For me, the biggest flaw is the link between the Azerite item and the Azerite necklace. It seems kind of awkward that your necklace level determines the power of the item you just got. I suppose it makes sense as a catch-up mechanic, but it still seems not quite right.
Here's my proposal for a different, but similar, design:
- Azerite gear has the current ring and trait structure.
- The first ring is always unlocked.
- Each Azerite piece has an independent AP bar and levels.
- When you earn AP, each piece you are wearing gains the same amount of AP separately.
- When a piece's AP hits the next level, the next ring unlocks.
- The weekly AP requirement for level reduction applies to the gear pieces.
- The amount of AP required to level an item might vary with the tier. I.e. i325 gear would level up faster than i355.
Basically, Azerite items have levels, and they level up as you earn AP while wearing them. They always start at level 1, and you always have to level them up. At some point, though, they will hit max level.
I think this mechanism, having to level up Azerite items separately, is more obvious and intuitive. It fits in with all the fantasies of levelling up and improving gear. It kills the awkward tie in between the necklace level and the gear level, which behaves oddly when the two are not in sync.
It also gives you many smaller goals, as you try and level up specific items.
There are three problems I see. First, having to wear the item might be harder for specs you don't play a lot. Personally, I'm not too fussed about it. I don't think it's wrong for you to have to tank to improve your tanking items. You could always reforge the piece to your main spec, level it up, and then reforge it back.
The second problem is that this does require more data. Each Azerite piece needs to store the current AP, as well as a level scheme. I don't know if requiring this extra data would have performance implications. This may have been the reason that Azerite gear levels were tied to the necklace in the first place.
The final problem is that the hardcore might insist on having every Azerite piece and levelling them all up. My inclination is to let them. Stopping the hardcore from being hardcore is not worth the effort.
I think this scheme preserves a lot of what is good about Azerite gear, but makes it work in a more consistent and intuitive fashion.