I couldn't sleep without posting this, which sucks as it's past 6am here:-( So...
To understand where I'm coming from, I already like this game a lot (as of v1.06). To give some context to that, my Out Of Memory CTD only happens after 4-5 hours of play - and I've seen about 6 of them in the last week. I sometimes even stop before it crashes:-p Why do I like it? I really feel like I'm building a fantasy kingdom. I love the rain of stones from a stone giant, and the choices you have with a fire giant, including it's in-combat mana regen. There's a very solid foundation here, with a lot of good stuff.
That said, the criticisms I've seen on these forums have almost all been entirely fair. The issue I think have a fix for is one of the 3 primary magic problems. That is, each individual caster regains exactly 1 mana per turn. I know, there's a tower you can build in a level 5 city for +2 regen, but I've played a lot and haven't quite managed a level 4 city yet (which is awesome, btw - megalopolises should be hard to come by). So for all intents and purposes, 1 mana per turn. As a result, once you've used all of your mana, it takes at least 2 turns to cast the lowest of the low single damage spells (fire bolt should be 1 mana, btw - it's very cantrip-y). Not exactly an a towering figure out of legend, is it? It's also very frustrating:-(
Maybe it's time to revisit the concept of a global mana pool. Essence would stay mostly the same, but instead of how much mana you can hold as an individual, it's how much you can cast per turn. You would still increase your essence (casting talent) through leveling up, and spread the wealth through embuing champions. You, as a channeler, would geenrate 1 mana per turn into the global pool (which starts at either 0 or your initial essence). Why is it better to share a single person's 1 mana generation instead of 1 per caster? Because of other sources of mana. Possibly a building at level 2 or 3 of a city that could generate 1 mana. Mostly, though, shards could generate 5 or so mana per turn. Look how much more valuable shards just became! And without shard-screwing anyone because it's not a shard type they can use (though they would still multiply damage for their spell types - for real, though). So the resources that should be the most important (besides food) might actually become the most important.
In addition to un-gimping the actual usage of spells, this opens up other opportunities. In sovereign creation, in addition to selecting a profession, you could pick an elemental affinity. So for each shard of that type you control, you get 8 mana per turn instead of 5. You also open the door to mana upkeep, so that keeping around an earth giant doesn't cost as much as keeping around a familiar (for example). You could have a higher spread of spell costs, with some possibly taking multiple uninterrupted turns to cast, maybe with a limit of turns taken so some mini-caster can't cast uber-spells.
Ultimately, this could make magic much more strategic. Yay!
A complication is that you would probably want to decouple special abilities from mana. An n times per combat and 1 per n turns mechanics would cover most cases (though not choosing between the fire giant's capabilities, sadly).
As for the other magic issues, a quick recap for those who haven't seen them:
Magic is uninspired. That is, there are a bunch of spells that are all functionally identical. I recall Frogboy saying in a journal post (please correct me if I'm wrong) that he was unwilling to put in really interesting modifiers to spells because it would make the AI tremendously difficult to program well. I very much hope that is being reconsidered. MOM had lousy AI - I'm certain that Frogboy can do better - but there's still a lot of people that want to have it's baby, 20 years later. Part of that is because the diverse magic formed the core of it's meaty soul (is it even possible for something immaterial to be meaty? A question for the ages...). Or 'flavor', or 'feel', or 'differentiation', or just plain 'fun'.
Magic is underpowered, especially as the game goes on. I think this will become a lot better once squads are 'fixed'. That is, as figures in a group go down, the attack should remain proportional to the number remaining. Also, ideally an attack would be applied to one figure after the other. So say a 25 point attack hit a squad; the first figure's 5 defense gets a crack at it (preventing 2 damage, for example), then the figure absorbs it's life in damage, then the remaining 18 (25 - 2 from defense - 5 life = 18 remaining) is applied to the next figure, and so on. The squad wouldn't apply a full 20 defense at the outset. That would fix a lot of the squad goofiness and keep magic much more relevant.
I know this is reminiscent of Master of Magic, but it also solves a pretty intractable problem nicely, so hopefully it's not too obnoxious.
Hmm, I wonder if I'll finally get my first karma point for this one.