Without flexible shards, Turbine removed some of the uniqueness of the crafting system, but I doubt that was actually the goal. If anything flexible shards were a stop gap measure for a system that seemed useless over level 12-15, breathing some more life into it.
And the more updates we got, the less functional and useful crafting became. It wasn’t really the new random loot system that killed it; once MOTU came along and epic levels but also that time frames loot system, killed the utility of most crafted options.
There are a few exceptions. Exceptions that are still ‘stronger’ than anything you can craft under 3.o. Such as most abilities up till 6. You can today craft items with +6 in any ability at level 9. Per usual the new system do incremental increases through level 1 to 30.
Another good example are fortification items; the new loot system (and I do believe this actually started on a smaller scale under Shadowfell) is incremental. Unlike prior fortification items that divided it into light (25%), moderate (75%) and heavy (100%), the new is gradual between level 1 and overlevel 34. Much like most permutations under the new system.
And that means that the scale from 1 to 100 now stretches the lower 20, instead of capping at level 7 (level 9 for most part but Crystal Cove allowed you to add heavy fort at 7). The heavy fort augment can be equipped at 8.
This is also true with absorb; the exception is that you can now create absorb items for any type including negative. The old system can only do fire and electric. But you can add those at lower levels and at 33%. The new system is gradual and start at 11 and cap at 38 (overlevel 34).
If you then disregard these few examples of the old system being ‘better’ there are other ways to get the most out of old and new.
Take for example fortification. Assuming you still want to use the old heavy fort but get the most out of the new system it’s possible to craft an item with augment slots. Since the heavy fort augment can be equipped at level 8, all you need is a helmet with green or blue slot and combine that with the sort of permutations that makes most sense.
In the prefix we can add something like sheltering. A good way to negate some incoming damage. In the Suffix slot we can add something like parrying. Or perhaps accuracy? And finally for extra slot, insightful fortification.
Now it is rare that any critter (at least at this stage) will break 100 percent fortification, but if you come across the newer rogue enemies you will come across critters that can break fort fairly well.
Combine this with a heavy fort augment and you have a solid melee based helmet.
But something you will notice fairly quickly is that the trinket slot is now a catch all for any transmutation except the obvious weapon based ones.
Almost all recipes will include the trinket slot in some capacity. Many of the effects come in a prefix and suffix version and most of them can be added to trinkets.
That makes trinket the master of all and perhaps the hardest item to slot. This will also of course compete with named trinkets, which at least below 20 are few and far between.
Like this interesting trinket for rangers – prefix doubleshot, suffix Armor-piercing, extra insightful dexterity and a green augment with heavy fort.
Or Doublestrike of Melee alacrity with insightful deadly.
Or Charisma of constitution with insightful constitution.
Or how about Spell pen of Spell Focus Mastery with insightful spell pen?
And this is just a small example of the choices for trinkets. You can do some of these options on other items but probably not with the same flexibility.