Well, as someone whom was enticed to this server as an Uthgard alternative with QoL improvements I cannot say I'm surprised, (and if anything I'm more surprised this server lasted as long as it did). It's obvious you put hard work in, and that should be commended no doubt, but there was clearly a lack of vision on what you wanted the server to ultimately be.
People won't admit it, but we are lemming-like in how we make decisions, especially for something as niche as this. We won't bother playing on a freeshard for DAoC (a now 20+ year old game) if there isn't a likelihood the server will stick around awhile and make our time investment worth it. I think that was a huge reason why this server was as successful as it was for as long as it was; it was the real only alternative for people to play DAoC (and not have to worry about 20+ years of people on the live servers who've stuck it out there having such huge headstarts to the point starting there as a fresh account is a waste of time).
Having said that, with all the changes made here, this wasn't a Classic DAoC server anymore. I'm not sure what I'd call it - but I wouldn't call it Classic. It doesn't have ToA or any of the follow-up expansion sure, BUT I'd argue with all the changes made you pushed it way past a Classic ruleset. In my instance, when you switched to New Frontiers you basically relegated me to battlegrounds as I LOATHE the generic layouts and wide-swathes of nothingness they have compared to the Old Frontiers. I won't get started on the changes to the loot system, nor will I prattle on about the Kill Task system or the XP item turn ins (both of which have positives and negatives attached to them). I at least sort of understood those features.
The looking for group feature sounded great, in theory --- until you realize the playerbase nowadays are min-maxing tryhards and it's nothing but "LOOKING FOR ANOTHER PBAOE FOR OUR GROUP!" spam. People rolling Ice Wizards/Enchanters/Spiritmasters should just get auto-grouped and save the spammers the trouble when playing on Phoenix. People calling that crowd toxic earlier in this thread aren't wrong, either. You even started seeing people using their XP bonuses from PVE dungeon clears to screw over casuals further, (something I could've called a mile away happening). If you have systems in place that discourage casuals from sticking around, and encouraging the people who treat this as a second job, you only have yourself to blame when the casuals stop logging in. I was getting WoW "Gearscore of XXX required!" vibes - yeah, no thanks there Sparky.
Lastly, as others have pointed out, it felt like you guys (the Devs) had a coding itch you just had to keep scratching. I would routinely check the News section on here to say "What new scheme have the Phoenix Devs come up with next to screw with their DAoC shard?" You didn't disappoint me in that regard as time after time you'd present (often boggling) decisions to "spruce up" the game, (that in the end hurt rather then help). I was looking through the style and mob changes that were posted and I got a solid laugh and realized I wasn't going to be playing here ever again as what you'd be running at that point was DAoC themed in name only.
I almost feel like you guys needed an Editor of some sort when it came to your server changes. Community votes are fine for some things, but changing CORE concepts of a game that we all know and love just for the sake of changing them should've been more thought out and debated rather then just dumping them onto players.
C'est la vie. Good luck if you open another server down the line, and if you do hopefully you'll approach it with a more careful laser-focused approach from the getgo.