Sylvan Primordial's ban in Commander

Why is Sylvan Primordial Banned in Commander?

Jacob LacknerCommander

While Commander’s grassroots origins make it different from many other Magic formats, it still has a ban list like the rest of them. However, since Commander is not a format with tons of tournament data to back up banning certain cards, some players are unsure why certain offenders end up on the list. Today, we’re going to look at Sylvan Primordial and discuss whether or not it should be unbanned.

The Primordial is a beefy, seven-mana 6/8 with reach, but its enter the battlefield ability makes it immensely powerful. It destroys a noncreature permanent each opposing player controls and you get to search your library for a Forest and put it onto the battlefield tapped for each permanent it destroys. Notably, it does not have to be a basic Forest.

Cards that allow you to add to the board while subtracting from your opponent’s tend to be great, and this does that in a really big way since you get a huge creature and a land. While it can’t kill creatures, the ability to hit every other permanent type really makes up for that fact. 

Your opponent is always going to have a target for this, since at worst you can hit a land. Frequently, you get to destroy a very important permanent, like a Planeswalker or enchantment.

All that power has made the Primordial quite successful in Magic’s 60-card formats. In both Standard and Pioneer, it has been played in Devotion to Green decks, which can quickly get this Avatar in play using Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx. As you can imagine, getting the Primordial down early is pretty game breaking. 

Why is Sylvan Primordial Banned in Commander?

While the Primordial is powerful enough for multiple 60-card formats, it is absolutely insane in Commander. There are three main reasons for this.

First, there is simply the fact that you’re going to be playing against more than one opponent. When that’s the case, the Primordial delivers even more value because you’re going to get to destroy so many more permanents and get a ton of lands.

Second, ramping in Commander is even easier than it is in 60-card formats. The most popular theme for green decks in Commander is ramp, and these decks can get the Primordial into play early with surprising consistency. 

Finally, there’s the biggest issue of them all. It is far too easy to abuse the enter the battlefield ability. If people could only get the ETB ability from the Primordial a single time, it would merely be a good card. 

However, once the ability triggers more than once, it becomes absolutely cracked. There is a critical mass of cards that allow you to do this no matter what your Commander’s identity is. 

If you’re playing mono-green you will have the least access to these types of effects, but you still have plenty of options. Most of them are colorless, like Conjurer’s Closet

Once you expand into a second color, like blue or white, you can gain access to many more blink and flicker effects. Combining Sylvan Primordial with something like Ephemerate or Displacer Kitten is usually going to be enough to win the game on the spot. 

If you’re playing black/green, you can easily combine the Primordial with sacrifice and reanimation effects to easily trigger it every single turn. For example, Diregraf Rebirth is a single card that allows you to reanimate the Primordial twice.

Should Sylvan Primordial be Unbanned in Commander?

Nope! Not unless you want the entire format to warp around it. Just getting to this card and triggering its enter the battlefield ability would become one of the primary game plans for virtually every Green deck since it creates such a massive swing in the game. When the dust clears, you have the most mana in play and you will have destroyed a whole bunch of powerful permanents.

End Step

What do you think? Should the Primordial be legal in Commander?  You can hit me up on Twitter with your take, along with suggestions for cards you’d like to see me address in the future.