So, yes, Sylvan Primordial got banned. I do get why, but I still don’t really like it. Its a card that can do a lot of damage, but there are others.
A year ago, when Gatecrash was released, there was some talk on whether WotC was wrong in designing cards specifically aimed at the Commander players. In a way, yes. If Commander is about discovery, perhaps there shouldn’t be cards that are so easily discovered. On the other hand, WotC would prefer people actually buying cards and packs, so these cards are understandable. Also, they don’t really test for Commander in the same way they test for Standard and Limited, which is again understandable, because even if they now appreciate that there is a Commander audience, that audience is still marginal compared to the overall audience, or at least the amount of money they put into the game over time is miniscule compared to many Standard players. Also, since Commander players use plenty of old cards and often play the same decks years at a time (well, not really in our group, but still), their hobby is much harder to monetize than that of the Standard of Draft player.
From this point of view, the green monster isn’t really that badly designed. It has its use in Standard (I’ve seen it cast on second turn in a green devotion deck: forest into Elvish Mystic, then Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, use the forest and Elvish Mystic to cast Burning-Tree Emissary and use that mana for another one, and that mana into another one, and use the mana from the third one to activate Nykthos for seven mana, so the odds are low), but that’s a different format where effects like that can be debilitating, but than again, that doesn’t mean hours of downtime for anyone. It has a place.
The thing is, it also has a place in Commander. People play Cabal Coffers, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Maze of Ith, Eye of Ugin, Volrath’s Stronghold, Academy Ruins, Gaea’s Cradle and other very powerful lands. You need to be able to get rid of those. At the same time, you don’t always see those, so you what you want to do is to use those slots for cards which are able to do lots of things. This is where our culprit is a very nice card. It has a nice body and an effect which is never totally wasted.
On the other hand, if it comes down early, it can be very bad. Players who are strained for mana (and generally, you will be in Commander) will be worse off and the player who played it will be ahead by miles. I once got him out on third turn in two consecutive games (well, with Unexpected Results, so basically just blind luck) and with three other players in the game, that put me very far ahead with seven lands against my opponents two (as I had already ramped into extra one). That can ruin a game for many people.
So, yes, we need cards like that. No, they don’t need to be quite as versatile. I guess its partly a colorpie thing as green usually just destroys land and doesn’t have anything specifically against nonbasics (I might be wrong here, but that seems like red’s area with cards like Burning Earth and Blood Moon, although it might be more about unbalancing the game with weird effects, which definitely is red’s area), but I think it could be good limitation here. That would still be extremely strong in Commander, but less so than currently. Also, maybe drop the ramping part. It would still be very good.
We do still have Acidic Slime, Woodfall Primus and Terastodon, but I would still like more, especially since I don’t like to put too many tutors in my decks just for the sake of not always playing the same game with my decks (although, my decks have such a short lifespan that this isn’t really a problem, although I do have my stable of staples, which are in just about any deck).