I think you have a good conclusion and I’d like to see a better balance, but here’s an alternate take on what’s “wrong”:
GoW is a PvE game, not a PvP game. People have different expectations for PvE vs. PvP. People want to win 90% or even better vs. PvE. That’s definitely an RPG expectation. The whole point of gaining strength through grinding is to get to a point where you routinely beat PvE opponents.
This clashes hard with the concepts PvP puts forth. Players DO expect to lose frequently in PvP. Another player is likely to play a team smarter than the CPU, and you expect that smarter opponent to be able to give you a better challenge. This is why (in general, not in GoW) some people like PvP, some people like PvE, and generally players gravitate towards one or the other.
GoW has nothing but PvE. Skull damage is really good for PvE. It’s fast, it scales fast, and it destroys troops fast with almost no natural defenses. Magic is better for PvP. That we are still fighting about Life and Death is an obvious reason why. L&D wins a long, stalled game. Skulls make sure games don’t go long. But L&D thwarts that by having a rare condition: “If you do skull damage the game gets longer!”
So I feel GoW is at a crossroads it’s always been at: does the design support mechanics like Doomskulls that speed up the game and favors PvE style players, or does it support mechanics like L&D that slow down the game and favors PvP style players?
Personally I’d describe myself as “I really like the faster PvE style play, but if you make the rewards for slower PvP style play worth it I’m listening.” If I make X resources per minute with skulls, the way to talk me into slower play is to make sure I feel like I’m getting AT LEAST X resources per minute using magic.