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Kanister: The Emotive Champion

December 12, 2019
Corbin Hosler

Piotr "Kanister" Głogowski is unlike any Mythic Champion before him.

He's similar in all the ways that matter to winning a Mythic Championship, as he did in Long Beach. He's a brilliant Magic player. A longtime stalwart of the competitive circuit who fought for years to achieve a breakthrough. To his friends and family, he's the same Piotr Głogowski he's always been: a dedicated teammate and theorist. He's put in his thousands of hours, and in those terms he's the prototypical champion.

But to millions around the world, he's not Piotr Głogowski at all. He's simply Kanister, the MTG Arena streamer famous for his love on the in-game emotes, going by the accidental moniker he ended up with back on internet forums when he was 12. He takes music requests on his stream and dances on stage after winning a match. He wears silly hats and regularly memes on social media.

And yes, he's not above spamming "Your go." on occasion.

In a field long dominated by chess-like competitors almost scared to break the longstanding traditions of competitive play, Kanister has made it to the top of the Magic world in a fashion that was unheard of in Magic a few years ago.

And so Kanister is a new kind of Mythic Champion.

"So, what you're saying is I have a shred of personality?" he replied with a mischievous grin when asked about his quirks. "That's just who I am. Most players seem to be fine with me spamming emotes; I haven't ever had any issues. I'm not trying to be mean, so if I see the other person is having a bad time I'll stop.

"But mostly the other players and the viewers enjoy the goofiness from time to time and agree that it's something missing from Magic in general. Some people will say that I'm a buffoon, but it doesn't bother me much – I'm capable of understanding that with seven billion people on the planet some people are not going to like me no matter what I do."

The finals of Mythic Championship VII were the perfect demonstration of the ways Kanister has shaped the way the game is played. As he squared off against Brad Nelson—who was playing in his second Mythic Championship final of the season after losing Mythic Championship III to Matias Leveratto—Kanister gained the upper hand. Despite how crushed he was feeling, Nelson had both the grace and insight to recognize the significance of the moment to deliver viewers exactly what they wanted, and Kanister got exactly what he deserved.

Nelson roped him.

The act of drawing out a MTG Arena game until the very last second is a favorite of Kanister's and, as he put it, "super-fitting." With a $100,000 and qualification to Magic World Championship XXVI on the line, it was enough for the crowd to burst out in laughter. It was a spectacle unprecedented in 25 years of competitive Magic history, and yet there really was no better way for Kanister to collect the biggest trophy of his career.

"It was a very nice touch," he admitted with a grin. "I was looking at the board trying to figure out how Brad could possibly get back in it, and then I looked over and saw that he was staring at me with a smile. I haven't been playing Magic since 1995 like a lot of the other Magic Pro League players—I started in 2012—so I'm not as ingrained in the culture. I cope with reality by not being very serious about it, so that was a perfect ending to the tournament."

Of course, there was just one thing would have made it even more perfect for him.

None of those fun eccentricities mean much if they don't come backed up by serious play, and Kanister has never lacked for that either. He made the Top 8 of several Grand Prix before breaking through at Pro Tour Ixalan in late 2017. He followed that up with a second-place finish at the World Magic Cup soon after, finishing his season with an invitation to to the MPL in the process.

But it's been the advent of MTG Arena that brought out the best in Kanister, no surprise for the Polish pro who first rose to prominence by dominating Magic Online with his beloved Modern Amulet Titan deck. At the Mythic Invitational at PAX East in March, Kanister marched all the way through the tournament—beating pros, personalities and streamers alike—on his way to the finals, where he was bested by Andrea Mengucci. Now with a Mythic Championship title under his belt, Kanister will head to Magic World Championship XXVI in February as part of the ultra-exclusive 16-player field comprised of the best in the world.

It's a lot of pressure for a 24-year-old who never anticipated this level of success. His meteoric rise over the past few years would be a challenge for anyone to manage, as finances and responsibilities can change as quickly as the Standard metagame. He's taken it all in stride, and in typical Kanister fashion is ready with a joke.

"It's a good thing I won, because after the [Mythic] Invitational my girlfriend and I were able to buy a house, and when we moved in realized we really didn't have anything for the shelves. I guess now I do," he said. "But I don't want to let winning change anything for me. I'm happy to be here and playing Magic, and I genuinely love to stream. Winning and the MPL allow me be like a dragon and hoard a large amount of gold in my vault, and it allows me to do what I really want to do and stream."

"I may even like streaming more than I like playing competitively."

As Kanister leaves behind a 2019 that saw his style take the Magic world by storm, he has two things at the forefront of his mind. One, of course, is the upcoming World Championship and the $1,000,000 prize pool. And the other?

A celebratory stream.

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