“It is one of those lessons that every child should learn: Don’t play with fire, sharp objects, or ancient artifacts.”
No, that’s not a word. We all obsess a little bit on our Artifact Weapon. Even as we play there is much that we are learning about as we go along; the synergy between knowledge and power, traits, major traits, stats and the questions about unknown plans in future patches.
On one level, one can treat it as simple passive upgrades and wonder how much does it matter — since we’ll fill in everything eventually; every Relic taken, we’ll always choose the highest ilevel as it impacts our stats.
On another level, we should (early) plan a path to major traits and design our way to the best advantage early in the game. Looking at those major traits and using them to our advantage when playing.
On the third level (just use that link in the prior paragraph) we can see what we can not see when we open our weapons in-game; the Big Picture. For healers, it is called G’hanir’s Bloom; once you complete your weapon trait-paths there are a whopping 20 more, very expensive, completions to make!
For Beast Master hunters, the last 20 are called Spiritbound; each Artifact has it — it is a percentage increase on all that you do while playing.
The Artifact Calculator (that link again!) also shows us all of the different appearances available except for the secret to-be-discovered looks found in the game. On mouse-over, one can get hints on how to unlock some of them down the line.
What about End Game? We know that there are plans (or hints, suggestions) from the Devs that we’ll get a fourth Relic slot someday. It is possible that they’ll add new things to the Artifact traits themselves; but I doubt that. Best guess is the flexibility inherent in Relic design will be the future changes that we’ll see as we work through Legion.
NB: the understanding of making paths, the credit goes to Restokin and this part of her healing guide.