2020 in Review: The Year That Was (Sort Of)
When the Team Norse Thunder staff sat down in late 2019 to plan out the year ahead, getting through a global pandemic wasn't on the to-do list! Organised play in local game stores across the country and top-level world championship events alike were scrapped while life out in the 'real world' was changed beyond recognition.
At the start of 2020, Team Norse Thunder announced a new direction by launching new divisions in the Pokemon TCG and Hearthstone and made a number of roster changes to boot. Behind the scenes, plans to launch a local game store and grow the playing roster were in full swing.
Speaking about the year, the team's owner, Dave Scotford, said: "We planned a lot of things for this year and we were excited to see them happen, but then the pandemic happened. 2020 has been rough for everyone and at some points, games just haven't felt all that important compared to what has been happening. But, despite COVID, people have tried to hold onto the gaming communities they're a part of, maybe to keep some sense of normality going.
"The pandemic put the breaks on some of the things that we wanted to do, but it also gave us lots of new opportunities to do some different things. We've really focused on our community this year and that has been a lot of fun, and we're going to keep that going from now on."
Despite everything that 2020 threw at everyone at Team Norse Thunder, there's still plenty to celebrate... so let's take a look back at the year that was!
Pokemon TCG: So Near Yet So Far
At the start of the year, the team announced the launch of a brand new division focusing on the Pokemon TCG with Karys Belfield stepping up as the lead Pokemon TCG player. She had been receiving support and coaching from the team before she officially joined the roster, and had quickly found herself ranked among Europe's top 32 players.
Karys' journey to qualifying for the 2020 Pokemon World Championships got off to a good start and podium finishes during a successful weekend in London and Sheffield and a win in Stourbridge put her within touching distance of her goal. However, with just a single top-four finish needed before the season ended, and with months to spare, the journey ground to a halt when Pokemon officially suspended their organised play program due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases around the world.
Like many Pokemon TCG players in 2020, Karys found success with variants of the PikaRom deck that reached the top eight at more than 30 regional events around the world, while the occasional expanded event saw Karys switch to a Night March deck.
Local Game Store Set to Launch
Plans to launch a local game store had long been in the works, but with the Pokemon TCG season suspended, a bigger focus was put on the project. The community-focused local game store is being set up to help young people fight off the effects of social isolation and loneliness and the project was awarded a near-£5,000 grant by UnLtd - a body that helps to fund social enterprises.
As part of the social enterprise launch, Phoebe Belfield officially joined Team Norse Thunder. Though she has been working behind the scenes on various things for a while before joining, as a Youth and Community Work student at Newman University, her experience will be invaluable in setting up the local game store.
Social distancing measures that remain in place across the UK as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic have delayed the store's opening date, but in the meantime, Team Norse Thunder Pokemon TCG and Hearthstone events have been run online. More information on a likely opening date for the store will be released as soon as the situation becomes more clear.
2021: The Year to Come
With 2020 drawing to a close, the team's thoughts have turned to what 2021 might bring and what lies in store for our community of players and supporters. Pokemon and other game publishers haven't yet announced any return to organised play programs, and the short term outlook on the pandemic front looks mixed at best, but exciting plans to develop Team Norse Thunder are in the works.
A brand new Pokemon podcast - called Level Ball - will be launched, and will bring together some of the game's most well-known faces to reminisce about their favourite cards, decks, and formats, as well as give their take on some of Pokemon's biggest breaking news stories as they happen. More information on a release schedule is set to be outlined soon.
Meanwhile, the team will be releasing regular game-play videos featuring matches from across Hearthstone, Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, and other trading card game titles on a regular basis and host an expanded Twitch live streaming schedule.