Serpentine Spike from Magic the Gathering’s Battle for Zendikar set is what is known as a “bulk rare” card in the trading card game. These are rare cards that many store buylists will buy from you from anywhere from a nickel to a dime. Of course, not all bulk rares are created equal. Some of these typically worthless cards will still see some meaningful play while others will sit in bins for their entire lifespans.
In this way, Serpentine Spike falls into a category known as a true bulk rare. These are cards that will never see any meaningful Constructed play simply because they aren’t good. Quite a number of these true bulk rares have been featured as foil “cover cards” for Magic the Gathering Intro Packs over the years. Serpentine Spike was one of these “intro pack rares” which made it pretty much worthless to buy the Intro Pack in question.
Like many bulk rares, this seven-mana Sorcery card looks pretty good on the surface. The ability to destroy three creatures at once makes it a good card from a card advantage standpoint. It also exiles those creatures if they would be destroyed, bypassing any “when it dies” abilities.
Also, even if those creatures wouldn’t be destroyed by this card, the damage done stays for the rest of the turn. This allows your own creatures to attack and potentially make trades in your favor should your opponent choose to block with them. It can also be used after combat to destroy creatures that were hurt already so that you can finish them.
The trouble with Serpentine Spike is that it requires three different targets. That means if your opponent controls fewer than three creatures, you would have to choose your own creatures as legal targets for the card to function. Of course, you could simply choose one of your own creatures that would survive the damage. But, being forced to have three different targets makes the card a lot less fun to play.
Serpentine Spike is what you call a “high-variance” card. There will be times where this card will turn the game in your favor on its own. Other times, it will be a dead draw, or require you to burn a creature or two of your own in order to even cast it. As a rare that was included in one of the Battle for Zendikar Intro Packs, some newer players probably became a bit frustrated with it due to how awkward this card can be.
As far as teaching new players about complicated cards, Serpentine Spike can serve as a good teaching tool. It doesn’t take long to figure out that while this card is inherently powerful, the way it’s worded makes it extremely situational. It was somewhat playable in a Battle for Zendikar draft or in sealed play, but it’s never seen any competitive Constructed play for good reason. If you’re building a deck that doesn’t involve a limited card pool, you can happily let this card go for a few cents to a buylist.