Sandro Manfredini

If you’ve been following our past Judges of the Week, you may have noticed there are people in the program with very different backgrounds. Today, it is with great honour we get to talk with Mathematician and University Teacher, Sandro Manfredini! Welcome, Sandro!

Name: Sandro Manfredini
Level: L2
Location: Pisa, Tuscany, Italy (this is my home town and where I work, but at the moment I mostly live in Florence).
Judge start date:
L1: November 1999
L2: June 2005
Occupation: Mathematician, Researcher at University of Pisa.
Favourite card: Acridian (the first time I had to choose a forum ID, my little sister was trying to figure out what the art was showing: Acridian9 has been my internet name for long).
Least favourite card: I don’t have one.
Favourite format: All limited formats.
Commander General: None.
Favourite non-Magic Game: Are there non-Magic games?? If Facebook games count, I’d say Castle Age.
Best tournament result: I may have won a couple Prereleases… but that was ages ago! Random fact about yourself: I’m a collector of… all that is collectible! Name a (not too expensive) collectible item and I’ll tell you how many I have. The most unusual: boomerangs!

Why did you become a judge?
I was having less and less time to dedicate to play Magic live, especially constructed play, so that was my way to keep in contact with the game.

Tell us your favourite judge story.
When I was chosen as a floor judge for a 120+ people PTQ and discovered the day of the tournament that I was the only Floor Judge. The Head Judge told me he was the scorekeeper and that I would have to manage all other tasks. He remained seated at the computer all day, giving me vague directions and short answers to my questions, always intently looking at the screen. I supposed he was very busy with the results entry or had other problems with the reporter. But at the end of the day, I discovered that while I was going mad with checking lists while answering calls and deck checking while distributing results slips… he was playing World of Warcraft! Of course this happened ages ago…this is not even conceivable now.

How did you get involved in magic in the first place?
My brother (he also is a compulsive collector) showed me the game. He had bought some Revised boosters and decks and we struggled with the instruction booklet. We ended up playing with rules that approximated what the booklet said. What I saw in the game, at first, was another item to collect! My brother dropped the game a couple years after…he never agreed (nor he does now) to hand his collection over to me!

How has being a judge influenced your non-Magic life?
Of course there are many aspects, but I’ll report the most unusual: I learnt how being a part of a team while not being the leader! It may be strange, but in my life I’ve been always appointed as (or I advocated for myself to be) the leader of whatever group I was in. Whether being in a play group, a basketball team, a study group, and even during my military training where I had to lead a group of 200 people. However, judging caused in me a shift of perception, since many times I had the role of a simple Floor Judge. I must admit it was not so easy at the beginning.

You were nominated by Lamberto Franco. He says you have a lot of experience and you did a lot of good work translating, updating, and standardizing all the official documents from English to Italian, and that you have a lot of respect from your community, who call you ‘Prof’. Being a University teacher, what parallels can you find between your professional life and your work as a Magic Judge?
My work has two faces: teaching and research (yes, there is a lot to research in math!). Mentoring, certification and even investigations have much in common with the first. The second is about defining an environment, together with the rules that govern it, in a way that it is non-contradictory and find out the results of interactions. You can understand why I love the Comprehensive Rules!! I must admit I’m a Melvin.

What motivates you to continue being a judge?
This was the most difficult to answer and took a me a lot to verbalize. Of course there are a lot of good points (answer rule questions, know a lot of interesting people, mentoring, the possibility to attend to big tournaments….we all know this) but ultimately what keeps me going is the same reason for which I’m a researcher: to leave a sign, to contribute to the developing of something, the theory as a mathematician, the game/community as a judge.

What is one tip you have for other judges?
Always remember you are part of a big community full of people eager to help. In my experience, the most disruptive errors (even leading to de-certification at times) committed by judges were because they were to proud or too shy to ask for help. If you have a problem or a doubt, don’t hesitate: ask!

What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
Living in two towns makes it that I’m not in contact with either community.

What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
Playing computer games I can hack (without cheating)! I spend hours writing thousands of code lines, mostly JavaScript, to change the layout or functionality of some of those games’ aspects. I actually don’t know if the hobby is playing those games or programming.

What is your favourite non-judging moment that happened with other judges?
(I have to be vague here…I can’t reveal the people involved.) It’s a practical joke we played on an Italian judge. All Italian judges wanted to go to dinner together but leaving the victim at the hotel… but the victim was in the hotel hall and stopped everyone leaving the hotel. The funny part was to watch how people succeeded in escaping the hotel without the victim noticing it: answering a fake private phone call (and going out to hear better), suddenly remembering to have left something in the room (and take a secondary exit), asking the victim if he had seen another judge and saying to come back when found (which never happened)… very fun!

What’s the biggest rule-breaking play you have ever made as a player?
Nothing so big, some minor Game Rule Violations (or “Procedural Error”, as we called them). The frustrating aspect of this is that they went completely unnoticed by me and were pointed out by the opponent. While I’m pretty good at catching errors committed by others, It seems my knowledge of the rules disappears when I play! (Editor’s note: You’re definitely not alone in this. :p )

What has been your favourite Magic event that you have judged?
Worlds in Rome was really huge. Four days of intense work, plenty of interesting situations, a lot of judges to talk to….huge. But I’ll never forget, at my fist GP, the sound of hundreds of boosters being opened simultaneously: that was really amazing!

If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Ok, this is a professional bias, but I’d like to talk to Riemann. In his short mathematical career (only 20 years, he died in his 40’s) he wrote essentially three papers, thus giving birth to three mathematical theories. I’m pretty sure he had much more in his mind and I’d like to discuss (and steal) some of his ideas.

What would you be doing now if Magic no longer existed?
I think I’d replace Magic with board games or role playing games: a kind of reversal to what I played before Magic.

What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament?
It dates back when Humility was legal and played… wait… Humility doesn’t exist, right?

What is your favorite “after event” story?
I was driving back home from a PTQ I Head Judged, and was in the car with a floor judge and a player who had Top-8ed. Since it was already well past midnight and we had a 3 hour drive to go, we began opening the boosters of our prizes/compensations. We immediately found out that the boosters were flawed, missing uncommons which were replaced by… rares! The happiest return home ever!

How do you have fun during events?
The fun part is answering rule questions, real or hypothetical… did I mention I’m a Melvin?

If you were a Planeswalker what would be your ultimate?
I’d like to be a Jace who had this:
You get an emblem with “At the beginning of your end step, shuffle your hand and graveyard into your library, then draw seven cards.”… is it too much??

If you were a creature what would be your creature type?
Surely something white… and flying… but not an Angel, usually too big, and something nobler than a Bird: I’d go for a Pegasus!

Proudest moment of your Judge life?
Each time I catch a cheater! One time, I caught red-handed a guy who was suspected of playing Tooth and Nail with tutor (putting a card on top of his library during resolution and faking a shuffle afterwards), I went to the table next to him to deliver a (fake) Game Loss for a (fake) list problem. Of course, the poor player receiving the penalty was upset and there was a lot of arguing, which was perfect for me to observe the cheater in action without alarming him.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This interview forced me to do a thing it was a long time since I did last: to stop and meditate on what I’m doing and why, and fix priorities. Thanks!

Two Truths and a Lie!
Two of the following answers about Sandro are true, figure out which!

  • I have been married to Monica since 1997, and I have two daughters: Chiara, 17, and Francesca, 12. They both play Magic and usually beat me at it too… especially little Francesca, who is pretty good at drafting!
  • I know all living mammals species (well…almost all: bats and rats are too numerous and never found a complete classification), their taxonomy, their Linnaean classification, and of most also their ethology. Why was my honeymoon was in Madagascar? To go and look for their unique mammals!
  • I have all the PreRelease T-shirts, since I won all PreReleases which had a T-shirt as prize.
The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
The last time Scott Neiwert traveled to London when he was two and he has not traveled internationally since then

Thank you for your time, Sandro, it was truly an honour talking to you! Join us next week to meet another awesome Judge – see you then!

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