Yes, It Still Feels Good to Cast Invoke Despair, Even if we have to do it in Explorer

Discover why casting Invoke Despair in MTG's Explorer format remains a rewarding experience. Learn strategies to optimize its impact

We presently live in a MTG world where it is pretty easy to amass a large group of permanents on the board, and equally, in the same world, it is pretty darn easy to remove almost all of them with one spell. Some of these spells cost as little as four mana, and we begin to play around them once we see that a deck is not playing any spells, almost as if they are baiting us into playing all of our permanents to the board, only to have them removed en masse. This is why Invoke Despair is a particularly awesome card.

The Card that Didn't Deserve to be Banned

Magic the Gathering Card - Invoke Despair - MTG Circle

We are over a year removed from it's banning along with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and Reckoner Bankbuster. The latter two had really good reasons for being banned as opposed to the former. They were incredibly easy to fit into any deck, gave people mana fixing, and flat out way too much value for their two and three respective mana costs. Based on that information, it leaves one to wonder why Invoke Despair would get banned. It has a very restrictive mana cost, and two of the cards that gave us instant mana fixing for very little mana have just been banned. The official reasoning was that it had too high of a power level, and discouraged card diversity. One could easily argue that the level was not actually that high according to the way standard was going. It was a very easy spell to counter, isn't that strong against aggro, as five mana spells should be removing multiple creatures, if not all of them. It didn't seem just to have this card banned, let alone in line with how the game was going to progress. We now have creatures that make enchantments, and we have tons of planeswalkers that make creatures. Anyway, before this turns into an article strictly regarding my disdain for a card banning that happened over a year ago, I have a deck for you that is centered around playing Invoke Despair and making the opponent lose a ton of life. The format we will play in is Explorer.

Decklist and Key Cards

Total Cards:

Aside from Invoke Despair, we have a few other powerful cards in the matchup that clear our path to victory. One of the staples in mono black,

Magic the Gathering Card - Bloodletter of Aclazotz - MTG Circle

This card for obvious reasons is incredibly powerful - and if they had any knowledge that it would later be printed when it was possible that Invoke Despair and it could exist in Standard at the same time - I actually feel like that would be better justification for banning the card than what they originally told us. Bloodletter plays zero games, and it allows us to possibly keep a Sheoldred on the board, because they have to worry about the fact that this could actually kill them faster.

Magic the Gathering Card - Corrupt - MTG Circle

Does this card send the deck into more of a "meme" status? Possibly, but man is it fun to do twelve damage with one card and six mana. Even if that isn't good enough, just consider all of the people who would never expect someone to run this card in the format, which carries it's own value.

Magic the Gathering Card - Ritual of Soot - MTG Circle

We all know that at times, explorer can be a faster format. Mono Red is still relevant, along with other aggro decks. Soot allows us to wipe the board without destroying any of our key creatures.

Magic the Gathering Card - The Celestus - MTG Circle

Celestus allows us to dig for more cards and gain some extra life. There are times where Explorer can turn into a top deck war, so this will help give us an extra edge. It also allows us to ramp, so we can sometimes resolve an Invoke Despair on turn four.

Combine these cards with your usual culprits for removal and hand hate, and you have a deck that is equipped to deal with many threats and combos that will be thrown at it.

Possible Sideboard Ideas

I believe that it is possible for this deck to be played in best of three, and it can comfortably play some of the staples that we usually put in the sideboard in Mono Black Decks for Explorer. Leyline of the Void comes to mind. Phoenix decks are pretty big right now, so that will help us out a lot with completely locking them out of their value engines. Along those lines, we can also play Cling to Dust for some life gain and card draw. We can also add Duress for the control decks, and to hit an opponent's thoughtseize so that we don't have to lose two life every time we want to hit their hand. Some of these choices could also make Nighthawk Scavenger a less powerful card, so we can also bring in either Graveyard Trespassers, or even Phyrexian Fleshgorger to cast as three mana spells that wouldn't detract from our goal against exiling graveyards.

Possible Bad Matchups/Final Thoughts

This deck can struggle a bit against the Angel life gain decks, and sometimes also struggles against control if we don't draw a thoughtseize. I would like to think that these matchups get better in best of three, although there aren't as many angel decks in best of three. Sometimes Mono Red can be a tad difficult if we are on the draw, and especially if we don't have any early plays. If we can make it to four mana, and draw a Ritual of Soot, we have a chance to stabilize, but Mono Red is still fast regardless and does not forgive us for not playing to the board.

I believe that ultimately the deck will have to have some bad matchups as any deck does, but at it's core, it's a fun deck to play. Chaining a couple invokes back to back, or resolving Corrupt for lethal is always a good feeling. It's also a good time calculating exactly how much life we can make the opponent lose with Bloodletter, especially if they aren't interacting with our side of the board.

I am a Magic The Gathering competitive player, and streamer. I specialize in homebrew decks. My favorite formats are: Standard, Pioneer (Explorer on Arena), and EDH. I first started playing MTG in 2001, and have played on and off since then.

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