The New System (post-1.3)
The greatest thing about the concept of wards is that they allow you to progress through more difficult PvE content without granting insanely large stat bonuses that negatively impact RvR. Wards are simply a flag that determines whether or not an NPC hits you for 50% damage or 500% damage (not the exact numbers but they do well to illustrate the point). The various sets (and set bonuses) do grant players an advantage in RvR, but the difference from set to set is fairly miniscule (i.e., roughly a 5-8% stat/attribute increase per set).
To bring more diversity and flavour to WAR's gear, Mythic will introduce a combination of three new features in 1.3. Disclaimer: These changes are currently on the Public Test Server and are subject to change.
In simplest terms, sigils are like wards but don't require that you actually wear the ward gear. You will now get a Tome of Knowledge unlock when obtaining a piece of ward gear and from that point forward you will receive the benefit of that ward even when you wear a completely different piece of gear.
One of the biggest complaints about the various PvE dungeons is that the drop rate for ward gear is too low due to the small group size and variety of classes in each realm (exactly a 1/12 chance). The new sigil system will partially address this issue as well. After killing the boss X times (number unknown atm), you will be guaranteed to unlock the ward/sigil. Those seeking the actual piece of set gear will still have to grind for it, but at least you'll get the ward.
The sigil system means that it is now viable for you to equip your influence, PQ, or other rare drop gear in place of set gear and not have to worry about a lack of wards when raiding fortresses, cities, or a high rank instance (as long as you have the Tome unlock).
Vessels are weapons that allow for much greater customization through the application of talismans and/or soul essences. The vessels we have seen so far on the Public Test Server work like this: Blue weapon has a competitive DPS rating, a single stat value, and two empty talisman slots (two-handers have three empty slots). Vessels are awarded as PQ loot, drops, and can be purchased with special tokens. There may be rarer purple vessels as well.
No longer are you forced to abide by WAR's strange and inconsistent itemization. You can tailor your weapons to suit your playstyle, augmenting the various strengths and weaknesses you want for your character. Currently, it seems like vessels are only available as weapons. I think most casual gamers and min-maxers alike would agree: let's see vessels reach out to armor and accessories and truly take advantage of the new sigil system.
Land of the Dead tokens come in several forms; silver scarabs, golden scarabs, silver anhks, golden cartouches, and sacred masks. Tokens are gained from player kills, mob/boss kills, and PQ loot. The tokens are soulbound, which means you can't trade them. Personally, I dislike this feature, but it seems the route MMOs are taking these days. "More grind for the grind god!"
Scarabs are used to buy more common items like blue vessel weapons, souls, and special crafting items. Anhks and cartouches will get you powerful accessories like rings, necklaces, cloaks, and belts. The masks can be traded for some pieces of Tyrant gear, which is on par stat-wise with Warlord gear found in cities. Word is that Tyrant gear does not grant wards or sigils though, so it won't make Darkpromise, Invader, or Warlord gear obsolete.
As you can see, sigils will give players the benefits of a ward system, while increasing the diversity of gear in the game and not imbalancing RvR. Vessels and soul essences will offer even more weapon variety, giving players more customization options. The new tokens mean that even if you are extremely unlucky with drops in this PvE/RvR mega-zone, you'll still be able to work toward something.
These are great improvements to WAR's gear system. The next improvement I'd like Mythic to make would be some kind of token system or shift in the random loot mechanic in "old world dungeons" (e.g., city dungeons, Lost Vale, etc.).
Sigils allow you to get the wards from these dungeons eventually, but players going after the physical set pieces will still be subject to low and random drop rates. Would it be too difficult for them to add a token system to these dungeons? What about a mechanic where bosses only drop loot usable by classes that form the instance group? Nothing is worse than finally downing a boss and having him drop two pieces of gear that no-one in your group can use. Oh wait, I forgot... "More grind for the... ugh whatever." Prove me wrong! Please?