Let the tools of peace become the weapons of war.
MR: Loglines are supposed to be evocative but informative. This logline is somewhat evocative but not very informative. Why are there "tools of peace" and why have they become "weapons of war?" What exactly does that mean? As I said last time, loglines don't mix well with subtlety and this logline is much too subtle to communicate what your set is about.
1) Common Card #1 – Arowan Refugee
Creature - Human Nomad
Survival 2 (At end of combat, if this creature attacked or blocked and has less than 2 counters on it, put a +1/+1 counter on it.)
Art: The disheveled refugee hides from a devil. A weapon lies just out of reach.
MJG: Why stop at two counters? Don't limit my dream of building a huge monster! I can see building a deck around guys like these, but I probably wouldn't if you limited how many counters I would gain.
MP: This may seem like a simple card, but getting a new player to attack with a 0 power creature can sometimes be a little tough. Once we get past that, this guy seems pretty straightforward, although it's not clear to me from a flavor standpoint as to why he "caps out" at 2 counters.
MR: Two concerns with survival: One, to join in with the chorus, I'm not sure why you feel a need to cap the +1/+1 counters. Two, I'm worried that this mechanic is hard to put onto too many creatures as they are going to feel very similar in play. A lesser point: do you want this to not get a +1/+1 counter if other types of counters are on it? You just say "counter" but is that what you actually mean?
I'm not quite sure how this card fits into your world but the name "survival" definitely helps me get the sense that there are people struggling to survive.
2) Common Card #2 – Unified Charge
Creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn. If you control more creatures than each opponent, creatures you control get +2/+2 until end of turn instead.
Art: A diverse group of soldiers, farmers, and scholars charge in unison.
KEN: I can't help but mention the awful choice of condition here—"more than an opponent" is a much better clause to write on cards than "more than each opponent." Other than that, I like this with my change.
MJG: Nice. I like how this fits in nicely into a white weenie strategy—I can expect to have more creatures than my opponent and thus maximize the effect of the card.
MP: I had to do a quick Gatherer search to make sure this wasn't a reprint, or a functional reprint. That's usually the sign of a solid, simple card.
MR: In general, I'm not a fan of mechanics that make you compare resources against the opponent. Usually they take a lot of mental energy to track and usually don't pay off enough to make it worth it. Creature number though does seem to be something you're already focused on and something relatively easy to track. My biggest concern is that I'm not sure this is common. (+2/+2 to your team starts to get a little big in its effect for common.)
3) Common Card #3 – Trancecaster
[Dream Sniper by Shdwcat - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/BoosterShot/CU1]
Creature - Human Wizard
Dreamwalk (This creature is unblockable as long as the defending player controls a tapped creature.)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may tap target creature.
Art: An ethereal wizard steps out of a sleeping guard.
KEN: This is a rather nifty blue evasion ability. Blue is in need of creature keywords even though evasion is its specialty (flying, islandwalk, unblockable, intimidate) due to lack of other options. It would definitely be worth putting dreamwalk creatures into a design set to see if we like it.
My instinct on the creature I see here is 3/1 to make a more deadly attacker. I might prefer that because I drafted Infiltrator il-Kor last weekend in a Random Pack Draft.
MJG: Yawn. I do see the elegance in this card: flash and dreamwalk work well together as you can cast it after an opponent has tapped a creature to attack. However, it doesn't give me any direction beyond that. What kind of a deck wants a creature that is unblockable once, and then again only when my opponent lets it?
MP: This is a pretty straightforward guy—clearly I play this at the end of my opponents turn, then sneak in to nibble for 2 on my next. But then what happens? Does the game grind to a halt, with my opponent too afraid to attack for fear of being dreamwalked? Cards that discourage interaction are usually bad news for fun, and fun is what makes our game ... well ... fun.
MR: I'll admit that I'm not quite sure what to make of dreamwalk. My first instinct, along with Globus and Purvis, is that I worry it will gum up the board because it heavily discourages your opponent from attacking.
While the flash and ETB effect are cute together, I'm a little worried that you've loaded too much on the card to be common.
4) Common Card #4 – Research Grant
Draw two cards and gain two gold counters. (Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)
Art: A wizard works as a noble watches over her shoulder with crossed arms.
KEN: This is a snazzy Divination. I hope I draw a six-drop with this. Good job.
MJG: The gold counter cards (Research Grant, Smuggler, Demanding Goblin) intrigue me, but there isn't one here that provides me that impetus to build a deck around them, nor is there one that I would just throw into an existing deck.
MP: Gold counters are a really cool idea. I heard that at one point, Eldrazi Spawn briefly worked a little bit like this in design. I'm not sure why they turned in to 0/1 creatures, but it's possible Mr. Rosewater can elaborate.
I hope that the "or life payments" clause matters, because I think it adds a touch of clutter to an otherwise elegant and intriguing mechanic. If it doesn't, it should probably just be dropped.
MR: Of all the elements in your set, the one I'm most intrigued by is gold. It has a lot of flavor and you've shown that there are some interesting ways to build around it. I like that you've branched out your themes to make them more factioned and less color specific. I do agree this is going to be how you start to entwine the different elements.
I feel compelled to point out that your art suffers from what I call "literal syndrome." If your card is called Research Grant and you see a wizard working, the audience will piece together what's going on. The noble standing over the wizard watching him work might feel like it's conveying more but it will just ring as a contrived scene.
As to Purvis's point, the Spawn tokens actually started in design as "mana crystals," which were like gold counters without the life payments. There was worry at the time that we didn't want two counter-collecting mechanics between Rise and Scars, so Brian turned the mana crystals into "manabots." The tokens ended up playing much better than the counters, so much so that Brian thanked me for forcing him to change.
5) Common Card #5 – Smuggler
Creature - Human Rogue Mercenary
Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, gain 2 gold counters.(Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)
Art: The smuggler carries a small chest across a darkened swamp.
KEN: This guy changed from 1/3 to 2/2. My instinct is it should just find 1 gold, but perhaps it's more important that black is the best gold color.
I don't believe our creative department will enjoy fiercely associating gold counters with little locked treasure chests (look at Sorceror's Strongboxes for what design called "Locked Chest"). Dream Cache is a bemoaned card concept internally.
MP: Simple card, and a flavorful use of your new mechanic.
MR: Part of me wants this card to just steal gold, but I can see how that would be a flavorful but less playable alternative. I'm not sure if your pack needed to demonstrate two different ways of acquiring gold.
6) Common Card #6 – Demanding Goblin
[Motivated Merc by Jay Treat - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/BoosterShot/CRMerc]
Creature - Goblin Mercenary
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, it gains haste if you've spent any gold counters this turn.
Art: A goblin grabs at a gold coin held just out of reach.
MP: Another simple card that turns your new mechanic's use into upside. I'd probably be okay playing this guy without haste, but the first time I open a pack and read it I'll be dreaming of hitting for 2 on turn two.
MR: I appreciate you trying to make gold matter. The flavor's just a big disconnect for me. I like a creature will hurry if you pay him, but don't get he'll hurry if you paid someone else.
7) Common Card #7 – Loosed Plowwurm
[Survival Wurm by Chah - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/BoosterShot/CG1]
Creature - Wurm
Survival 2 (At end of combat, if this creature attacked or blocked and has less than 2 counters on it, put a +1/+1 counter on it.)
Art: A wurm attempts to free itself from a plow harness.
KEN: More survival cards. Same mechanic, same critique. Are there really going to be so many survival creatures to merit a parameter here increasing its design space?
MJG: See my comment on Arowan Refugee above.
MP: This guy is a little underwhelming to me. I'm used to getting more out of six mana in green, and I'm still a little perplexed about why this mechanic caps at two counters. Oh well, they can't all be platinum hits!
MR: I also feel like you already showed survival and this card is just a bigger version. I don't feel like its inclusion added anything to the pack.
8) Common Card #8 – Wilderness Seclusion
[Perfect Serenity by Havelock Vetinari - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/BoosterShot/CG2]
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may gain 1 life.
1G, sacrifice CARDNAME: Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn.
Art: A druid mediates in a forest clearing, surrounded by a circle of green energy.
KEN: A fine little combo of a card (Ajani's Mantra + Holy Day), but this card seems good for no reason. One thing you learn inside Magic R&D is that design makes innocuous Fog variants that terrorize the FFL. Haze Frog used to be a 1/1. Just one good cantrip or loopable Fog is all it takes to render attacking with creatures a terrible and pointless strategy in Standard.
MJG: I like how the effects weave together well here—life gain until I need to stop a big attack. However, it doesn't call to me for inclusion in a casual deck.
MP: I like this card quite a bit. I might never play it myself, but I like that it combines two abilities beloved by newer players: Life gain and Fog. A Fog on the table isn't worth nearly as much as one in the hand, but a lot of newer players will relish sitting in their little forest clearing, serenely collecting life points while an army masses just outside of the green haze they're meditating in.
Now having said all of that, this card could fit right into a core set, or any other set. It's a good card, but it doesn't tell me much about what sets this world apart.
MR: One of my biggest concerns about your set is that I'm not quite getting what's going on big picture. In fact, if I hadn't read your design write-up and all your previous write-ups, I think I would be very confused. I feel like many of the other designers are starting to have worlds that are coalescing but I still don't quite have a handle on what the major theme of your block is. I get the idea of colors turning to peaceful endeavors and then being pulled to war, but I don't understand what your world is about.
You've demonstrated the ability to make cool cards and you clearly have the ability to mechanically tie cards together. I just don't feel like when you stand back that you get a sense of what's going on. That said, I like this card and I believe it will probably play well. I just wish I understood what exactly it meant for the world at large. I do get a sense of some kind of war, but this is Magic—there's always some kind of conflict going on. There has to be more than just two sides fighting. Nagle is correct that development would probably hate this card (a.k.a. make it very weak).
9) Common Card #9 – Riftborn Rage
[Angry Pants by Havelock Vetinari - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/BoosterShot/Cards]
Target creature gets +3/-3 until end of turn.
Art: A man screams in pain and rage as a glowing portal opens in his chest.
KEN: A hybrid card. I'm guessing the HH cost is so every Limited deck doesn't just splash this? A fine card I suppose, but I'm hoping that hybrid is being executed deftly instead of haphazardly.
MJG: This is a fine removal spell and probably does good things for Limited play as it gives a flexible removal/pump spell to both red and black. However, for purposes of casual Constructed, I don't see it replacing any of my staples of Lightning Bolt, Doom Blade or Terminate.
MP: Man, I felt like I had a glowing portal open in my chest yesterday after eating 5-star Chicken Tikka Masala at Naan N' Curry House, so I can relate. Nameless Inversion was a solid card, and hybrid mana is popular to fans. Are you going to show me why hybrid matters in this set?
MR: Obviously I have stated that I liked the idea of the invaders being hybrid. It does a good job of making them feel different. The key thing to remember though is that being hybrid isn't enough. The enemy still needs a mechanical identity. I feel like this card is hinting at an attack, but I don't really have a sense of who the invaders are or what they want.
10) Premium Mythic Card – Malaziel Sellscale
Legendary Creature - Dragon Mercenary
Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, you may pay X life. If you do, search your library for any number of Mercenary creature cards with total converted mana cost X or less and put them onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.
Art: A huge black dragon flying at the head of a mercenary army.
KEN: I would give nicer stats on a mythic rare Dragon. We are nice to mythic rare creatures—see Grave Titan and Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. Also, he's missing lifelink. Also, drop legendary. I mean c'mon—if you're gonna make a fatty, make a fatty!
If Mercenaries get a dedicated mythic rare (I guess they might), this is a good enough starting point. Note that we don't put mythic rares into Intro Packs, and this guy would be a perfect Intro Pack Premium Rare that shows through the box.
MJG: I like how this works with the Smuggler, and the dream of casting this guy on turn four after swinging with the Smuggler is attractive. Due to the parasitism of the Mercenary tribe (since it isn't a creature type we usually use) I probably don't have a deck that this would go into right away. However, it is exciting and would make me look for other Mercenary cards as I open more packs.
MP: Yow! Dragons are awesome, powerful creatures and very exciting to most players (and potential players). But you've mucked this one up with the stink of one of the worst mechanics from one of the worst-received Magic sets of all time: Mercadian Masques.
Now, this isn't exactly the Mercenary search mechanic from Masques, and yes, Mercenaries are very flavorful and relevant in a world where gold matters. But you're building a hurdle up for yourself right out of the gate.
Back in Masques, (mostly black) Mercenaries searched for other Mercenaries that had a smaller casting cost, while (mostly white) Rebel cards searched for other Rebels that were larger than them. The power balance was a joke, and White Rebel decks using the Rebel legend Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero dominated high-level events.
As someone who played back then, I can tell you that the stigma of just how bad Mercenaries were permeates to this day. This doesn't mean that you can't still put them in your set, but a lot of fans active in our forums have also been playing since then, so you have to be prepared for the fan reaction to be largely negative when word first gets out that there is going to be a Mercenary search mechanic in the set. My team (Brand) would have to spend a lot of time working with R&D and the web team to make sure that we set up the previews in such a way to help tear down that stigma early on in preview season, but just by making them Mercenaries I feel like you're handicapping yourself unnecessarily.
On the plus side, you've shown me how spending gold can be used to hire mercenaries, and that's terribly flavorful.
MR: I do love shiny mythic rare Dragons, but I don't get the flavor of this card. How exactly is a dragon a mercenary and what is he doing recruiting other mercenaries? This card just doesn't work for me. In addition, Dragons are normally designed to be splashy Timmy cards and this card seems to work against that in several ways.
The biggest is the use of a life payment. I don't mind the set having more life payments to play with gold, but I don't think splashy mythic rare Dragon is where you want to use it. The other big issue is that it's odd that the Dragon gets you an army. Why do you need an army? You're attacking with a flying 5/5 every turn.
I feel like there were several different pieces you wanted the set to have and you combined them all into a single card, but the overall effect is not greater than the sum of its pieces.
11) Uncommon Card #1 – Unflipped: Champion's Shrine
T: Add W to your mana pool.
1WW, T: Untap and flip CARDNAME.
Flipped: Champion's Sword
Artifact - Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 and has first strike and lifelink.
Art: A shrine including the sword in a temple // Warrior fighting with same sword.
KEN: First of all, I'll say that I like three-drop manastones. Magic has moved away from two-drop manastones because they enable plays like turn three Day of Judgment without killing your acceleration in blue decks. We put Everflowing Chalice in Worldwake utilizing the multikicker keyword knowing it would power up metalcraft and proliferate in Scars of Mirrodin block.
My favorite manastones in Magic are the Weatherseed Totem cycle. Three-drop manastones get to have significant extra upside—Champion's Shrine becomes Champion's Sword. When you have too much mana, your manastone turns into a way to help your creatures.
There are many noble pursuits going on with this card, but I'll mention it's probably doing one thing too many things (drop lifelink?).
MJG: This is too much work for a simple Equipment effect that I could get from many other cards. I'll pass.
MP: Another flip card? Please see my comments on Ethan's cards for a summary of the logistical hurdles that flip cards create. If you're going to create these hurdles, it had better be with good reason: Either it had better support the theme of the set, or do something innovative and cool. I'm not sure I feel like this card does either, and I'm not sure I grok how the whole building transforms into a sword (unless this set ends up being produced by Michael Bay).
MR: Flip cards are sure popular this round. Obviously there's something about them that taps into something pretty powerful. My problem with your flip card is that I don't think it makes a particularly compelling flip card. First, I don't quite get the flavor. You go to the shrine and pray and hope one day you'll get a sword?
Second, I think one of the elements of flip cards was that you had to earn the flip. It created a challenge to meet. This card is just "flip it whenever you feel like it." I think taking some of the quest out of the card lessens it. Another problem is that I don't see why you're not going to flip the card very quickly in most games. Every once in a while you'll need the mana, but the sword is just so much better in most circumstances.
Also, to continue the theme, I'm not quite sure what this all means in the big picture. The flip can be used to show some important progression that means something to the world, but I'm just not getting it here.
12) Uncommon Card #2 – Desperate Flameweaver
Creature - Human Shaman
Whenever CARDNAME attacks, put three 1/1 red Elemental tokens with haste onto the battlefield tapped and attacking. Exile them at the beginning of the next end step.
Art: A weeping man charges the camera surrounded by three spirals of flame.
KEN: Why is the creature weeping? Anyway, I like this creature. Feels like it should make two buddies, though.
MJG: This card would be nice for an attack deck—especially if I had some battle cry creatures from Mirrodin Besieged! One question however: why do the tokens have haste? They are already attacking, so this isn’t necessary.
MP: Simple, solid card. Not terribly exciting or groundbreaking.
MR: I like this card. It does seem like the kind of card that is meeting your goals of having colors play a little differently from normal while still feeling in color. I am seeing some connection with attack triggers, which makes me feel like the world is very much about a conflict (which I know it is).
The flavor is stressing how desperate the creature is but other than being told it, I don't quite get why he's so desperate or what it means big picture-wise.
13) Uncommon Card #3 – Goldbreather
Creature - Elemental
CARDNAME gets +1/+1 for each gold counter you have.
Art: A nonhumanoid elemental inhales a stream of golden energy.
MJG: I'll admit that I don't like this card. As gold is something new, most cards should say that spending gold is good or something to hold on to. Spending it is more natural, and you have shown me good outlets for spending this gold above, such as with Malaziel Sellscale. After seeing this card I don't know whether I am supposed to hoard or spend my gold. You probably don't want to confuse me on an ideal first pack! For these reasons, as well as the fact that I would need a bunch of gold cards to take advantage of it properly, I wouldn't play this card.
MP: Another simple, solid card, but this one builds on your theme. This card reads like it could be very powerful (and thus is exciting), and I like how you made sure to make it black—the color of "Greed" and ... "Hoarder's Greed."
MR: Finally, a card that makes you want to have gold. It's a pretty straightforward implementation, but there's nothing wrong with an obvious path. Globus is correct though that your ideal pack probably wanted to send the message "spend gold" or "hoard gold" but not both.
The art is once again a little too literal.
14) Rare Card – Thief of Voices
[Silent Puppet by Shdwcat - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/BoosterShot/RareInvader]
Creature - Devil
Intimidate (This creature can't be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it.)
Your opponents cannot play the activated abilities of creatures they control.
CARDNAME has all the activated abilities of creatures your opponents control.
Art: Tendrils of glowing energy connect clutched throats to a Devil's upraised fist.
KEN: I don't think intimidate is an ability we'd put on a multicolor creature for a long time. It's weaker on multicolor creatures, and most every multicolor block is about making its multicolor cards appealing/powerful/sexy. Other than intimidate, Thief of Voices does a Linvala and Experiment Kraj impression, which I like well enough. This guy costs a crazy six Hs, I suppose in need to defeat Shadowmoor / Eventide's Godhead of Awe quint H cost?
MJG: Bizarre card ... a white-blue Devil? With intimidate? This combination doesn't feel natural and is off-putting. Stealing abilities is interesting, but I'd only put it in a deck if I feared some particular card, at which point six mana is too late.
MP: You lost me with this one. A white-blue Devil is very out of flavor for what we've established in Magic. I understand that this ability is quite devilish, but I have a bit of an issue with that as well. Cards that say, "You can't play with your cards" are fun for YOU to play on your opponent, but it's a terrible feeling to have one played on you. If you experience that feeling enough times, you just might quit out of frustration.
MR: This feels rare (possibly mythic rare). It definitely gives the invaders a face and I expect this would be the kind of card that would preview well. I'm not sure if the card needs to turn off the opponent's activations. Doing that, sort of neuters the opponent allowing just about anything to end the game. I'm much more interested in your opponent and you using the same activations against one another. Remember when designing "big baddies" that you have to make sure your opponent has some chance to hold it off. These kinds of creatures should give you the edge, but you still want drama.
Intimidate on a white-blue card is odd in that intimidate is not primary or secondary in either white or blue. (Like trample, we let every color have intimidate if the flavor seems right, but it is centered in black with red and green being secondary.)
15) Basic Land Card – Island
Basic Land - Island
Art: A bridge connects an island-bound academy to the mainland.
KEN: Not my favorite basic land.
MP: Sounds like fairly standard Magic land fare.
MR: The fact that I don't really get the significance of your basic land is symptomatic of the fact that I don't really get your world. There are a lot of glimpses I enjoy, but I feel I am seeing lots of pieces but little whole.
16) Token Card – Gold Counter
Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.
Art: An ancient golden coin glows with power.
KEN: Cha-ching! I hear poison counters are very popular with casual players. Maybe gold counters would also be popular?
MP: Smart! Give players a tangible way to interact with your set's main feature. And who doesn't love collecting money?
MR: You made a counter card that is cute. As this is another card to reinforce gold, I really think you needed to have a little less of it in this booster. I would have rather seen a few other cards that helped me make sense of why this world even cares about gold.
The biggest goal this round was to ensure that the colors played well together while maintaining their Utopian identities. Each color still has its own themes, but we're seeing more bleed into allied colors. To fit this, I've moved from the idea of separate Utopian societies to factions within a larger civilization.
We have a number of things going on in this pack. Survival is a green-centered mechanic we've been working on to represent "adapting for war" at lower rarities. Dreamwalk shows a unique combat tactic for blue. The Shrine cycle shows off the flavor I'm going for with flip cards - peaceful objects being turned into weapons. And we've still got Gold and Mercenaries.
Mobilize/Creaturefall was a fine mechanic, but didn't represent Utopia well enough to keep. I like Mandate ("if you have the most creatures") quite a bit, but I don't think it has enough safe design space to warrant a heavy theme or ability word.
Woodward and Treat's idea of Hybrid Invaders was well-received last round, so I decided to explore that idea. The goal was to make them feel scary and alien across all colors, without violating the color pie or identities. They also allow me to use some important effects that don't fit well into Utopia, such as burn.
The Shrine untapping when it flips and the Flameweaver making hasty tokens are both technically unnecessary, but sync up with related cards.
KEN: In conclusion, I find this design littered with too many things. There's gold counters and hybrid and Mercenaries and flip cards and dreamwalk and temporary 1/1 attackers. Does it all connect? A design with too much (good) stuff in it is a stronger design than a set with too little (good) stuff, but I'm unsure if all this qualifies as good stuff. It feels too haphazardly strung together in an attempt to just have enough stuff that qualifies as "a set." For example, gold counters aren't going to help pay hybrid costs. Major mechanics should love each other more than that. A stronger design knows what belongs and in what quantity.
MJG: Overall, I liked about half of the commons, and the premium mythic rare made me interested in seeing more cards to try to build a Mercenary deck. The uncommons and rares were mostly a miss for me.
MP: I feel like there's a little too much going on in this set, but there's a nugget of something very cool growing here. I think if you focused on the theme of riches and theft, you could build a tight set that cared a lot about gathering or stealing various resources, (including gold) and I think that's a fresh take on Magic that we haven't fully explored.
Just from reading the cards and the art descriptions, I didn't really get that this utopian world was being invaded, but the hybrid cards definitely felt out of place. If you're going to do a set about an invasion, make the set about the invasion. For examples, see Scars of Mirrodin, Rise of the Eldrazi, or ... Invasion. If you do happen to do a set about struggle and commerce in a utopian society, for the love of God don't call it "Mercadian Masques 2."
It's possible that you're just trying to establish too much in one set. Perhaps this invasion could occur in later sets as the block plays out, after you've established what it's like to live in utopia in set #1. I feel like if you simplified and focused, this has potential to be a really solid Magic set.
MR: Devon, you have a lot of craftsmanship. I see a lot of good ideas here. I even see you doing things to make the different elements jell together. In addition, I get the sense that most of your cards will actually play well. What I'm missing though is that I don't see the big picture. Most of what I know has been told to me not shown through the cards. The players don't get to read your 250-word write-up.
Here's some questions I'd like to see answered about your world:
- What kind of world is this (or was this before the attack)?
- If you had to sum up the world into a few words (such as Zendikar being adventure world or Lorwyn being fairy tale world) what would they be?
- How do the inhabitants of this world get along?
- Who exactly is invading this world?
- Why are they invading?
- Epolith is a world that is constantly evolving. Wodotha is a world being eaten away by the blight. What is the defining quality of Utopia?
- What is your mechanical heart? That is, what is the most important mechanical aspect that is going to be the centerpiece of your set?
In many ways your problem traces all the way back to your logline. I don't feel like you know what the crux of your world is. The reason you're having trouble summing it up in a sentence is that you're not really sure what the answer is. You need to figure out your world's identity and your mechanical heart. You have lots of cool ideas to work with. I believe buried in all that material is the answers I'm asking for.