Like most, I'm here to say I feel the patch is a step in the right direction. Once I got the new stuff figured out, I felt like I had more to pay attention to than in previous builds. Sort of.
Things I think you guys should focus on next:
1. NOT INTRODUCING ANY NEW STABILITY BUGS. Seriously, I wanted to dig into the new patch, but the ZoC bug pretty much ruined it for me. I know you guys delayed and were between a rock and a hard place, between providing some updates to the public and making sure you put the best patch forward possible.....but that's one of those game breaking bugs you can't afford to release. I guess that's why you called this a beta. Still, if people can't even get into a new build of Elemental because of crippling bugs, it's not worth the pay off of showing your work to the fans.
2. City building cost balance. The goal of the population resource change was so that cities could become more diverse and specialized. The problem is that, once the essentials are in place, it breaks down to relatively the same thing as the last build. You have x buildings which you NEED (housing), and then you have optional choices: money changer, labor pits, research and research.
You don't need money because, now that we're collecting taxes, gold mines pretty much solve your early to mid game cash needs. Likewise, a few materials sites and you don't need to waste pop on labor pits.
Which leaves you with research. Unlike gold and materials, you benefit from having tons of extra research, since it's not a resource that just piles up until it's ready to be used. So the result of the changes are......I still have tons of cities filled out with extra archives and lore shops, because I have _nothing_ else to spend population on. A city of 200 can provide 40! archivists or lore shops. That wouldn't be a problem, except there's not enough other stuff to choose against.
So I really suggest that there's a scaling cost to buildings you can build more than once. Possibly even housing. So that every 2nd workshop you build costs 2 more pop, or some value. The cost of many structures simply does not scale to the maximum pop size cities can have, for those choices to feel meaningful right now.
3. Monster and creep balance seems to be a little off in this build. Not even 50 turns in, and I had a ~120 point Bandit army ninja ganking my sovereign, spawning next to them and attacking them between my turns. That's a little too much aggression, I think, for the early game.
4. I got the impression that the global mana pool is bloated. I.e., I never had less than 200 mana with absolutely no shards in hand. With shards in hand, I could see myself easily with 1000 mana after a few turns of no casting. I think there also needs to be diminishing returns on shards after a certain point. The open-ended mana pool just seems ripe for hoarding and cheesiness.
And just so this isn't a massive whine fest.....the new UI is much better. The animations are really shining now and Tact battles aren't a chore to sit through. Being able to customize hero cards is something I've been wanting for a while. Spells are....you're getting there, you're starting to grasp the balance necessary so spells stand out from each other.
So yeah, it's all a decent step in the right direction. The system is in place, now it's time to balance it and tweak values so it's interesting and challenging enough.