Interview: Grzegorz Kowalski – Heading Towards his First World Championships



By: Shin Tomizawa
Translated by: Daniel Pham

Last season was a good one for Grzegorz Kowalski, also known as “Sensei” within Hareruya.

As the captain of the Polish National team, the claimed the title of the World Magic Cup Finalist. Having four GP Top 8’s under his belt (of which 1 win, 1 finals, 1 top 4 and 1 top 8 for a complete set) and consistently good finishes to reach Platinum level, he qualified for the World Championships via Top Pro Point earner.

Grzegorz Kowalski

How did the World Championships work out for Kowalski Sensei this time? Let’s see if he was able to figure out the Metagame and choose the right deck.

Heading Towards his First World Championships

— “Thank you for always providing us with very insightful articles. There is an increasing number of fans of your articles that are calling them “Kowalski Sensei’s lesson on ____.” We’d like to know what Sensei’s strategy was for the World Championships, and how you approached the constructed portion of the tournament.”

Grzegorz: “I’m grateful that I was given such an interesting persona. Having fans in Japan is very encouraging for me. It definitely increases my motivation knowing that my thoughts are able to reach all the way to Japan.”

— “How did you prepare for the Constructed portion of the World Championships, knowing that it is a rather unique event that is limited to very few players?”

Grzegorz: “Well until now, I normally focused and prepared for Grand Prix that have very large attendances, however this time I can’t make the same assumptions for something so vastly different. The most important factor is the skill level of the opponents in the tournament. Normally I prefer playing blue control decks, however I didn’t think it was a good idea to play mirror matches against the best players in the world. That’s why I decided to play Red Black. While I do believe that this decks mirror matches are also very numerous, they aren’t as complicated as control matches, and are less draw dependent and random. I’m sure everyone already knows that the player on the play has a greater chance to win right? So taking mirror matches into consideration for the deck construction, I decided to play 3 copies of “《Bomat Courier》” maindeck.”

Goblin ChainwhirlerBomat Courier

— “So that means you assumed that the Metagame was going to be mostly Control decks then right?”

Grzegorz: “Ah, actually I didn’t have expectations there. I was surprised as the expected field was actually 40% Red Black, and 40% Control. Even though I thought most top pros prefered Control…”

Standard Deck Choice

— “Regarding choosing a deck for standard, this is both a point of interest and concern for many players. What should they keep in mind when choosing a deck?”

Grzegorz: “First of all, you should understand the format. Understanding the good and bad matchups of each deck and then what proportion of the Metagame they make up. For example, even if a deck is mostly favored with only one bad matchup, I wouldn’t want to play it if that bad matchup occupies the majority of the field. A good example would be Red Black right now. Even if you have good matchups against everything else, you shouldn’t choose a deck that loses to Red Black.”

Grzegorz Kowalski

Grzegorz: “As well depending on the nature of the event, your choice may change. You don’t have to be too concerned with a store level 5 round tournament, but as the number of rounds increases for larger tournaments, choosing a beatdown style deck that can win quickly can also be an effective strategy. For this reason, I often prefer to play beatdown decks for Premier level events.”

Sensei’s pick from “Guilds of Ravnica”

— “Sensei, please tell us what card you’re interested in from “Guilds of Ravnica.” Something that might be well known or even your own personal preference, and please explain your choice.”

Nullhide Ferox

Grzegorz: “The card I’m interested in right now is “《4Nullhide Ferox》.” “Steel Leaf Stompy” is a deck that I like, but honestly it’s not very favored in the current standard environment. I expect that it will be more successful in the new standard environment with the addition of this card.”

Ral, Izzet Viceroy

Grzegorz: “While I think it will be hard to find a good home for this card, it seems that “《Ral, Izzet Viceroy》” is becoming popular. It can be easily compared to a differently colored version of “《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》” with similar abilities, and therefore can be assumed to be very strong. [+1] Draws a card, [-3] is removal, and [-8] will win you most games in which you are able to activate it, making it very similar to 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》.

On the Main Stage

— “Please give us your thoughts regarding your first appearance at the World Championships.”


Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

Grzegorz: “There was a great atmosphere. Even the air was the best among all the tournaments I’ve attended until now. You don’t have to call judges from far away, your opponents are of the highest caliber so play is very fast and you both have enough time to make decisions. Being selected to participate is already such an honor, and it gives you a great sense of accomplishment that represents ones achievements as a pro player. Having finished Day 1 with a 6-1 record was even more wonderful than what I had originally thought.” *The interview was conducted at the end of Day 1

— “Thank you very much. I hope you continue to do well on Day 2 as well.”

One of the secrets behind Kowalski Sensei’s success would have to be his calm and methodical deck selection based on the current environment.

Ultimately, our “Sensei” was successfully able to make it all the way to the final round in his first ever World Championships appearance!


Image Copyright: Wizards of the Coast

There will be a lot of attention on Sensei on his first ever Sunday appearance at both the Pro Tour and Worlds!