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X was merely a setback is a popular catchphrase among World of Warcraft players referring to the dialogue of Kael’thas Sunstrider in the Magister’s Terrace instance.
In the lore and storyline of World of Warcraft, Kael’thas Sunstrider was the former leader of the Blood Elves who sided with the rogue Demon Hunter Illidan Stormrage. In World of Warcraft’s first expansion pack, The Burning Crusade, Kael’thas became the final raid boss of the dungeon Tempest Keep: The Eye, during which he was noted for having very long speeches during the encounter that players had to listen to every time, as well as being surprisingly difficult (25 skilled players at the highest level were required to defeat him).
In March 2008, Patch 2.4.0 Fury of the Sunwell was released, which revealed that although Kael’thas was defeated and presumably dead in Tempest Keep, he returns as a Wretched (an insane and deformed Blood Elf) bent on summoning Kil’Jaeden, a powerful Demon Lord, to destroy the planet. He once again becomes the final boss in the 5-man dungeon Magister’s Terrace. During this encounter, Kael’thas opens with the following dialogue:
“Don’t look so smug! I know what you’re thinking, but Tempest Keep was merely a set back. Did you honestly believe I would trust the future to some blind, half-night elf mongrel? Hahahaha… Oh no, no, no, he was merely an instrument, a stepping stone to a much larger plan! It has all led to this…and this time, you will not interfere!”
Being that Kael’thas was the first notable dungeon boss character to make a reappearance after being beaten down by players in the Tempest Keep raid, his acknowledging phrase “Tempest Keep was merely a setback” quickly gained popularity among the WoW community, where derivatives of the phrase such as “Magister’s Terrace was merely a setback” were used among players to humorously suggest that Kael’thas would make yet another reappearance in a future dungeon or raid. This phrase also spread to other popular characters or dungeons who make reappearances such as Kel’Thuzad from Naxxramas and Onyxia from Onyxia’s Lair (both were bosses in the original World of Warcraft for level 60 players, but returned in Wrath of the Lich King simply as revamped instances for level 80 players).
Anub’Arak also became a “Kael’thas-esque” character as he was killed as a boss in Azjol Nerub and then later the Trial of the Crusader, players would often mention “Azjol Nerub was merely a setback!”.
WoW’s developing company, Blizzard Entertainment also took note of the phrase’s popularity and made an in-game tribute to Kael’thas’s phrase in the Icecrown Citadel raid. Blood Prince Valanar was an Undead Blood Elf in charge of The Lich King’s forces in the floating Undead citadel Naxxanar and was killed in an early quest of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. He as well as the two other Blood Princes killed by players were raised again by the Lich King and reappeared as a single boss encounter. During the encounter, Valanar quickly says “Naxxanar was merely a setback!”
With the upcoming expansion Cataclysm, players continue to make “X was merely a setback” derivatives in reference to other bosses that will be reappearing (i.e. Edwin vanCleef, Arugal).