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Much Abrew: Dubious Champion (Modern)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Last week during our Instant Deck Techs, the crazy Modern combo deck Dubious Champion came out on top. As such, we are heading to Modern this week to see if we can slam some Emrakul, the Aeons Torn (or Iona, Shield of Emerias) on Turn 2 or 3 with the help of Dubious Challenge and Champion of Rhonas. The big question is whether or not the deck can actually do what it's trying to do consistently enough to really be competitive. Just how often will we have an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn by the end of our third turn? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Much Abrew: Dubious Champion (Modern)

The Discussion

  • First off, our record was a bit convoluted. We started with a match where we found out that Dosan the Falling Leaf was bugged, ended with a match where our opponent just couldn't manage to figure out how Dubious Challenge worked, and in between went 1-4 in a league. Regardless of the exact numbers, the bottom line is the deck didn't win very often.
  • The good news is that over the course of our league, we did manage to Turn 2 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn twice, which was pretty awesome and very game winning. 
  • You probably noticed that I had the math on Dubious Challenge pop up every time we cast it. The math behind the deck is the biggest thing holding back Dubious Champion. When you consider the cumulative probability of hitting one of our five finishers and one of our eight enablers when we cast a Dubious Challenge, it's only 48.5%. This means that even after doing a ton of work to maximize the potential of casting Dubious Challenge as quickly as possible, we'll end up fizzling more often than not even after casting the sorcery. 
  • This math problem is what makes building around Dubious Challenge dubious. To have a 75% chance of hitting both parts of our combo when we cast Dubious Challenge, we need 10 finishers (right now we have five or maybe six, if you count the Dragonlord Dromoka that we substituted in for the bugged Dosan the Falling Leaf) and 10 enablers (right now, we have eight). Even with 10 of each, we'll still fail about 25% of the time, but hitting 75% is much more reasonable than the current 48.5%. 
  • Because of this, the challenge of building around Dubious Challenge is figuring out how to play enough Dubious Challenge hits while still also having a functional deck with the limited utility slots the deck can afford.
  • As far as the specifics of Dubious Champion, Serum Powder didn't seem very good. While getting a free mulligan is nice, it can also mess with our math by exiling some of our finishers or enablers, further reducing the odds that we hit with Dubious Challenge. While it does make sense with the all-in theme of the deck, these slots could probably be better spent on more finishers to make the challenge less dubious.
  • As sad as it sounds, Champion of Rhonas was pretty bad. Not only does it die to pretty much everything, but it suffers some of the same math issues as Dubious Challenge. We had a few games where we managed to play Champion of Rhonas but couldn't draw one of our six finishers to put into play for free. It's hard to imagine that Quicksilver Amulet, Fist of Suns, or Through the Breach wouldn't be better as a backup version of Dubious Challenge, just because they don't die to everything, although this change still wouldn't solve the not-drawing-a-finisher problem. 
  • The other challenge of the deck is that fact that we don't really have any interaction, since we need to dedicate so many slots to combo support. This made it hard to win without an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Iona, Shield of Emeria (by just playing Flickerwisps and Brooding Saurians), since our opponent could simply play blockers and clog up the board because we don't really have removal. 
  • So, how can we improve Dubious Challenge in Modern? I think there are two possibilities.
  • Possibility one is to forget about finishers altogether and use Dubious Challenge like a weird Collected Company in a value deck. Flickerwisp is already a playable card, and Brooding Saurian isn't that far below the curve, so rather than trying to flip an enabler and a finisher, we could just plan on flipping an enabler and any other random card (maybe castable finishers like Wurmcoil Engine and Dragonlord Dromoka). While this would mean that Dubious Challenge isn't immediately game ending, getting a Flickerwisp and a Wurmcoil Engine is still a lot of value for four mana. 
  • The other possibility is to cut back on the support cards and increase the number of "hits" in our deck for Dubious Challenge. The challenge here is that, while this would make our Dubious Challenges more consistent, we still wouldn't have much room in our deck for non-combo cards, which means this plan solves part of Dubious Champion's problem (the bad odds on Dubious Challenge) but not the bigger problem (the fact that building around Dubious Challenge warps your deck to such a great extent).
  • The other possibility is that Dubious Challenge is aptly named and the problem is unsolvable. It might simply be that there is no way to play enough finishers and enablers to support Dubious Challenge while still having a functional deck for games when you don't draw Dubious Challenge
  • So, should you play Dubious Champion? Probably not. On the other hand, you should brew around Dubious Challenge because it's one of the most challenging cards to build around. Can you figure out a way to make the Dubious Challenge math work while still having a functional deck? What other possibilities are there to make Dubious Challenge playable in Modern? Let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear your ideas!


Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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