Viral infection underlies a significant share of the global cancer burden. Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is the newest member of the human oncogenic virus family. Its discovery over a decade ago marked the beginning of an exciting era in human tumor virology. Since then, significant evidence has emerged to support the etiologic role of MCPyV in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), an extremely lethal form of skin cancer. MCPyV infection is widespread in the general population. MCC diagnoses have tripled over the past 20 years, but effective treatments are currently lacking. In this review, we highlight recent discoveries that have shaped our understanding of MCPyV oncogenic mechanism and host cellular tropism, as well as the molecular events occurring in the viral infectious life cycle. These insights will guide future efforts in developing novel virus-targeted therapeutic strategies for treating the devastating human cancers associated with this new tumorigenic virus.