It feels like in Legion and BfA, Blizzard thought gearing up was a little too bland, and sought to "spice" it up a little. And then the playerbase gets upset with the mechanisms like Legendaries and Azerite gear which add the spice.
So is the following gear situation ideal:
- Has Str, Int, and Agi, so they're useful for multiple specializations
- Armor has plate, mail, leather, cloth types
- About four secondary stats
- One or two secondaries are clearly best for a given specialization, but the others aren't far behind
- 15 ilvls per raid tier
- 5 ilvls per mythic dungeon level
- Warforging and titanforging
- Sockets and tertiary stats are randomly gained
- Neck and trinkets don't have a primary stat, just secondaries
- Weapons and trinkets are role-specific
That's pretty much the baseline Legion and BfA gear system.
It's a pretty solid core. You can use most of your armour for alternate specializations. You just need a weapon and trinkets. But if you're truly hardcore, you have to have correct secondaries, so you'll maintain a second full or partial set.
There are different axes of competition. For example, a Holy Paladin competes with other plate-wearers for armor; with other critical strike users for jewellery; and with other healers for trinkets and weapons.
Warforging adds some randomness and doesn't make weaker content a total waste of time. Determining if an item is better is not strictly ilvl, but mostly ilvl + correct secondaries. This gives you some gear to chase, but doesn't make replacing gear a trivial decision. A simple heuristic like "go with higher ilvl if the increase is 15 or more ilvls, otherwise pick the better secondaries" will give you good enough results. But people can always use stat weight addons like Pawn or sim their character if they really want to.
The one thing this system is missing is a replacement for class sets. Some sort of collectible that players chase. But class sets don't really work well with the rest of the system. Getting a new titanforged piece and having to choose between it and your 4-piece bonus is annoying.
Perhaps something like guarantee that the major armor pieces (head, shoulders, body, legs) have a gem socket. Then the bosses drop "class trophies" which can go into sockets. Then the trophies, which are all unique-equipped, have the set bonuses. You can use regular gems until you get the class trophies you need.
(I feel like I'm describing a system I've seen before, but I don't remember where. Maybe Diablo 3 legendary gems? Or the set bonus system used in Rift?)
The one problem with this is replacing gear with trophies when you don't have another copy. Perhaps the trophy follows the Heirloom model, where getting one unlocks the ability to make more soulbound copies.