Dubious Challenge

Hello Alchemists,

Today I am sharing with you a fun looking deck from an avid reader and follower of the blog. He goes with the name Pan Doe who brews deck while traveling the world, literally, because he is aboard some ship and kills time by playing and brewing.

Today I want to share his funky deck that uses Dubious Challenge.

Dubious Challenge

If you examine the card, it is a cheap way to cheat into play huge creatures. Looking at the expansions that are legal in standard, we have so many big creatures to choose from. Elder dinosaurs, large golems, dragons, phoenixes and the likes. The problem though is that the opponent might end up having a better creature than you because he also benefits from Dubious Challenge and worse, he gets to pick first.

Clever enough, Pan Doe added some security measure in the deck to make sure we are not at the losing end of this hilarious challenge.

Fairgrounds WardenBishop of BindingAngel of Sanctions

Once Dubious Challenge resolves, the opponent is given a choice to either take one of our big creatures and leave us some of these ‘tuckers’, or take the tuckers and give us the big creature. Whatever choice they make, we will come out on top because if we end up getting these tuckers, we can exile the big creature they took and if they end up killing these, we end up getting the big creature back. Amazingly clever.

Fairgrounds Warden is a simple creature that does nothing but tuck a creature an opponent controls. Bishop of Binding is a nice new addition from Rivals because he actually gets bigger based on how big the creature it exiled was. Imagine exiling a Ghalta and your Bishop of Binding is suddenly swinging in for 13 damage. Sick! Angel of Sanction I think is the best tucker we have because he can do it twice from the graveyard thanks to Embalm.

Acrobatic Maneuver

Apart from creature-based exilers, Pan Doe dug really deep in his trash pile and found Acrobatic Maneuver which works extremely well with the exilers we’re playing. We can blink them and release the monster underneath onto our field and trigger the ETB exile effect the second time around. It also gives you a free card to boot, which makes it an auto-include.

Servant of the ConduitDrover of the MightyChampion of Rhonas

A good approach to deck building is covering your bases in case you don’t draw your initial plan. Pan Doe included ways to help ramp us to allow us to cast these huge creatures naturally. Servant of the Conduit and Drover of the Mighty are the best 2-drop ramp creatures that add any color mana which is great to curve into Champion of Rhonas and cheat our big creatures without Dubious Challenge.

Let’s now go the ‘big creature’ department. Who exactly are we cheating into play?

Etali, Primal StormGhalta, Primal HungerZetalpa, Primal Dawn

I sense the EDH-side of Pan Doe couldn’t resist throwing in some curve balls into the deck design but I agree that the best fatties to include in such decks are those that hit hard, hard to remove, causes havoc when left unattended.

For me, Etali is the weakest in the combat zone but the strongest in effects. If he reveals Planewalkers or more of our threats, we can take over the board very quickly.

Ghalta is pure muscle. Apart from enchantment-based removal and Vraska’s Contempt, there is almost no way to take this dinosaur off the table in combat. It will gladly take all 4 copies of Lightning Strike before it hits the bin.

Zetalpa is my favorite because it’s like death staring down at your opponent and if he doesn’t draw into his answers or have them at hand, this Pterodactyl will shred the opponent down to size in 2 swings.

So here’s Pan Doe’s Dubious Challenge Deck:

Creatures: 23

3 Angel of Invention

1 Bishop of Binding

2 Champion of Rhonas

4 Drover of the Mighty

2 Etali, Primal Storm

4 Fairgrounds Warden

2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger

3 Servant of the Conduit

2 Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

Spells: 9

4 Dubious Challenge

2 Acrobatic Maneuver

3 Heroic Intervention

Noncreature Permanent: 6

3 Cast Out

2 Gift of Paradise

1 The Immortal Sun

Lands: 22

4 Aether Hub

2 Inspiring Vantage

3 Scattered Grove

3 Sheltered Thicket

4 Sunpetal Grove

2 Forest

1 Mountain

3 Plains

Sideboard: 15

2 Carnage Tyrant

3 Chandra’s Defeat

2 Deathgorge Scavenger

2 Gideon’s Intervention

1 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary

2 Prowling Serpopard

3 Thrashing Brantodon

The sideboard plan is quite straightforward based on what I took from Pan Doe.

Deathgorge Scavenger

Deathgorge Scavenger will help the deck survive against aggressive decks and is our only way to deal with graveyard decks like Scarab Gods and GPGs.

Prowling SerpopardCarnage Tyrant

Prowling Serpopard and Carnage Tyrant comes in against control decks that rely on counter magic. I am a fan of Carnage Tyrant because it is the bane of UB and UW decks and apart from Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate, they won’t be able to deal with this hexproof T-rex.

Thrashing Brontodon

Thrashing Brontodon comes in against opposing Ixalan’s Binding, Cast Out, GPG and even Vehicles if needed. Worse case, it’s a 3 mana 3/4 which is a decent body for blocking against early aggression.

Chandra's Defeat

Pan Doe paid respect to the power of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Glorybringers, Angrath, the Flame Chained (who can steal our creatures which is bad). It’s also a good card against mono red decks which I think is the worst match up for the deck on game 1 because the deck is generally slow.

Gideon's Intervention

Gideon’s Intervention is there against non-interactive decks like Approach, Anointed Procession, or for any card that we are not so well equipped to deal with.

Lifecrafter's Bestiary

Lifecrafter’s Bestiary is there for attrition decks. I would think this card if drawn and played early will draw us a lot of cards.

I think the deck is really unique. I saw something like this in Modern before and the deck’s designer was using Emrakul and Flickerwisps. They function the same way but of course in standard we don’t have eldrazis or blink creatures anymore.

Now how would I build this deck? Let me also share my take on Dubious Challenge.

Siren's Ruse

I would generally prefer Siren’s Ruse over Acrobatic Maneuver because it’s cheaper. Even without the card draw, I think the lower cost of the spell is critical if we want to sequence Dubious Challenge and still have the mana to blink our Warden, Angel or Bishop.

Since I am taking the blue route in the deck design, I’m foregoing Red and will replace Etali with Nezahal, Primal Tide. I agree with having the ramp strategy as back up and I want to be able to ramp into a creature that I’m sure will hit play. The draw ability of Nezahal is also relevant, incorporating Lifecrafter’s Bestiary’s ability in the main board somehow.

Release to the Wind

I also like to play with Release to the Wind since we’re playing blue already. You can choose to exile the creature which the opponent chose and cast it for free on your side of the table. Key word here is that the ‘owner’ gets to cast the exiled card so even if you target the creature that your opponent chose from Dubious Challenge, you still own the card and Release to the Winds will allow you to cast in on your side. You can also do this to your own exile-creatures to release the creature you tucked underneath or save them from sweepers, and have your Warden or Angel of Sanction waiting in exile for instant deployment later.

So how does my list look like?

Creatures: 23

4 Drover of the Mighty

3 Servant of the Conduit

4 Fairgrounds Warden

2 Bishop of Binding

3 Angel of Sanction

2 Nezahal, Primal Tide

2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger

3 Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

Spells: 13

4 Dubious Challenge

4 Siren’s Ruse

4 Release to the Wind

1 Essence Scatter

Lands: 24

3 Botanical Garden

4 Irrigated Farmland

3 Sunpetal Grove

3 Scattered Grove

4 Aether Hub

3 Forest

2 Plains

2 Island

Sideboard: 15

2 Carnage Tyrant

2 Ixalan’s Binding

4 Negate

3 Authority of the Consuls

2 Crook of Condemnation

2 Settle the Wreckage

I won’t talk so much about the cards me and Pan Doe have similarities in the sideboard so I’ll focus on the cards I preferred over his build.

Ixalan's Binding

I moved my Ixalan’s Binding from the main to the side primarily because I wanted to streamline my Dubious tricks and have as much exile-creatures and flicker effects. In case I run into problematic permanents in game 1, I would be caught half-baked with answers I don’t have enough draw spells to dig to.


I don’t want to be helpless against Approach decks or GPG decks. I want some ways to be able to answer these, or even Planeswalkers in the side. It will also help us get Dubious Challenge through in case the opponent is playing discard spells or counter magic.

Authority of the Consuls

Our deck is slow in getting the tricks going and before we get to cast Dubious, we might already be dead (or dying). Authority of the Consul will help slow our opponents down and let us get to our money cards like Settle the Wreckage which we have in the sideboard.

Settle the Wreckage

I hate getting ran over by mono red and RB-agro decks so I want some ways to make sure I get to untap on turn 4 with more than 10 life. A turn 2 dork will allow us a turn 3 Settle which is great in catching Bomats, Khenra’s, Kari Zev and Ahn-Crop Crashers that got too excited to hit the read zone.

Crook of Condemnation

I swapped Deathgorge Scavenger with Crook of Condemnation because I don’t want to be forced to attack before I can snipe a card from the yard. It’s important we can exile at instant speed so we can respond to a Scarab God trigger, or prevent Search for Azcanta from flipping, or stop embalmers and eternals from coming back.

I would like to thank Pan Doe for sending his list. It’s an awesome idea and a really fun FNM deck to play. I’m sure even if you don’t get to win all your games, the deck guarantees all the games to be dubiously fun!

If you have decks you want featured, or would like to co-develop fun ideas into working decks – please send them to me via Facebook or leave a comment right here in the blog!



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