Mythic announced the ward system in Warhammer Online sometime before launch, and unanimously the system was viewed as a gear check/block for the PvE content. You can only kill the king with 6 wards from the highest set, have fun farming PvE in a RvR game!
Now that players have actually experienced the system and see how it works, I think the ward system has shown its true colors. It’s a gear check/block for PvE content, but with an RvR twist. Ever compare the stats of the lesser ward set to that of the superior ward set? The superior set is better, but in most cases only marginally better, small enough to… wait for it… not determine the outcome of a PvP fight. Shocker.
Without the ward system, a rank 40 character in basic gear would be able to skip all of Bastion Stairs, all of the rank 40 city dungeons, and jump straight into the highest level PvE content (Lost Vale) and be successful. They would have an easier time with better gear, but since the differences are minimal, it unlikely they would outright fail unless the encounters were tuned towards impossible. The ward system enables Mythic to mimic other MMOs in its tiered PvE content, while not screwing the balance of its RvR to be a game of who farmed more gear.
It’s a lesser of two evils, a gear check for PvE to maintain relative item balance in RvR, and in a MMO with a true focus, great RvR, that makes a lot of sense.