Once upon a time, wardecs had a flat fee per week. Didn’t matter whether it was against a 3 man corp, or a huge nullsec alliance. Wars were 50M/week. At that price, wardecs were very affordable and any small group could participate and target whoever they wanted. Nullsec blocks mostly complained due to 0rphanage blapping anything they undocked from Jita 4-4, and a fix was made. 2 major changes happened:
Cost of wars scales by target alliance membership. Bigger corps are more expensive to wardec. This protects nullsec alliances, while making smaller ‘newbie corps’ more attractive, since they are cheaper wars. Mercs like a target-rich highsec. Bored mercs end up going back to lowsec or wormhole. If you can’t have all of nullsec wardecced at once, you need to find some active smaller corps to make the profession ‘fun’.
Watchlist got nerfed. Really this was done to protect super pilots logging in and getting ganked, but it hurts wardecs a lot - if you can’t see when your targets are online, running locators becomes more difficult. This drives merc even more towards tradehubs to avoid jumping aimlessly hoping to find targets.
Change 1 resulted in a major shift for high-sec mercs. No-longer could a small corp afford to wardec major blocks. 0rphanage died immediately due to unsustainable costs. Mercs were forced to consolidate membership to be able to afford a decent number of potential targets to hunt, based on income from various contracts (thank you POCOs and Citadels). Targets also needed to become more efficient as well, due to the per-member fee (why pay to wardec the nullsec block with 4% of their membership in highsec when it is much much cheaper to wardec every corp under 200 members in Dodixie today, with probably 70% of them living in highsec).
If new changes are made to protect smaller/newer groups, and changes already exist (and get even stronger with citadel-holding corps) to protect larger groups, then what is the point of wardecs as a mechanic at all? I’m generally OK with looking at the state of the game and having some determination made that ‘change is necessary’ - but what should that change look like? How do we protect the newbies (which are the stated reason for the change) while not completely destroying highsec PvP?
With the recent addition of citadels, major changes to industry (highsec minerals available in null, rorquals, limitless manufacturing slots), and improved ratting income (carrier rework, super-ratting) nullsec is richer and more self-sufficient than ever. No-longer are freighters full of T1 large railguns running to nullsec to sustain production. I would argue that nullsec no-longer needs any protection from highsec wars.
The fix to protect small new corps should be very simple (in theory) and have very little to do with citadel ownership: Invert the previous change. Make it very expensive to wardec small corps, and very cheap to wardec large alliances. Add a modifier for citadel-holders to keep clutter in highsec to a minimum and contract killings alive (like 50% off war fee).
There would need to be a very good reason (like getting paid by a 3rd party for it) for a merc group to spend 400M/wk to wardec some small mission or mining corp. The cost simply wouldn’t be worth the 3-5 mackinaws on the killboard. Probably not even worth the 1 potential deadspace-fit navy battleship kill. Really this type of war will dissappear entirely - for every small corp wardec that produces kills, 3 others end with no activity. And large alliances should be better able to defend themselves, and teach their newer members about game mechanics like wars - if they care to. The number of overall wars will drop. The 70 active wars corp drops to a 3-10 active wars corp. The targeting of newbies goes away. The number of overall targets for highsec mercs stays consistent, and the gameplay style (in general) survives.