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Brewer's Minute: Dubious Challenge

Hey, everyone! It's time for this week's Brewer's Minute. This week, we'll be talking about one of the Kaladesh cards I've gotten the most questions about over the past week: Dubious Challenge! How does this card work, and what can we do with it? Let's break it down! Also, I've added a transcript to the end of the article, so if you can't watch the video for some reason, you can still follow along! 

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Today, for our Brewer's Minute, we're going to be talking about how Dubious Challenge actually works and then some potential uses for the card in both Standard and Modern. First off, we have to break down the card itself because there have been some misconceptions and confusion over how it actually works. First, you have to pay four mana, at least one of it green, and since Dubious Challenge is a sorcery, you have to do it during your turn. Then, you get to look at—a key term—the top 10 cards of your library, exile up to two creature cards from among them, and then shuffle your library. One thing that confuses people is what happens to the other eight cards, because Dubious Challenge doesn't specifically say to put those cards on the bottom of your library or anything like that, but remember: you're just looking at the cards, so technically, they're still part of your library. So, when you shuffle, the other eight cards (or any of the cards you don't exile—it's possible you only get one creature) will automatically get shuffled back in.

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Second, you exile up to two creatures; then, your opponent gets the first choice at which one they want, and they may choose one of them (may is another key term). Your opponent doesn't have to choose a creature, so you can't get the combo kill with something like Phage the Untouchable), and then you have to take any creatures that are left over after your opponent chooses. So, if your opponent chooses one, you get the other one, but if your opponent decides they don't want either creature, you get both creatures whether you want them or not, because this is not a "may" ability.

So, how can we make Dubious Challenge work? (And I should say that by "work," I mean in a casual deck. Maybe in Commander or possibly in something like Against the Odds; I don't expect Dubious Challenge to be breaking Standard or Modern or even showing up in any tier one deck.) What kind of synergies do we have to build around? 

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In Standard, probably the easiest way to break Dubious Challenge is Long Road Home and Eldrazi Displacer—cards that let you exile creatures and then return the creatures to the battlefield under their owner's control. With Dubious Challenge, if you hit two creatures, your opponent is going to get one and you get one, but if you have Long Road Home, you can simply exile the creature that your opponent chooses and then you end up with both creatures. So, with six mana for Long Road Home or seven mana with Eldrazi Displacer, along with the cost of two cards, you end up getting both creatures from Dubious Challenge, making it a janky but super powerful Collected Company effect.

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So, what creatures do you want to be hitting off of Dubious Challenge in Standard? I think the single best thing you can do in Standard with Dubious Challenge is to set up the Gisela, the Broken BladeBruna, the Fading Light meld combo. The nice part of this plan is that neither card really does anything when they enter the battlefield—Bruna, the Fading Light triggers when it's cast, so your opponent won't get to reanimate anything if they choose the Bruna, the Fading Light off the Dubious Challenge. Then, you just Eldrazi Displacer / Long Road Home whichever one your opponent happened to choose back to your side of the battlefield, and since Dubious Challenge is a sorcery, this is happening during your turn, so at your end step, you end up with a Brisela, Voice of Nightmares, and Brisela is very hard for most decks to beat.

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The other possibility in Standard is a bit janky, but there's an infinite combo with Wispweaver Angel. If you get two Wispweaver Angels on the battlefield at the same time, you can loop one with the other and make infinite enters-the-battlefield and leaves-the-battlefield triggers, which allows you to generate infinite damage with something like Impact Tremors. So, in theory, if your can hit two copies of Wispweaver Angel with Dubious Challenge, you can just Long Road Home one back and immediately combo off for the win.

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In Modern, we have a lot of similar possibilities with cards like Snapback (which you can cast for free by exiling a blue card from your hand) and Saving Grasp (which you can cast for one mana, even if you are flashing it back from the graveyard), which allow you to bounce whatever creature your opponent got from Dubious Challenge back to your hand and replay it the next turn. Modern also has a bunch of effects that are similar to Long Road Home like Otherworldly Journey and Turn to Mist (which play almost exactly like Long Road Home), or even Venser, the Sojourner, assuming you have it on the battlefield beforehand.

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What cards you want to get with Dubious Challenge in Modern is actually a bit complicated, since some of the best targets in Modern include Iona, Shield of Emeria (which locks a color out of the game) and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn (which is about as close to unbeatable as it gets). The problem with getting Iona and Emrakul is both cards have the potential to backfire—if the opponent chooses white with Iona, Shield of Emeria, the Otherworldly Journey plan is off the table, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn has protection from colored spells, which locks a lot of answers out of the game. However, these is one way to make this combo work.

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Probably the best way to abuse Dubious Challenge in Modern is creatures like Flickerwisp and Glimmerpoint Stag. If you hit either of these cards along with a huge finisher like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Iona, Shield of Emeria, no matter what creature your opponent chooses, you'll end up with what you want. If the opponent takes Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, you get the Flickerwisp (or Glimmerpoint Stag) and can immediately flicker the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to get it back on your side of the table. On the other hand, if the opponent chooses Flickerwisp, you win anyway, because you get the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The same plan works with Iona, Shield of Emeria no matter what color your opponent may name. As a result, if I were going to build around Dubious Challenge in Modern, this would be the direction I would head. 

All in all, I think there is likely a sweet casual or Against the Odds deck that can be built around this combo, especially in Modern, and I can't wait to try it out, but I still don't think that Dubious Challenge will be competitive—the deck-building restrictions are just too severe. That said, getting an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for four mana is pretty appealing; plus, you get another creature for free. Anyway, that's been our Brewer's Minute for this week. Hopefully, it helps clear up some of the misconceptions about Dubious Challenge and gives you some ideas about how to build around it! If you have a sweet Dubious Challenge brew, let me know in the comments—I'd love to see it! As always, you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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