For those of you who visited yesterday and found TCGplayer blank of Make the Play Monday... Well, this is why.

I have been conscripted to coauthor the Magic 2015 Core Set Review with brewmaster (and "Conley Woods Game" centermage), Conley Woods. To this end I will be responsible for black, green, and land cards (returning on Thursday). Net net, you'll still get double eyeballs full of Flores this week. You're welcome.

In order to produce a coherent and unified set review with Conley, I will be borrowing his Constructed and Limited star systems for my aforementioned ratings of black, green, and land cards.

To wit:

Constructed

● Five Stars - Heavy play across multiple formats (Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Deathrite Shaman, Tarmogoyf)

● Four Stars - Support roles across multiple formats ( Spell Pierce) OR Tier One in at least one format ( Thragtusk); highly desired cards regardless.

● Three Stars - "Bread and butter" cards of a set; utility cards with a good rate of return (Oblivion Ring, Izzet Charm, Diregraf Ghoul)

● Two Stars - More restrictive in application than three star cards, but serving similar purposes; sideboard or niche cards (Skullcrack, Heartless Summoning, Gladecover Scout)

● One Star - Outside chance of play, but will not see much play. Some potential to make it into a winning list ( One with Nothing)

● Zero Stars - Unplayable in Constructed formats regardless of context; Grizzly Bears and Siege Mastodon are Conley's examples. You can see these are just vanilla Limited creatures that are not costed competitively enough for Constructed. My guess is you would probably play a Grizzly Bears that either cost G or allowed you to discard a card to give it +1/+1 while changing its color for no mana cost.

It is important to note that two star cards like Makeshift Mannequin or Heartless Summoning can often prove centerpieces of strategies that bend the remaining 56/71 cards around themselves; and that it can be perfectly reasonable to play lower-star cards in lieu of cross-format All-Stars in order to promote deck synergy; for example a Legacy Maverick deck that plays zero copies of five-star Tarmogoyf but one or more copies of Gaddock Teeg or Fauna Shaman as a green two-drop.

Limited

● 5.0 - I will always play this card. Period.

● 4.5 - I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.

● 4.0 - I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.

● 3.5 - I feel a strong pull into this card's color.

● 3.0 - This card makes me want to play this color; given that I'm playing this color, I will play this card 100% of the time.

● 2.5 - Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these.

● 2.0 - If I'm playing this color, I usually play these (70%)

● 1.5 - This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color (50%)

● 1.0 - I feel bad when this card is in my deck (30%)

● 0.5 - There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I'll start it only if I'm desperate

● 0.0 - I will never put this card into my deck.

Accursed Spirit

For Limited you will generally play on-color "Hill Giant" cards; though depending on the depth of your pool, specifically on-color creatures, you may not play all of them. Accursed Spirit has things going for it relative to other Hill Giants (evasion); but defensively, on the draw, trying to catch up, or even just playing against other black decks, this card runs the risk of trading down.

Basically you don't want to be in the position of trading with a 2/x-drop of perhaps substantially lower CMC, but the sub-Hill Giant toughness on Accursed Spirit can put you in that position. I do think that this is counterbalanced by the evasion, which will be offensively on most of the time.

For Constructed...you would basically never play this in Constructed. It is simply too expensive for the cost.

Limited - 2.5
Constructed - zero stars

Black Cat

Though it depends on the depth of your resources, my guess is that Black Cat will make the cut in an optimal Limited [main] deck less than half the time. It has good things going for it, namely its low cost and the opportunity to generate card advantage. On the other hand, it has a negligible board presence that generally allows the opponent some control over when -- and even if -- the discard trigger happens.

Black Cat might be a terror against some decks, though, say an opponent with many small ground creatures where you can legitimately trade. Even if you aren't planning to play your Black Cats main deck, it may reward you to stockpile low opportunity cost / late Black Cats to sideboard against foes with a lot of 1/1, 2/1, and 3/1 creatures.

Black Cat is quite a bit weaker than Ravenous Rats for Constructed. Ravenous Rats was a near-Staple in some Constructed formats due to its interactions with cards like Cavern Harpy, or just on-curve in disruption decks (especially those with creature buff effects like Hatred or Umezawa's Jitte). Black Cat is weaker because it doesn't always force the opponent to discard immediately. Only if and when it dies.

You can of course play a deck where you have more control over this happening (say a Birthing Pod or Goblin Bombardment deck). But the random element over Ravenous Rats's 187 trigger seems like a real head scratcher in terms of reward-over-additional cost. It's not like Ravenous Rats is currently tearing up large formats! Plus Birthing Pod decks seem like they have better things to do than maybe force a random discard sometime down the line.

Tough to say unplayable given the combination of low cost and potential built-in card advantage, but only an outside chance in my opinion.

Limited - 1.0
Constructed - one star

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Blood Host

In Limited Blood Host is probably a mite slow; but given the opportunity to untap with it on the battlefield -- especially with friends -- it will Threaten to take over the board.

Most decks will have to Think Twice before including Black Cat, but if you have a card like Blood Host, dying-trigger creatures like Black Cat automatically get a lot better. If I am already in black I am very likely to include this card; if I am not already in black, having this card will prompt me to see what synergies I can build around it. The combination of increasing size over time (with big creatures capable of winning games and difficult to deal with given limited reservoirs of creature removal) and life gain / racing is quite compelling. I think this would even be good in a predominantly small creature deck as a killer at the top of the curve that gives you something to do with late game tiny topdecks.

On balance this is Constructed unplayable. The main reason is its mana cost(s). At five it is not a good enough expensive creature to tap out for (as opposed to, say, Red Zone stop sign Soul of Ravnica)m and its ability is too expensive to take seriously as a Constructed sacrifice outlet. There is wide precedent for players paying / overpaying to get permanent sources of X or Y onto the battlefield for large-scale or infinite combinations, but not with a 1B activation cost attached.

Limited - 3.0 [3.0 might be a little high. We can call this a 2.75]
Constructed - zero stars

Carrion Crow

Carrion Crow is the kind of card we might jokingly say tells us how to play correctly. If it enters the battlefield tapped, we can't accidentally block with it, losing our offensive, evasive, beater in a dumb combat.

But that would in fact be "jokingly" as entering the battlefield tapped is indeed a limitation on our options; though we might usually want to be sending with Carrion Crows offensively, there will certainly be games where we are about to die to the opponent's large flyer and we just need a flying blocker for a turn... Yus! ... oh wait :( #CIPTAPPED #WTF

Ya grok?

Generally you are going to play every single Carrion Crow you have / draft when you are in black; but a lone Carrion Crow isn't going to pull you into that color.

For Constructed this is too expensive to consider playing, relative to its size and drawback.

Limited - 2.5
Constructed - zero stars

Caustic Tar

Caustic Tar is an expensive, but powerful, tool for both Limited and Constructed deck.

In Limited, you will almost always play this as a Fireball finisher if you are already in black; though its complete lack of defense prevents it from forcing you to bend your draft around it like some other 4BB options (e.g. Soul of Innistrad).

In Constructed this will not be a common maindeck card; though I can see it as a maindeck one-of or two-of depending on the density of Monoblack Devotion and B/g Devotion in post-Magic 2015 Core Set Standard. Essentially if you are in a big black mirror, you will often see two mages with more than enough removal to kill all the threats in the opposing deck; two mages bouncing Gray Merchant of Asphodel reach + life gain against each other; and even life points buoyed or restricted by Whip of Erebos or Erebos, God of the Dead, respectively.

Caustic Tar provides you a threat card that can't easily be destroyed by an opposing black player, that gives you a recurring source of serious damage through any number of Doom Blades. Offensively this is not only a clock, but one that is synergistic with your own Gray Merchant of Asphodel and your opponent's Underworld Connections, but also one that has no defensive impact whatsoever.

I am rating this as two stars in Constructed because it doesn't block; but you can expect this to be a consistent contributor to black decks as a one-of or two-of in Standard, most likely out of the sideboard.

Limited - 3.0
Constructed - two stars

Child of Night

Child of Night has been around for several years. There is nothing that would sway earlier assessments of this card.

In Limited you will basically be happy to have this in black; it can put you ahead nicely if you get it on the second turn on an open 'field. But everything kills it, so it will be sticking around home more than you might like.

It hasn't made a peep in Constructed despite half-a-dozen years of opportunities. Nothing tells me this will change soon.

Limited - 2.5
Constructed - unplayable

Covenant of Blood

In Limited this card is quite expensive at seven, but is counterbalanced by having only one black pip in the casting cost + the presence of convoke [in a context where you will generally have not only creatures, but predominantly creatures as your spells]. At 4R this would be rated 4.0, so I think a 3.0 is reasonable given the ability to loosen up on mana.

Interestingly I think this card is firmly not-unplayable in Constructed. Obviously on its face this is not where you want to be, but there are probably contexts where it gets more attractive, or at least cheap enough that you would consider it given the reach implications. I'd put any token strategy with access to B on a "let's not be so hasty" list, primarily a Necromancer's Stockpile deck.

I'm not betting the farm on Covenant of Blood, but I'm not giving it the doughnut, either.

Limited - 3.0
Constructed - one star

Crippling Blight

Crippling Blight isn't the most exciting Magical Spell in the Planes of Dominaria, but it is costed exactly right to take out or blank enough Magical Creatures to warrant some consideration.

For B this card trades with most playable creatures at G or W, and quite a few playable two mana creatures as well. You are essentially always going to be happy slapping this on an Elvish Mystic and probably just fine blanking a Wall of Essence or the equivalent.

Crippling Blight has, of course, already been seen in Standard Constructed beatdown decks, albeit as the exception rather than a whiz-bang Staple. I do think it gets better due to synergies with Heliod's Pilgrim and the Constellation mechanic, if not any incremental excitement.

Limited - 3.0
Constructed - two stars

Cruel Sadist

While I am rating Cruel Sadist an excellent (and currently set-leading) 3.5 stars for Limited, I would just caution that this card is probably a lot less good in practice than you are currently imagining. Will you pick this first-pick, first-pack? Full on maybe. It is a creature with a gold expansion symbol, after all.

There will be many games where Cruel Sadist just sits there getting bigger and bigger from turn one, discouraging attacks, and threatening to take over with a series of 2B executions. Yes.

BUT!

Cruel Sadist is pretty cruel to you.

It will probably tax your brain cells more than your life points against fast beatdown decks, and make for paralyzing uncertainty in the face of tricky removal or instant speed combat buffs. At first blush this is definitely a card that gets your gears grinding, and the kind of card that will pull you into black. Just don't expect a LeBron James-back-to-Cleveland level of impact every time you pick this up.

In Constructed I am hard pressed to imagine a situation where I would want this. Cruel Sadist is so much worse than Grim Lavamancer. The problem is that the profile of deck where you would want to have a creature controlling other creatures (presumably where the opponent has little to no dedicated removal) is already punishing you with a combination of speed, size-to-cost ratio, and numbers, and can complicate matters with stuff like Brave the Elements.

Sans the "pay 1 life" line I'd be much more bullish on Cruel Sadist, but the fact that the decks where this has text are often attacking for two on turn two and putting you on 10 or less on turns three or four limit the time you have to grow it, much less kill anything with it.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - one star

Endless Obedience

Endless Obedience is the kind of card you will almost always play when you are already in black, riding two-and-a-half important incentives. 1) Given a forty card format, you probably have lots of creatures, so reducing costs from six to some more manageable number via Convoke is a given. 2) You might be in black in the first place due to the presence of common creature removal like Flesh to Dust (jazzing up the opponent's graveyard). 2.5) Having won the in-color rare lottery you might have some wicked double synergy like Necromancer's Stockpile where you are simultaneously dropping a big fat threat into your own graveyard while accumulating bodies for Convoke cheats.

Anyway this is a powerful cleanup card even at six; where you can commit or overcommit to take out the opponent's planned big way to win...just to beat him back with it, yourself.

But yes, six as a base.

For Constructed this is a card where we are projecting restricted application. It is clearly much worse than Unburial Rites at two more base mana and no built-in card advantage; so you almost need to get the Convoke payoff at some clip to consider playing it. The creatures in Constructed are sometimes quite exciting, though, so being in Black, full of Doom Blades, against red's Dragons or green's big and dumb green creatures helps sweeten the spice.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - two stars

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Eternal Thirst

I would not "feel bad" (Conley's words) playing this card in Limited, though I would probably have to have a plan based on synergies elsewhere in my deck to justify it, especially main deck.

The best cases are probably where I have a good number of flyers or other evasion creatures, helping to get a payoff on lifelink. If I have a lot of creature removal the bet might just be that I am going to kill all the opponent's guys and I don't need-need the +1/+1 counters. But depending on the always-unstable ebbs and flows of forty-card decks, I might get my incentive from removal. Finally, if I can set up a lot of creature trading via combat, blocking, and planned attrition, I might get quite the payoff on my lone, enchanted, evasion creature.

Any of these, or more than one at the same time, can help put Eternal Thirst into my deck, or make it a consideration out of my sideboard.

For Constructed I shudder at making this the full-on Constructed unplayable due to the wide variety of creature buffs we see in Heroic and Hexproof decks... But I can't imagine this as high tier, especially while Gift of Orzhova is available for just B more.

Limited - 1.5
Constructed - one star

Feast on the Fallen

For Limited this card will be highly dependent on context. While I don't know that I would "feel bad" playing this, but for Feast on the Fallen to have any text, we need to either be getting in or have a reliable source of damage / life loss and a recipient for the +1/+1 counter (which is, it might bear pointing out, only one +1/+1 counter). This is both a win-more and a card that produces no impact on the battlefield by itself or on-curve; though if you need a way to win a game, sacrificing your forces to get through -- just to get bigger long term -- may be a line of play. May be. Maybe.

For Constructed this is a bad combination of [relatively] expensive and low-impact. However if you are in the market for +1/+1 counters perhaps you can use direct damage, Caustic Tars, or even reliance on the opponent's pain lands to generate value. Feast on the Fallen triggers on every upkeep, so you can potentially get a +1/+1 counter thanks to the opponent's Battlefield Forge on his turn, followed by one triggered by a successful attack on yours.

Again, this seems like a lot of work for the payoff, but after your initial 2B investment, all the +1/+1 counters will be essentially free.

Limited - 1.0
Constructed - one star

Festergloom

I am rating Festergloom 3.0 rather than 2.5 for Limited because it has a built-in incentive to black. If you have black creatures this card is better than a regular removal spell so long as your opponent isn't also black; and if you are thinking about what color(s) to play and are evaluating your removal options, this one can help push you to your black men.

Festergloom has text in a black decks even when the opponent isn't particularly vulnerable to -1/-1. You can send all the men, he can think he is going to Crush you through a block, and you can still finish off certain of his surviving creatures. As a Falter you can play this pre-combat and the opponent might just let through one or more creatures he normally would have blocked because combat from even his surviving men would now be dismal.

And of course, it is hell on his Elvish Mystic or whatever, while leaving your Cruel Sadist fine.

So unless black is your support color, you're playing this at a higher rate than 2.5.

For Constructed it has some applications, particularly in redundancy, but probably only after you've exhausted Bile Blight, both of which are generally higher impact in Constructed decks, both at comparable-or-better CMC.

Limited - 3.0
Constructed - one star

Flesh to Dust

I am not super happy with Flesh to Dust, even as a Limited card, due to its many comparables. Murder was a full two mana cheaper, for instance, with Flesh to Dust's upside so narrow in practice.

That said, the only thing keeping it out of four star range is the second black mana pip; you'd seriously consider splashing this as the only black card in many Limited decks at 4B, despite the fact it will be trading down, mana-wise, a substantial amount of the time.

This costs way too much mana to warrant Constructed consideration. Hero's Downfall is not an automatic four-of in Standard, and that card is substantially cheaper and more versatile.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - zero stars

Gravedigger

Does your deck have "creatures"?

You are the target market for Gravedigger!

You will essentially always play Gravedigger in black Limited decks with creatures (ergo, black Limited decks), and some decks might even consider playing this as the only black card. I don't think that is as habitual a predicted state as say any Fireball (so I wouldn't rate Gravedigger 4.0 in Limited), but I could definitely see a green deck with one to two bomb creatures and some mana flexibility from Nissa's Expedition or Verdant Haven giving this card a long look.

Gravedigger has seen some Constructed play in Standard and Block formats, so I wouldn't rule it out entirely, but you would need to have a pretty specific context, plus a way to slow down the forward development of opposing powerhouse strategies to warrant its [small] size and [glacial] speed.

Limited - 3.0
Constructed - one star

In Garruk's Wake

The second black pip in the upper-right corner of In Garruk's Wake keeps it out of four- or five-star Limited consideration, as does the truly enormous BB7 mana ask. This is the kind of card that will trap some players, but be completely blank against certain super-fast tempo decks.

I think you'll play it in most black Sealed decks, but remember that non-green decks will need literally half their lands on the battlefield to muster the requisite nine.

That said, there is no denying the sheer one-sided power of this card. It can force a comeback even against a Garruk, Apex Predator that has been online for multiple turns, plus the army that protected him to get there. It is also an "unfair" card that kills all of their stuff while leaving all of your stuff; but hey, nine mana.

In Constructed the main application I can see here is in one of these incremental battlefield advantage decks...against one of these incremental battlefield advantage decks. For instance the G/W-based enchantment / Constellation deck that saw some play and popularity early on in Standard with Eidolon of Blossoms could get into a situation against itself where both mages had something on the order of Ajani, Mentor to Heroes or Karametra God of Harvests, so had problems bashing through. In a very long game you can expect to have multiple copies of Sylvan Caryatid on the battlefield, or might just be playing a Junk version anyway, allowing you the BB in BB7.

Definitely a sideboard card, though.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - two stars

Indulgent Tormentor

This card has all the makings of a Limited All-Star: Good size, evasion, ability up-side. Like more than one card in this black review, the only thing keeping Indulgent Tormentor out of four- or five-star consideration is the second black pip in the upper-right. When you are a black Limited deck, expect to play Indulgent Tormentor if you have it, and draft it high in black. Definite first-pick potential.

In Constructed you are just never going to play this. It is too small in the butt for a five. Everything kills it: Bile Blight, Anger of the Gods, Lightning Strike, Tom, Dick, Harry, X, Y, and even Z. For a five mana creature to see Constructed play at three toughness, it has to have some kind of self-preservation clause [that this doesn't].

Further, its special ability isn't even that exciting! If the opponent really, really, doesn't want you drawing, he can just pay three life...and God Forbid he is a tokens deck! It's not that you are getting no return; but you just aren't getting five mana worth of return against competitive Constructed opponents.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - zero stars

Leeching Sliver

For purposes of Leeching Sliver, I would consider Slivers-linear in addition to just black as a color. That is, having several Slivers of this power level might make Leeching Sliver exciting to play, or pull me into a second look on my Slivers.

As just a black creature, I think you will often play Leeching Sliver, even without other Slivers. It's kind of "a 2/1 on offense" and might get you some extra payoff (like the ability to steal a late-pack Sliver Hive). Further, it can get you the last life point even when the opponent has impregnable blockers. Definitely not an automatic in, though. Against some decks this will be lower impact than Black Cat at the same cost and stats.

I don't currently think we are going to see a Tier One Slivers deck in Standard, but if we do, Leeching Sliver is likely to make an appearance. But in terms of Constructed impact at the cost...compare to Pack Rat also at 1B and 1/1.

Limited - 3.0
Constructed - two stars

Liliana Vess

The original black Planeswalker returns!

Liliana never set the world on fire with her original five mana iteration, yet we have learned a ton about Planeswalkers (and playable Planeswalkers have skyrocketed in impact) in the years since.

You are going to play Liliana if you are already in black, but her combination of not-protecting-herself and lack of direct impact on the battlefield is going to make her a potential defensive liability in some situations. Not the kind of card that will pull you into black as a one-of, especially not with that second skull in the corner.

In Constructed, Liliana Vess is likely only going to be a sideboard card, though she is definitely a potential breaker in control mirrors. I think her fiercest competition is Caustic Tar, where Liliana has greater flexibility, potential for card advantage, and tricky impact, but Caustic Tar can't be destroyed via the 3-4 copies of Hero's Downfall that both mages are already packing main deck.

Alternately Liliana can set up a Draco Explosion-style Riddle of Lightning combo, but there are almost certainly more mana efficient ways to impact a game at a commitment of 10+ mana across three cards.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - two stars

Mind Rot

In Limited Mind Rot doesn't affect the battlefield at all, but does provide self-contained card advantage. This is the kind of card that you will not play all the time, will take your best card a frustrating amount of the time, but will get topdecked when the opponent has already spent his whole hand (or can react with sufficient open mana) often enough that you wonder why you are playing it at all. You will side Mind Rot in against slow decks when you didn't start it, and side it out against fast decks when you did; the very definition of a card you play sometimes.

Mind Rot is about the weakest iteration of the Stupor family; but it still has some very limited Constructed applications despite lacking a random discard or three free damage. A reliable two-for-one against a burn deck, this card is probably devastating on turn three (provided there is no Eidolon of the Great Revel partying from the other side of the table), or at any point you have a Staff of the Death Magus already on the battlefield. Too random to be effective against legitimate card advantage decks with Divination, Jace, or Sphinx's Revelation, Mind Rot can still buy a sideboard slot or three depending on what everyone else is doing. But note as good as this sometimes is against red burn decks, it's pretty awful against red beatdown ones.

Limited - 2.0
Constructed - one star

Necrobite

Frustrating combat buff allowing you to trade literally anything with the opponent's best creature; multiple applications you probably already know.

To date we haven't seen a lot of Necrobite play in Constructed, but there is no reason why we couldn't. It costs about the same as Rootborn Defenses, admittedly with a substantially narrower sphere of protection. The deathtouch component might have some applications.

Pretty hard to compare this to something like Brave the Elements, Gods Willing, or Mending Touch, though.

Limited - 2.5
Constructed - one star

Necrogen Scudder

I think you will usually be in the market for a 3/3 flyer for three mana, but might not always be happy to topdeck it in Limited. No one is writing love letters to Necrogen Scudder... But it will hopefully do more damage to opponents, on average, than you.

Compare to: Herald of Torment; Constructed Unplayable.

Limited - 2.5
Constructed - one star

Necromancer's Assistant

Necromancer's Assistant is surprisingly restrictive, even for Limited deck; the last thing you want is to randomly Millstone your own best stuff. I would even Think Twice if I had Gravedigger or Endless Obedience... Not because I have some newbie aversion to self-Mill, but because the payoff of a 3/1 (i.e. dies in combat to everything in combat) for three mana is a real eyebrow-raiser. You play it sometimes, sure, but the potential loss is not something you can ignore completely.

For this to see play in Constructed we would have to see quite a few things change substantially. It costs more than Satyr Wayfinder (and doesn't Recoup a free card); though it will still trade with Satyr Wayfinder in combat. Substantially worse than that card on the mana and almost shockingly inferior to Lifebane Zombie (admittedly arguably the best creature in Standard) at 3/1 for three mana.

Limited - 1.5
Constructed - one star

Necromancer's Stockpile

As with Leeching Sliver, I am adding Zombies-linear to Necromancer's Stockpile, not just black in general. This is the kind of card that can really give you some extra oomph if you have enough Zombies; or can inspire you to draft Zombies more aggressively. In addition it enhances the impact of cards like Endless Obedience or Gravedigger (itself a Zombie) by giving them direction, and in the former's case, virtual mana. Necromancer's Stockpile is a difficult card to rate numerically because it will be the best card in a deck with the right tools, and unplayable in other decks; I settled on right down the middle. :)

In Constructed this card would probably have to be the centerpiece of a Zombies-heavy deck. Ideally it will be somewhere between Compulsion and Survival of the Fittest in terms of power level. More than Compulsion as long as your deck is full of creatures (in particular Zombies), but incapable of fixing a bad hand the way Compulsion did; less powerful than Survival of the Fittest due to 1B activation cost over G. It is possible this card will have some wider scale play with automatic re-buy creatures (black has no shortage of those), though that second mana might be too much given the speed of large formats.

In Standard you will have to figure out how to slow the game down enough to make this meaningful, but it seems unbeatable in a long game given a critical mass of Zombie fodder. Either you will be printing uncounterable two-for-ones for 1B or finding and setting up powerhouse graveyard effects; for instance, I can see an argument for the various "Soul of..." creatures in concert with it. For instance, if you found Soul of Innistrad you could just play it, maybe win, and otherwise get continued fuel for your Necromancer's Stockpile... Or discard it, draw a card, and re-buy three previous creatures / Zombies for something like +6.

Again, you need time to pull this off so it's not automatically awesomely viable... But given even a little bit of time it is probably impossible to be ground out, with your enchantment essentially guaranteeing limitless blocking, graveyard setup for reanimation, and land drops for more and more Stockpile activations.

Limited - 3.0
Constructed - two stars

Nightfire Giant

The 4.0 rating is more along the lines of "I would play this as the only black card in a red deck" (great, and obvious, payoff there) and / or "I would play one or more Mountains in my non-red black deck to get access to this." If I am a black deck that for whatever reason can't afford red, I would drop this to the 1.5 range, as it trades with a lot of three drops and has no built-in evasion capabilities. In the right deck, it is probably going to be the most powerful card in your deck, huge, scary, and with minimum black and minimum red requirements for a hell of a monster-slash-machine gun.

You can't rate it 4.5 stars or more because it is essentially a two-color card; it is definitely exciting as the only black card in a red deck or the only red pips in a black deck, but you'd have a hard time justifying it in a U/W deck, for instance.

If there were such a thing as Magic 2015 Core Set Block Constructed, I could see this card being a weird powerhouse; you make your deck properly and you get a 5/4 for five with this insane murder machine attached. But I just don't see this as competitive in Standard. Do we splash it in a black devotion deck? Probably not, right? Would we ever pick this over Stormbreath Dragon in a big red deck? Again, probably not.

Ultimately, sometimes Limited All-Star, but not really playable in sixty-card decks.

Limited - 4.0
Constructed - zero stars

Nightmare

Nightmare is simply a nightmare for your opponent when it hits. In a straight black deck, this is expected to be 6/6 or bigger and flying for six mana. This is the kind of card you could consider bending your deck around (all Swamps being so much better than some Swamps), but a 3/3 flyer can still playable at 5B given its potential to grow over time.

Nightmare has been corner playable in Constructed in the past, and the presence of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth may help to bring it back with Magic 2015. Obviously you need all Swamps, or at least mostly Swamps; that requires a deck shell to play it in. Luckily we have one...that plays Temples, Mutavaults, etc. Will there be a baseline shell at all? Moreover we need a reason to play the card. Right now there is no pressing need. History tells us you want Nightmare 1) when it would be big enough (pretty much only in a Monoblack Control deck), and 2) only out of the sideboard, with particular opposition in mind (generally to overpower the opposing removal in a deck via a very powerful threat). The biggest problem for Nightmare IMO is Elspeth, Sun's Champion. She's similar in cost, heavily played, and trumps this card with built-in card advantage.

Unplayable? No.

Problems? We've got serious challenges, yes.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - one star

Ob Nixilis, Unshackled

This is just your standard big dumb bomb for Limited; you play this in black and it will Crush many opponents, getting bigger and bigger as you win more and more. Don't bet on the supposed Constructed 10-point application triggering, well, ever in Limited though.

This card is quite close to Constructed unplayable; I understand what they are trying to do here, but attached to a six mana 4/4 this is almost comically weak. For one thing, the maindecks you are fighting here are just too fast to be impacted by Ob Nixilis, Unshackled. Further, if the opponent is voluntarily searching while you have Ob Nixilis, Unshackled on the battlefield (which he can), it's probably worse for you than it is for him.

As a creature-creature this is at least a mana too expensive.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - one star

Paragon of Open Graves

The pull of Paragon of Open Graves in Limited should be obvious. This card just makes all your other black creatures better!

About one mana too expensive for Constructed consideration. At BB1 I would give it a look, but not at 3B.

Limited - 3.5
Constructed - one star

Rotfeaster Maggot

The 4.0 Limited rating I am giving this creature probably seems a bit odd. Rotfeaster Maggot is the typical "playable large vanilla creature" for Limited on stats alone (i.e. the typical zero star Constructed analogue to Siege Mastodon), but it is also potentially a worthy splash card.

For instance, if your opponent has a Soul of [anything] you might consider playing this card in an otherwise non-black deck. In-color the defense and life boost would put it around 3.0 anyway; not a bomb-bomb, but good defensive impact with solid random upside.

For Constructed I can see the conversation now:

"Scavenging Ooze is too good! It gets played all the way to Legacy!"

"Let's add three mana and make it only Remove one card...and only a creature card!"

"Yeah, no one will play it in Legacy then!"

[or much of anywhere else]

Limited - 4.0
Constructed - one star

Sengir Vampire

Simple story here: Limited this is a monster. It has better toughness than most of the other fives. It flies without paying life. Though you can't count the +1/+1 counters as particularly consistent,