By Ramy Zabarah, Staff Writer

We’ve all seen them, we’ve all heard them and we’ve all judged them, but does anyone actually know them?

For most students, the bottom level of SUB I is a place to get a quick bite to eat, grab a drink after a long day of class or play a game of pool to unwind. But for a certain group of students, it’s a place where they can be themselves.

Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game introduced in 1993 that has been credited as the precursor for other games such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! But Magic: The Gathering — or Magic, for short — is the main focus of this certain group of students who rule over the kingdom of SUB I.

Although Magic is this group’s main game of choice, other similar games might make their way to the table, such as seminal fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons and various board games.

Games of Magic are played in phases between two or more people. Each player starts out with a certain number of health points, and the objective is to either cause your opponent’s cards to run out, or to reduce his health to zero.

The latter is done by using moves — or “lands” — to cast spells on your opponent.

According to sophomore IT major Scott Hetzer, the rules are so complex that an official manual had to be published.

And it wasn’t exactly light reading.

“The published tournament rule book is about 500 to 600 pages,” he said.

While only a hobby, and a great excuse to get together with friends and socialize, there are places for these students in competitive Magic tournaments.

In fact, along with the standard Magic cards, there are also collectible players’ cards, similar to baseball or basketball cards, with professional Magic players pictured on the front and their statistics listed on the back. The data even includes their winnings from tournaments, which sometimes exceed $50,000.

As I sat at the table and watched two students duel, reminiscing about the days when I used to play Pokémon, I noticed their passion for the game as well as the sporadic glances we received from the people around us.

Naturally, in an environment like this, there is plenty of criticism from those outside of the gaming community.

Surprisingly enough, this doesn’t bother the students as much as one would assume. When asked about their image in the eyes of the general Mason population, Mark Maceren spoke for the whole with confidence in his voice and a smile on his face.

“I’ll brand the group,” said Maceren. “We’re complete nerds. But it’s better than smoking.”