I only started with the current pre-alpha, so I can't claim to be speaking from massive amounts of experience of the game or on druid.
That said, I have to agree with the view that having to do 'useless' things in order to get access to what you want is a bad idea on principle. Even if -- and I can certainly believe it -- a clever or skilled druid can find a use for almost every cast, and even though there are people comfortable doing that and having fun with it.
A clever or skilled druid is nothing more than an unskilled druid, plus some degree of talent for the game, plus some amount of general GvG/RvR/WvW experience, plus some amount of experience on druid specifically. People still need to be having fun even before they've learned how to maximise the benefit of every single cast, if they're going to last long enough to join the ranks of the skilled.
Additionally, the game is also supposed to be fun for solo roamers/scouts and FFA players in the dregs, who, if they're not paid up on their subs, might not necessarily have the option to swap to a different archetype. Even though this is a group-focused archetype in a group-focused game, 1v1 still matters to the overall experience.
One thing I definitely can't believe is that the system couldn't be improved without making the druid boring to people who are already comfortable with the existing system. And pre-alpha and alpha are the right sort of time to be iterating on these things, rather than sailing into beta with an iffy core mechanic for one of the game's archetypes.
As an aside, I also find it weird to have a stat named 'essence' that's presumably supposed to represent you borrowing from the raw life force of gaea and then have it be what fuels destructive magic instead of healing, but that's just aesthetics, and it could just be me.