Serving as MLG’s first official international Pro Circuit event, as well as the final regular season event of the 2008 Season, MLG Toronto will get underway this weekend alongside the Fan Expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Halo 3’s debut season on the MLG Pro Circuit has provided for more action, excitement, and turmoil than anyone could have ever predicted.

Considering the results of MLG Orlando, the team changes that have occurred since its conclusion, and the roller-coaster ride of emotions that has ensued as results, the level of anticipation for MLG Toronto has reached previously unimaginable levels. To put the magnitude of MLG Toronto into perspective, the event could very well go down as the most anticipated event in league history, and the competition that occurs could result in some of the most emotionally charged gaming we’ve ever seen.

If you thought Orlando was exciting, just wait until you see what Toronto has in store.

Teams and individuals alike have created an enormous amount of pressure for themselves. Not only is the pressure on to perform well, but also to perform well enough to justify their respective roster changes. Public opinion is in complete limbo, and Toronto’s results could weigh heavily on the community favorites heading into the final two events.

Now that the picture has been painted, let’s break it down on a bracket by bracket basis. For the purposes of this analysis, we’ll assume that no major upsets occur throughout the Championship Bracket. Doing so will allow us to have a much better picture of which teams could potentially meet up, as well as who has the best shot at making it into the later rounds of the Winners Bracket.

Championship Bracket: The Bottom Half

After a stunning performance at MLG Orlando, one could assume that Triggers Down is heading into Toronto as the favorite. However, due to the entire landscape of the Top 8 changing in the time since Orlando, a definitive community favorite has yet to emerge from the pack. What we do know is this: With the help of Mackeo’s strategically-induced playing style, Triggers Down will undoubtedly be focused on taking over the top seed from Str8 Rippin with a win in Toronto.

Triggers Down’s dominance in Orlando was impressive on all fronts. Can they do it again?

Having the second seed translates into Triggers Down battling through the lower half of the 32 team bracket. Joining them in the lower half is Instinct, Carbon, Ambush, and Breaking Point. The Orlando champs will likely meet their first substantial challenge when they take on Ambush in Winners Bracket Round 3 – A match in which they will need to handle with care, or risk repeating the same mistake as Str8 Rippin in Orlando. Triggers Down will then square off against the winner of Instinct vs Carbon for the right to move into the Winners Bracket Finals.

While on the subject of Carbon, let’s take a closer look at what they’ll be up against this weekend. Surprisingly, Carbon is the only team in the Top 8 who hasn’t made a roster change since the conclusion of Orlando. Instead, they’ll be looking to build onto their already-established chemistry with Cpt Anarchy, who was added to the team in the time following MLG San Diego.

If it weren’t for Str8 Rippin being knocked into the Losers Bracket so early, Carbon could have arguably finished with a much stronger placing in Orlando. Considering this was their first event with Cpt Anarchy, the future looks bright for the former National Champions. However, if they are going to capitalize on their potential, they’ll need to battle through one of the hardest Winners Bracket of any Top 8 team in Toronto. Breaking Point, Instinct, and Triggers Down are just a few of the possible matches Carbon could be faced with early on, meaning they’ll truly have their work cut out for them if they’re to make it into their first Finals of 2008.

Will Walshy and Soviet be the pieces needed to propel Instinct into the Finals?

Although it’s not as daunting as Carbon’s, Instinct’s route through the Winners Bracket will also be a hefty challenge for the newly remodeled team. With Walshy’s strategic guidance, Soviet’s hardcore slaying, Roy’s rock solid BR, and Lunchbox’s overwhelming versatility, Instinct will be aiming to finally break into the Top 2 before the 2008 Playoffs in Dallas.

Instinct should be able to make it out of their first two rounds virtually unscathed, before facing off in their first big match against Carbon. If they are to beat Carbon, they’ll immediately be faced with the challenge of defeating Triggers Down in the Winners Bracket Semi-Finals. Doing so will allow them to move into the Winners Bracket Finals, where they’ll be assured of a Top 3 finish.

Championship Bracket: The Top Half

It could be argued that no other team has felt the effects of the post-Orlando team changes more than Str8 Rippin. Tsquared and company went from losing a teammate (Neighbor), to regaining him, to losing him once more, and eventually replacing him altogether with a player of similar style and skill level (Snipedown). Str8 Rippin began practicing with Snipedown immediately after his acquisition, which will likely help to ease the transition in strategy and chemistry from Triggers Down to Str8 Rippin.

Could the departure of Neighbor be a blessing in disguise for Str8?

For the second consecutive event, Str8 Rippin will enter holding the coveted first seed. This time around, the top spot will give the guys from Str8 a considerable advantage over their competition. Winners Bracket Round 3 will likely wield a match against Red Line (Gandhi, Naded, Best Man, Defy), a team who was sent packing by Str8 in the early part of Orlando’s Losers Bracket. Their next and undoubtedly most anticipated match will come against Final Boss in the Winners Bracket Semi Finals.

The fact that long-time Str8 member Neighbor is now a resident of the Final Boss roster may have awoken an unspoken rivalry between the two teams. Neighbor will be aiming to justify his move by helping Final Boss to their first solid finish since MLG Meadowlands. Meanwhile, Tsquared, Legit, and Elamitewarrior will be trying everything in their power to stop that from happening. The culmination of these factors should provide for one explosive Winners Bracket Semi-Finals.

There’s still so much more to be said about Final Boss. Walshy is gone. That sentence alone speaks volume about how drastically different things will be for FB in Toronto. There are very few players in the league who have been as successful as Walshy, and an entire community anxiously waits to see how the team will perform in his absence.

Will dropping Walshy pay dividends for Final Boss?

If all goes as planned, Final Boss will meet up with Classic in Winners Bracket Round 3, closely followed by the previously mentioned match against Str8 Rippin in the very next round. The match between FB and Str8 will determine who moves onto the Winners Bracket Finals, and who will be sent to the Losers Bracket to do battle with the majority of the remaining teams.

The final two teams we’ll touch base on are Classic and Red Line. Shortly after Orlando, Naded departed from a very promising lineup on Classic. He was then replaced by Victory X, who was released by Instinct. Naded has since joined up with Red Line, where he has taken the place of Fear. This now marks the second time Naded has replaced Fear on a team.

With their recent roster changes, Classic and Red Line represent the wild card teams heading into the event. There is little doubt that both teams certainly hold the potential for greatness; however, a very challenging bracket awaits both teams. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how they size up to the powerhouses of 2008 this weekend.

MLG Toronto contains all of the ingredients needed to create one of the most spectacular tournaments in Major League Gaming history. Simply put, there’s no better time to be an MLG fan, and with the MLG Pregame Show, ESPN Saturday Night, and MLG Championship Sunday – keeping up from home has never been easier! In addition, be sure to check out our weekend-long video stream on MLG Live, as well as the editorial coverage you’ve grown to expect. Until then, stay tuned for more exciting pre-event coverage as MLG Toronto approaches!