Ya, like, here is the progression of WoW as I see it:
Vanilla - Blizzard kinda floundered around trying to figure out what it wanted to do with encounters/gearing. There was 1 teir set for any class, even if they had multiple specs/rolls. 40 man raids, yadda yadda. I think a lot of this was trial and error. The cool thing they did though was that they had a lot of really cool encounter designs and by the time they got to AQ40/Naxx60, they had a good idea of where they were going and continued that trend in TBC
TBC - the ending instances of AQ40 and Naxx were really hard, and a lot of people really liked that, however Blizzard made 2 fatal errors.
1) The first raid to come out was a 10 man raid, down from 40. This broke up a lot of guilds and making the jump from the 10 mans to 25 mans also got kinda difficult and took people a while to get used to.
2) The original Karazhan was actually pretty hard. It was the entry level and pretty much only raid possible and a lot of groups just couldn't clear it, even ones that had been farming BWL at 60. Again, they had a lot of good design, but because it was hard people started not wanting to do it as much especially when the rewards weren't that great.
Blizzard figured this out pretty quickly though, they nerfed kara and buffed the gear and the rest of the expansion was pretty legit. But it was here that theorycrafting started to thrive.
In vanilla there wasn't much point in doing a ton of theorycrafting, gearing choices were pretty linear and there weren't any gems and enchanting was pretty much obvious (hint 30sp > 3 int). Sure there was some, and it became big in AQ40/Naxx60 were encounters became a lot harder and strategies and optimization were key, but so few people did those that it wasn't a huge deal. Really the main stuff that was theorycrafted was specs, and even those were typically linear.
Then TBC comes along with a lot more "Green" stats (expertise, hit, sp, spell pen, armor pen, on use things, on equip passives, etc. etc.) and the community (especially the ones that were optimizing in Vanilla) started to theorycraft to find what was optimal. Gemming also added to this in a big way.
So now blizzard is trying to figure out how to not making theorycrafting a science project, some things simply weren't obvious as to what you should use. While yes it was fun to balance stats and have all kinds of different gear, it wasn't for the feint of heart, especially in sunwell.
Now they don't want it to be as "mathy" even though it's more fun to figure out complex optimizations, I just don't think that will happen again. I agree with stgeorge that WoW is now for casuals, that really is where the real money is at. ICC is the TBC equivalent of BT or maybe Sunwell and the first half of the instance is easily PuG'd. That did NOT happen in TBC but it makes content more accessible.
Honestly I think the "complex" optmization that you talk about (which I love, even though I'm the self proclaimed 'stam czar' I'd love to see more complex decision making then, LOLSTAMANDARMOR) is great for those of us that like to theorycraft and think about the game and do all kinds of crazy math, most people DON'T want to do that.
That and if gemming is straight forward it's a lot easier to tell if someone knows their stuff or not, lol. I really don't want to have to bust out a spreadsheet for every warrior app if I have to figure out why they optimized the way they do.
"If the world is something you accept rather than interpret, then you're susceptible to the influence of charismatic idiots." -Neil deGrasee Tyson
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