You’d be hard pressed to start any discussion about Magic: The Gathering in Saskatchewan — or the Canadian prairies for that matter — without mentioning the name Kyle Gellert.
In the brief history of the FacetoFaceGames.com Open Series, Kyle has a full five Top 8s to his name, more than any other single player. He started his run in January by winning our Calgary Open with Grixis Death’s Shadow, chained that into a quarterfinal loss in our Edmonton Open, had yet another Top 8 in Edmonton in July, then lost in the semifinals of our Regina Classic with Ironworks Combo and finally lost yet another finals with Abzan Company at out recent Calgary Open+.
He’s Top 8’d every single Open Series event he’s played in, with a variety of different strategies in a Modern format that can be really frustrating to navigate for competitive players at times. In short — this guy’s the real deal.
Second Place, Calgary F2F Open+, Kyle Gellert – Counters Company
Like many upstart Modern players, Kyle gravitated towards fair midrange strategies before he started playing Open Series events. He loved Jund, and played it at every opportunity that he could. But, ahead of that first Open in Calgary this past January he decided to make the switch to Grixis Death’s Shadow in order to trade off some of his diversity of threats and answers for power level. Obviously, it worked out for him.
This transition has been mirrored throughout his development in Modern. After Pro Tour Magic 25 Kyle made the choice to switch to Ironworks Combo in order to keep up with the deck’s stranglehold on the format. Although he had his preferences for more fair decks, KCI was just too powerful to say no to.
“It felt so powerful but also so ridiculous,” said Gellert. “It was miserable for my opponents.”
Even when he decided to play the aforementioned Devoted Druid combo deck, he acknowledged that even though this deck was a little more fair, he needed to be doing something broken if he wanted to keep his streak up.
“You have to do at least one thing that’s unfair, I think that’s so important in Modern,” said Gellert.
This journey Gellert has taken through Modern’s top decks shows a lot about how to have success in this format — from my vantage point. He was able to adapt, from one powerful deck with cheap spells to another, and found a way to be one step ahead of the game at each event.
This impressive progression and his personal success in mind, Gellert would still like to see some changes in Modern.
“It’s so difficult for any fair deck to have all the answers.”
He said that it may be time to say goodbye to Ancient Stirrings in Modern. With comparable blue cards like Preordain and Ponder on the banned list he thinks this powerful cantrip is the format’s greatest offender.
With his success on the Open Series, Gellert has seen an increase in the popularity of competitive events in his hometown of Saskatoon. He said that the Open Series has offered a consistent helping of competitive events that have motivated his peers to get together, practice and travel together in order to achieve the kind of results that Gellert has found.
“It scratches that competitive itch,” said Gellert. “It’s really nice that Canada finally has its own competitive tournament series.”
Gellert’s certainly come a long way over his six years of playing Magic. He was over at a friends place when he walked downstairs and they his peers were sitting on the floor playing. At first he said to himself, “pfft nerds,” but was quickly engulfed by Commander. Then started grinding around Return to Ravnica — and here we are.
Gellert isn’t pushing too hard to reach Magic’s pinnacle of competitive play — the Pro Tour — but still attends every Grand Prix he can. This past year he finished in the Top 20 in the standings at both Grand Prix Toronto and Grand Prix Las Vegas playing Legacy. He piloted Miracles in Vegas, and then switched it up and played Golgari Depths in Toronto. This coming weekend he’ll be competing in his format of choice — Modern — at GP Portland. Knowing him, we should probably be expecting him to bring home some hardware.
Ever humble, Gellert wanted his parting thoughts to be a shout out to his local Magic community. Specifically Aron Panchyshyn who runs his local game store, Collector’s Lane. Gellert said he’s been instrumental in fostering the competitive community that’s developed in Saskatoon, and credits him for helping him achieve the success he has over the past year.
Look out for Kyle and many others like him who are growing their names on the facetofacegames.com Open Series in 2019. This year, we’ll be travelling to every province, and bringing even more Magic coast to coast.