Setback Strategy Guide



This guide uses Flamethrower49's Basic Outline, which is ironic considering what Flamethrowers do to Pinecones.  These guides are a community effort and if you can provide any suggestions or constructive criticism, I will modify them accordingly.


  • Best Attack: Karmic Retribution
  • Best Team Support: Wrong Time and Place
  • Best Personal Support: Silver Lining
  • Primary Damage Type: Melee
  • Secondary Damage Type: Psychic
  • Worst Card: Uncharmed Life
  • Nemesis: Kismet
Setback: the most lovable character in the Sentinels universe. Things might not always go his way, but they might very well go yours when playing with this unique hero. He's the king of taking hits, but in his own words: “better [him] than someone else!” Any team should appreciate his ability to soak up damage and keep on kicking. Just stand a few meters back when he does.


The Unlucky Pool:

In spite of it's name, it's usually in Setback's best interest to keep his unlucky pool well stocked. There are only several exceptions to this. The biggest is Looking Up—a great card, as it is Setback's best reliable way to deal damage and to add unlucky tokens; a great amount of each in fact (3 base damage is a very good power, second only to Expatriette's Tactical Shotgun, and no other power Setback has adds to his pool). If you ever have 10 or more tokens in your pool, Setback starts hitting himself for 3 Psychic damage each turn with Looking Up. Usually you can manipulate your pool to avoid this, but it does put a cap on how much unluck you can safely store up.


The other four cases under which you might (theoretically) want fewer tokens in your unlucky pool rather than more are as follows: the opportunity to heal yourself with Plucky Break, less feedback damage from Cause and Effect, less damage done to yourself with High Risk Behavior (although you shouldn't play HRB unless you intend to be doing a lot of extra damage anyway, but you might have Risked it into play by accident), and the ability to heal yourself with Karmic Retribution (which you should never, EVER do willingly).


In all other cases, keep your pool stocked as much as possible. You want to (at least) be able to Karmic Retribution at any time, even if you don't currently have one on hand. Do be careful with having more than 9 tokens though, even if you don't have Looking Up in play yet, because you never know when you might need it or Risk it into play.


Taking Damage Like A Boss:


Setback takes damage. Damage from enemies, damage from allies, damage from himself. However, this isn't always the worst thing for him (and he does have base 31 HP), and he has ways to mitigate the disadvantage it poses. The first is, of course, Silver Lining. The best example of why to keep your unlucky pool stocked, this card is Setback's Aegis of Resurrection. It requires a bit more preparation, as you want it to go off when you can get upwards of 7 health, but if you know how to use it you can prolong Setback's life for a long time. Surprising Fortune can give you pretty sustainable healing and drawing (you can also help an ally who needs more cards); the downside is that it eats through your unlucky pool. Cash Out is a nice one-shot; it can heal you AND your allies while simultaneously giving you a lot of cards. One good combo with Cash Out is to use it when you already have Looking Up in play, so you can immediately replace the lost unlucky tokens. As mentioned above, Plucky Break can heal you, but it is difficult to have exactly two unlucky tokens at any given time (Friendly Fire can be a way to do this after a Karmic Retribution or a Silver Lining, but it only nets you 1 HP). Uncharmed Life can heal you 3, but doing so requires both your play and power phases, so it usually should not be used solely for this purpose. Finally, Wrong Time and Place is your best way to handle incoming damage. With a built-up unlucky pool, you can theoretically save yourself and your allies a lot of damage, at the expense of the villain. You do risk taking some damage (although not that much, as it only applies the first time each turn), but that is damage that won't be going to your allies, and you can shuffle it back into the deck if it becomes a problem. The only real drawback is that you only have a single copy, so count yourself lucky if you draw it.  Many of Setback's combos rely on this one card, so try to Cash Out your way to it as quickly as possible.


As for the cards that hurt Setback, they usually have worthwhile effects to supplement them. Cause and Effect is a great card; not only does it get rid of an ongoing/environment card, but it has the potential to deal even more damage that Karmic Retribution (the drawback being that Setback takes just as much damage as he puts out. Note however that this card does not deplete your unlucky pool, so this can lead to some powerful combos: you can deal a ton of damage, the use Wrong Time and Place to redirect all the feedback damage you would have taken, thereby doubling the attack, or (less optimally, but still effectively) deal a ton of damage, become incapacitated, then regain health equal to the attack from Silver Lining. Just be careful; the first strategy does not work if you have any positive damage modifiers.


Speaking of damage modifiers, you have High Risk Behavior. Like Mr. Fixer’s Bloody Knuckles, this is a hard card to use effectively, but it can be crazy powerful under the right circumstances. Having it in play turns Karmic Retribution into a devastating 9 power attack. Also, it can be used in conjunction with Looking Up; Looking Up adds 3 unlucky tokens before dealing damage, so it gives itself an automatic +1 modifier.  The additional automatic token each turn can be useful too.  Just be careful keeping it out for too long, as Setback runs through his health very quickly if he’s not careful (and he never is).


Uncharmed Life is a meh card. If it just redirects damage to you, it would be okay, but it also eats through your unlucky pool. At least it gives you some health back once you decide you've had enough of other people's damage.


Turn of Events is a great card; you will lose a lot of tokens, but only two damage in exchange for everyone else getting to use a power will usually hurt you a lot less than it hurts the villain.


Friendly Fire is a good way to get unlucky tokens passively, and if used in conjunction with Wrong Time and Place it essentially allows you to add a free +2 damage to your allies' first attack each turn. If you don't have Wrong Time and Place in though, only use this when you need tokens desperately.




Setback's final self-damaging card is also an attack card: Reckless Rush. I don't really like this card—the two damage to yourself in exchange for only two to your opponent is not useful in most cases—but it does provide you with your only one-shot that both does damage and adds to your unlucky pool, so that's something. If you have Wrong Time and Place in play, you can redirect the two damage you would otherwise take (and then replace the lost unlucky tokens immediately), turning this into a 4 attack card, which is, ehh, okay.The other two damaging one-shots are Karmic Retribution (by far Setback's best attack), and Exceeded Expectations (Setback's only AoE card, and not a half-bad one). Looking Up rounds out Setback's attack arsenal, and it does so fantastically, as discussed above.


The Clumsy:

Ahh, clumsy Setback. Fumbling Fool is actually a very good card. The [H] Tokens are always nice, and the card has potential for synergy with allies (i.e. Parse/Visionary putting a damaging villain card on top of the villain deck, or using it right after Tempest's Into the Stratosphere, or helping Tachyon get her bursts into the discard pile, ect.). “Whoops! Sorry!” can be annoying coming in off of a Risk (which seems to happen far more than it statistically should :rage:  ), but used late game when someone has redundant or superfluous ongoings or equipments, it can be used to hurt the villain more than it hurts your team. Also the bonus 3 unlucky tokens are a nice plus.



Setback's biggest weakness is his reliance on Melee damage.  Cause and Effect is his only reliable way to deal Psychic damage to someone other than himself, but it also damages him.  There is an interesting combo that you can use to get around this: give yourself more than 9 tokens with Looking Up, let yourself take the Psychic damage, and redirect the damage with Wrong Time and Place.  Then use Looking Up in your power phase to replenish your pool and deal an additional 3 damage (although this will be melee).  This is a good combo regardless of whether your opponent has some defense against Melee, as it allows Setback to reliably put out 6 damage each turn.



Setback appreciates anyone who can help him Risk the right cards into play, or get to his Wrong Time and Place faster. Visionary and Parse are great for this. In both cases, they benefit too from Setback's ability to absorb damage.  


Visionary's Twist the Ether is amazing for Setback, as it can boost his damage against enemies while simultaneously reducing his damage to himself.  It can also help him overcome his reliance on Melee, if that becomes a problem.

Donner did one for Setback you might compare with

Oh, cool, I'll check it out.  I wanted to do one for each vengeance hero, since the Flamethrower thread never got around to those, but I could definitely incorporate some other ideas or things I missed.  I'm no expert the way Flamethrower was.

Setback is my boy. Favorite character for me to play, so far.

a combo i enjoy doing is looking up, at under 10 tokens, until I get wrong time and place (either with cash out or normal draw). Then I shoot for having 9+tokens before I play it, so looking up's damage will trigger next turn when i have 10+ tokens and I can redirect it... Then replenish the lost tokens with looking up. This leaves setback at roughly 12-ish tokens and 3/3 damage a turn. Course with all the redirecting from other attacks, the pool will dimisnish fast since Setback is not gaining anymore tokens. So I try to play fumbling fool and reckless rush to keep my pool ahead of the curb, and hope a cause and effect comes out soon, while I have a 10+ pool so I can redirect that for a big 10+/10+ Finisher.

There are plenty of combos to find with setback, like say: 2x high risk + surprising fortune for a low token setup (though that's rarely in the cards), but I'm very partial to the one listed above. 

I would add how Setback is a prime candidate for a Twist the Ether as it really mitigates the self damage while pumping up your other attacks and replacing melee for something less resisted.


Setback also usually partners well with damage mitigators Argent Adept giving him damage reduction can reduce the token cost for Wrong Time and Place redirects (See Pipe Wrench and Driving Mantis for a precedent on how that works). At the same time given his friendly damage taking ways Friendly fire becomes much better if you only take 1 dmg for 2 unlucky tokens.

I'd like to see your take on Promo Setback too, I find he thrives on low unlucky setups as the base power will reduce it but work even without meaning more healing and providing timely dmg reduction  for those that have little to no defensive cards (especially Parse)

I'm not a Setback pro but I hope this helps.

Definitely agree with the Twist the Ether synergy. An excellent guide - Flamethrower's guides have always been fantastic, and I'm glad to see the tradition carrying on.


Might be worth mentioning Setback's reliance on melee damage. From memory, Cause and Effect is his only source of non-melee damage, and it comes at  pretty hefty price.

10+ unlucky pool with looking up and wrong time and place is a constant source of psychic damage.

Personally, I don't care for Karmic Retribution for an attack due to the high token cost.  I use it in emergencies and avoid it otherwise.  Those tokens can be spent more efficiently, in my opinion, in other ways.  Especially since Karmic Retribution removes the tokens before it hits, removing at least 2 potential extra damage from High Risk Behavior.  The healing, however, is cheap and effective.

I consider Looking Up to be Setback's strongest attack, and Surprising Fortune to be his best team AND personal support. My seconf favorite double support card is Cash Out - both gives him as much draw as he needs and gives the whole party healing. To me, his worst card is Karmic Retribution, though "Whoops!" can be really bad if played by his innate power at the wrong time.


When I'm playing a High Risk-centered game and his health drops dramatically, there are two solutions:

1> Drop Silver Lining and pump tokens until he explodes via Looking Up (or his base power). You're left with 0 tokens in your pool and ~15 HP and you can build back up from there. But, that only helps you in the short term, and I find it kinda boring. I prefer:

2> Cash Out for all but 4 tokens, feed it a card and have H-2 other people drop one card each, then trigger Surprising Fortune targetting another player with the draw. Your team cycles two cards total and heals 2 each, and you heal 4, cycle a card, and draw (tokens)-5. Suddenly, you have 4 HP more than you did before and no + damage, which is often enough to save you. You can then let High Risk x2 give you 2 tokens a turn and spend both of them on Surprising Fortune, continuing to heal yourself 2 while staying at 2 tokens (ie: +0 damage taken) and let someone else draw two on your turn.

I usually prefer #2 because if Setback was in High Risk mode long enough to get into single digits, it's likely he's already wrecked havok with the villain. The game is likely nearing the end, and swapping to a self-heal, other-draw mode for the last few turns is often quite nice. Especially since you drew so many cards (assuming you had 15+ tokens), you likely have 1-2 more Cash Outs in your hand to heal the whole party for 2-4 more. At the very end of the game, 10 healing (assuming a 4-hero party) a turn is often enough to hold your party up while the other heroes win.



Thinking about it, Silver Lining is probably the better way to go, but the Cash Out option is more fun!


Seriously though, Surprising Fortune is great team support. Since 1 token is worth about 1 HP, it's basically like having "Power: one player draws two cards" which is just about the strongest card draw support power there is. (The 1 token is worth 1 HP thing comes from the fact that most cards that give 2 tokens deal him 2 damage and most healing costs as many tokens as he heals.)

Third option:  Play Wrong Time and Place.  Use the tokens to redirect the damage from Looking Up to a target and use Looking Up to replenish said tokens.  A bit riskier with High Risk Behavior in play (and more expensive!) but it will also drop your tokens lower and give your allies some defense.  A risky option, but well worth it if successful.


Edit: I also agree with Karmic Retribution being his weakest offensive card.  It is too expensive for what it does.  If it removed tokens after the hit, it would be amazing as it would take advantage of High Risk Behavior.  As it is, it's really an "in case of emergency, break tokens" button.

Totally agree - I only use Karmic either by accident via his base power (and then I'm always really sad), or when I need to break through DR.

Wrong Time and Place is great sometimes, but it seems ineffecient in the situation where you've been too risky and need to shunt tokens. If Setback is the target, the cost in tokens to activate the redirect takes his bonus damage taken into account, but the damage you deal does not. If someone else is targetted first, you have to ditch the tokens or Setback takes extra damage. If the villain hits someone for 7 and you have 6 tokens left, you are forced to take 9 or 11 damage. Definitely never do this when playing with a Hunter/Hunted Chrono Ranger or a Prime Wardens Tempest!

Wait, why not prime wardens Tempest? That damage is from the environment, so it isn’t buffed by WTaP, and you only take the first got anyway, so it’s only 3. Tempest takes the second and third hits.

Once the damage is redirected from Chrono-Ranger it no longer gets the "increase damage to Chrono-Ranger" buff.  It only gets the "increase damage to Setback for High Risk Behavior" buff.  It actually can really help Chrono-Ranger if Setback doesn't have High Risk Behavior in play and tanks for Chrono-Ranger.

Except you have to pay the tokens when that hero is taking the damage. It's pay the tokens, OR redirect it to Setback. So you have to pay for the buff against Chrono-Ranger, but not Setback, unless Setback is the original target.

Then just eat it as Setback as long as High Risk Behavior isn't in play.  He can heal really well and it'll be a ton less than Chrono-Ranger would take.

Right. I wasn't arguing against WTaP; just clarifying the sequence of events.

Alternatively, use it to dump tokens when you are in High-Risk mode, and someone else is getting hit; then you spend fewer tokens, rather than taking extra damage from the buff.


It definitely can be a great card, and its flavor text matched with Setback's innate power and the "shuffle-it-back-into-the-deck" mechanic make it one of, if not my absolute favorite card in the game, on a thematic level. Not NECESSARILY on a mechanical level, but it's pretty high up there. Fun fact: that was another card in Setback's deck that I helped to rewrite. The original version was... finnicky, at best. Brutally overpowered and/or swingy at worst.

"Redirect all damage dealt to hero targets to the card next to this card.

At the start of your turn, if you have 10 or more tokens in your unlucky pool, move this card next to a different target."


I think I was the one who originally came up with the "spend X tokens to redirect, where X is the damage dealt," to be specific. My version stuck to a target, and the first damage they dealt redirected to Setback, unless you spent the tokens.

Then came the almost-final version, which was the crap-your-pants-if-it-came-out version:

"Whenever a hero target would be dealt damage, redirect that damage to Setback or spend X tokens to redirect it to a target of your choice, where X is the amount of damage that would be dealt.

At the start of your turn, you MUST shuffle this card back into your deck."

And there were 2 of them.

That was the version I liked the most, thematically. You went "OH CRAP, YOU AGAIN" when it came out, and then it shuffled back into your deck to harrass you again later, when you least expect it. It was awesome! Too hazardous though, so I'm glad they changed it to where it is now. I just wish they would give us a ruling on whether the redirect is once per turn or once per target per turn...

To add my own two-cents to what Donner said, it works marvelously with a small party that has its own damage mitigation, since it keeps the H-2/H-1 damage, and the instances of damage, low, which keeps you from running out of tokens. You kinda have to avoid High-Risk Behavior in this set-up, because if any damage comes Setback's way, it'll drain his tokens like mad. In a game with Omnitron-U, Setback and Wraith against Akash'Bhuta, I was able to keep him comfortably hovering between five and nine tokens easily, and party damage was kept to a minimum.

They have by now – it's once per target per turn, which means I never, ever play Wrong Time and Place on purpose.

If the guide were being written today with that ruling in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if WTaP was tapped as his worst card, because it all but guarantees he's not going to make it to his next turn unless you already have a massive pool of unlucky tokens. And that doesn't happen in most of my games with him unless I am putting all of the team's effort into letting him use Looking Up over and over.

In Vengeance mode, it's straight up suicidal.

Looking Up, Friendly Fire, Fumbling Fool and High Risk Behavior are so key to having fun with Wrong Time and Place.  I tend to only play it when there are only a few enemies/environment targets out.  Then, I like to redirect the damage to the enemies that hit multiple targets first, or the big must-kill targets.  If you get it out from a bad Risk, make sure to shuffle it back in at the start of your turn.  Usually by mid to late game Risk is overshadowed by Looking Up and Surprising Fortune so getting Wrong Time and Place inconventiently played becomes much less of an issue.