I for one would like to get rid of the shards entirely, have the four "classical" manas generated by the terreins you control (i.e. rocky terrein generates earth mana, water generates, well, water, and so on), with life and death being generated as oer DD's most-preferred system with things actually living and dying, regardless of terrein. Might be hard to balance, but I'm sure we could figure out a way eventually.
Second to that is a system with life and death still controlled by stuff living and dying, with shards for the other elements, followed by what we have now, with the channeler acting as a shard.
What I absolutely do not want is a system where life, death, and the Big Four all share the same mechanic. This is far too derivative of MoM, decreases easy moddability (if they all share the same mechanic, modders will have to make new mechaincs from scratch using a load of Python etc.), disagrees with several thousand years of mythology and metaphysics, and has been (if you will pardon the expression) "done to death".