles alongside Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson and Justin “Fearitself” Kats, OGRE2 and Pistola joined the Instinct roster for Halo Reach. There they played alongside the twins of Jason “Lunchbox” Brown (the current coach of OpTic) and Justin “Roy” Brown, together they were known as the ‘God Squad’. This, therefore, marked the end of the Final Boss team.

This roster was fairly dominant in Reach, winning half of all the tournaments in 2010, including the MLG Championships. This marked the fourth game running in which OGRE2 had claimed the final title in the game’s esport.

Ogre2's career stats from the HCS Top 25 Players countdown
click to enlarge
Credit: @HCS
Ogre2's career stats from the HCS Top 25 Players countdown

Halo 4

Outside of new developers, Halo 4 in 2012-13 saw a significant change of the guard in the esports scene. Many of the earlier Halo 2 pros had retired, as a new generation came through, while AGL replaced MLG as the esport’s main tournament organizer.

The next few years saw names such as Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Bradley “aPG” Laws, and Ryan “RyaNoob” Geddes come to the forefront, however, it was Snip3down’s team Ambush that dominated the game, as he teamed up with Pistola, Matthew “FormaL” Piper (who has since won a CoD World Championship), and Richie Heinz. The team was close to untouchable during the one year in which Halo 4 was played before the Master Chief Collection was released, after which everyone moved back to Halo 2.

Halo 2: Anniversary

Halo 4 had not been well received in the competitive scene, and due to falling viewership, the release of the MCC in 2014 gave the scene the much needed shot in the arm. As esports had been growing around Halo, this game also was the first one with an injection of esports organizations.

The beginning of H2A saw Snip3down and Pistola join OpTic Gaming before joining with the twins of Lunchbox and Roy on Evil Geniuses. While similar tournaments had been run previously, 2015 also saw the launch of Microsoft's Halo Championship Series, the premier location for Halo esports.

The game also saw the return of OGRE2 on the Counter Logic Gaming roster, but after being untouchable in the original Halo 2, he only managed to win one tournament in the remaster at Iron Games Columbus 2014. Here, he had teamed up with the brothers Chris “Royal1” Fiorante and Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, as well as Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, with this the first win outside of Halo Reach for the latter three.

Following this loss, Pistola was forced to leave the team due to a wrist injury and was replaced by Tony “LethuL” Campbell Jr.. This loss also kicked off a rivalry between EG and CLG that continued for the next few years, with EG coming out on top throughout the rest of H2A.

Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5 saw LethuL then move from EG to CLG to join Royal2, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom and SnakeBite -- the entirety of the current Sentinels roster. The team ran through the opening year of the game, winning the 2016 World Championships to take home the largest Halo winnings ever -- $1,000,000. The title run also included a 3-0 win over EG in the quarter-final.

By the end of the year, the roster had moved to OpTic Gaming, with whom they defended their title in 2017. Their time with OpTic didn’t last, as they were dropped before their second defence at the 2018 World Championship, where they rebranded to TOX Gaming.

That year, TOX’s Halo 5 record had started to be challenged by the emerging Splyce roster. That team had included Jonathan “Renegade” Willette, Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, and Kevin “Eco” Smith -- all three of whom are currently on Cloud9 -- as well as the current CDL player of Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro.

These four had taken down TOX in back-to-back tournaments and managed to beat TOX in a shocking 4-0 scoreline at the 2018 World Championships.

While competitions continued throughout 2018, this was the last year in which HCS was supported, with the focus instead being put on HCS Grassroots. Microsoft took a backseat role and encouraged smaller tournament organisers to run events, effectively sunsetting the scene and ending the big-money tournaments Halo 5 had seen.

In the three years since, the newly acquired Sentinels and Cloud9 rosters have been battling it out, primarily in Halo 3 via the MCC. Now with the release of Halo Infinite, some of the game’s greats are back and ready to push Halo esports to its Halo 3 heights, starting with the Raleigh Major.

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite is not even officially released until tomorrow and has already broken the record for the most number of teams in a single Halo tournament with the first NA open cup.

Nine of the biggest organizations in the world have returned to the game, with Sentinels, Cloud9, and OpTic looking like the top names right now as all attention moves to next week’s Kick-Off Major in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is set to be Halo’s largest event since the 2018 World Championships three and a half years prior, and the excitement has very clearly returned to the franchise.

So that's what happened over the last 20 years of Halo, now join ForerunnerGG as we take you through the next 20.