There was a lot on the line here in Barcelona, at the final stop of the 2017 MKM Series. In addition to all the usual prizes and trophies awarded, the weekend also marked the conclusion of the race toward the Power 8. The eight most succesful players of the year would be rewarded with sizeable credit whenever they attended one of next year's stops, and this was everybody's final chance to garner more success.
One of the most likely candidates to place among the Power 8, going into the weekend, was Julian Knab. Knab had been a regular at the MKM Series for years, always near the top of the standings, and was expected to do well on his quest for a Power 8 berth too. With a win and Vintage and another Top 8 in Legacy so far this year, he found himself tied on points for second place, trailing the first by just four points. Time to learn a little bit more about him!
How old are you, where are you from, and what's your occupation when you're not busy winning at Magic?
Hi, I just turned 32, was born in Munich, and live in one of its northern suburbs now. When I'm not playing Magic I'm busy planning safaris and sending people to Kenya to see the “Big Five” and stay at our beach resort there. On some weekends I also do volunteer work for our local mobile nursing service.
When and how did you first get into Magic?
I started playing Magic around 1998/99 when Urza's Saga came out. A friend of mine had brought the game to school and our entire class was instantly hooked. My very first deck was an awful white-black Skirge life gain deck, but I quickly transitioned into an Elf combo deck that would draw and play its entire library in a single turn with Recycle and Intruder Alarm. Sound familiar?
What is/are your favorite format/s currently? What do you like about it/them?
Legacy is just the cadillac of Magic, but I also really like Vintage even though I feel Mishra's Workshop is way too dominant right now. What I love about Legacy is how deep and slow-moving the format is. I've been playing it for over ten years now and I feel like I'm still learning new things every day, especially when new decks or technonolgy hits the scene. Legacy matches can be deicded over the smallest errors, nuances that some inexperienced players might not even be aware of. As such it can also act as a great sort of frustration when things don't go your way, but the key to Legacy is to understand that you're not in it to win every single game, but just to play your perfect game and try to come out ahead in the long run.
Another important aspect of Legacy—if you have a real job and other things to take care of, Standard can be hard to keep up with since its metagame can be very dynamic and shortlived, whereas in Legacy a deep understanding of the format will be much more valuable for many years to come, even if you took a break. A friend of mine, James Hsu, has a great article about “Why we love Legacy” on my website that sums up perfectly how I feel about the format.
When and how did you get into Legacy?
I got into Legacy around 2005/06 when I realized that my favorite Extended deck at the time, Enchantress, would still be playable there. I've always felt very attached to all the Urza block cards, so the prospect of getting to play with Argothian Enchantress was the first thing that drew me into the format.
Looking back at the 2017 MKM Series so far, what's your biggest regret, what was your closest miss or your most upsetting bad-beat story?
My biggest regret was not playing a better Modern deck. In the first half of 2016, Ad Nauseam was maybe the best deck of the entire format, but ever since then I've considered it one of the worst decks to play. I didn't feel like investing into another deck though, so I stuck with it and got crushed this season before I transitioned into playing the Vintage main events instead.
My biggest misses were MKM Series Milan where I came very close to repeating my double-Top 8 performance from the previous season but ended up 10th and 15th in Legacy and Modern. I felt I really could have done better. My MKM Series Hamburg loss against Denis Zens when we were both still live for Top 8 was also pretty upsetting because the match could have easily gone either way. Seeing how he went on to win the event and top the overall leaderboard, this could turn out to be the most critical loss of the entire season for me.
Looking back at the 2017 MKM Series so far, what's your happiest memory, what was your luckiest break or your favorite game/match/tournament?
“And in 8th place, Julian Knab”—making Top 8 in Legacy at MKM Series Frankfurt was unreal. After winning my last round I sat down with a friend to watch her finish her match. We were talking about where to have dinner and how the weekend went for everyone, when all of a sudden my name was called. I couldn't believe it since it was mathematically impossible. I later looked at the results and as it turns out two players who could have both drawn in decided to play, which opened up another slot for an X-2, which I more than happily occupied. Certainly one of the best feelings of my entire career … even though Dalibor [Szeghö] mopped the floor with me in the quarterfinals.
Four other really great moments were seeing my friends Marius [Hausmann], Johannes [Gutbrod], Tom [De Decker] and Modern-specialist Anders [Thiesen] taking down main events this season!
What are your goals for MKM Series Barcelona and for the season? Where do you think you'll be able to make the most points yet? Do you expect the conclusion to the Power 8 race to be a hard fight still?
My goal is to end the season in first place. I hope to earn some extra points in Vintage even though I expect a Spanish tournament to have higher attendance than the Hamburg one, which should make it harder to Top 8. I know that Johannes [Gutbrod] isn't really too much into Modern to say the least, so I hope to make up some points on Saturday. Regarding Legacy, anything is possible. I have a good lead on Rodrigo [Togores] and Tomas [Mar], but should over 300 players show up for Legacy, things can be really tight. I also need to do well in Legacy to overtake Dennis. I'm really excited for this weekend!
Have you heard about the news that the 2018 MKM Series will feature six instead of five stops and that the Power 8 prizes have been increased accordingly, by 20 percent? Assuming you'll secure a berth among the Power 8, can we expect to see you at all stops next year?
Yes, certainly! 2018 is gonna see more competition between Europe-wide tournaments so I hope MKM will do their best to attract as many people as possible. It's always both easier and way more fun to travel with friends!