Of all the matches at IEM Shanghai, this is the one no one can quite put their finger on. Though puCK's form against Zerg is significantly better than Elazer's against Protoss, the match remains even; both players are strong, both are prepared, and both have carved out their rightful place in Shanghai through experience and strength. They're both ready, and very good, but they sit just below the big favorites: Neeb, Snute, ShoWTimE.
Elazer, of course, is a rising star in Europe, and has become a major force in the past year. Just last week he fought a close series against the number one Protoss in Europe, ShoWTimE, taking two maps off the Millenium player. And though he's seen a lot of ZvZ action in this year's tournaments, when he does come up against a Protoss, Elazer has proven he's not a walkover. He should be considered a threat, just like those tournament favorites.
Elazer is riding a high, just slightly behind the top players in WCS. There's something ever so small keeping him away from riding right alongside them, but it feels like he's incredibly close to finding that extra push. Just the smallest of tailwinds could see him beating the best.
His opponent, the number 2 American (behind Neeb), has been consistently powerful, though he remains puzzled by his success:
Really did not expect to qualify for Shanghai and Valencia I am kind of confused.
— Brandon Qual (@ROOT_puCK) June 12, 2016
But puCK's recent Valencia result puzzled everyone as he fell to Stephano 0-3 and dropped out in the Ro32. Being the upbeat, positive character he is, he didn't let the funky ling style and double queen hatches dampen his excitement or resolve:
Excited to get home and prep for Shanghai
— Brandon Qual (@ROOT_puCK) July 16, 2016
In recent months, we've seen puCK take a 3-0 and a 3-2 off teammate Hydra and Nerchio respectively, so everyone knows the ROOT Protoss is highly capable of putting the best of his skill into a match, which is what makes this matchup so close. We even saw him take out Elazer Americas Server Qualifiers, a possible hint puCK could be a slight favorite.
But Elazer has been hot lately, and the chance to snag a championship and cement his place among the best is likely going to play a part in his drive at Shanghai.
Who will take this Bo5 is anyone's guess. The matches, though, are guaranteed to be full of intriguing play and careful sidesteps around each player's particular talents and downfalls. Be sure to tune in on July 29 at 12:15 local time to find out who will move forward to fight either Snute or PiLiPiLi!
Article by: Karin Krisher