While Alpha Strike is active, you could have F5 activate the F2 skill of the secondary pet, while F4 switches which pet is primary and which is secondary with a one second cooldown (so you can switch which one you keep when Alpha Strike ends). If either pet is brought to 0 health while Alpha Strike is active, Alpha Strike ends, F4 is put on cooldown (the shorter cooldown, to balance for not being able to withdraw a pet voluntarily*) and the surviving pet becomes your active pet.
Hrrrmn. From what I can see, there are three basic things that drew you to the GW1 ranger. In no particular order:
*Adaptability through preparations
*Use of terrain ("gotcha")
My first impression is that you're probably not going to get all of those on the same character nowadays. You probably wouldn't have got them in the same build in GW1, so it's not a massive step to switch to getting them through multiple characters, but that does add another layer of hassle. I guess you've already recognised this, though, since if there was one profession that had all three, you'd probably already be gravitating to it.
When it comes to preparations - if I read between the lines correctly, it seems that what you liked was that it was something you could use to adjust your character's behaviour a little in response to different situations, without changing your main skills, and where you have to choose just one to have at a particular time rather than being able to stack them all (venoms)? In that case, you're basically right in that they're basically gone. Your closest analogue is probably revenant upkeep skills, as these do require you to pick which ones you use rather than just trying to have all of them up at a critical moment. Lack of customisability is an issue, however, although in practice I find that most professions settle down into only having a handful of builds that are really distinct anyway, so the twenty-odd different combinations of legends may have more legs than you think.
When it comes to pet-owner synergy: the only professions that can really do that apart from ranger are engineer and necromancer (spirit weapons, even if you have them, tend to just do their thing without really synergising with the owner). In both cases, though, it's relatively minor, mostly setting up field-finisher combos or using a minion or turret to snare an opponent so you can hit them. I think the ranger was the profession intended to really excel at this, and if it's not doing it for you, it's not doing it for you, and the R/Mo specialisation is not going to help there. Maybe there'll be a specialisation in the future that will do it for you, but clearly druid isn't it.
When it comes to using the environment for a 'gotcha' - correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm mostly hearing 'traps' when you say that. Engineer can trap in theory, but I don't think mines really cover what you're looking for. After that, you're basically looking at thief, necromancer, and dragonhunter. With these professions in mind:
Thief: I can certainly understand not liking a reliance on stealth. I think the Daredevil is aimed towards making a non-stealthy thief more viable, but I'm not sure on that myself. If you haven't already, I'd recommend giving it a try next BWE and seeing what you think. Initiative and squishiness I can't really argue away, though, so my gut feeling is that given your caveats you're right in that the thief isn't for you (at least not as a primary).
Guardian/Dragonhunter: Guardian is the closest I have to a "main" (I play all professions, but not equally), and I've never found the low health pool to be a major issue. You make up for it by having a wide range of ways to prevent, reduce, or heal the damage. This includes conditions - you're right in that toughness doesn't help a lot against condition damage, but guardians do have the option to pack a LOT of condition removal and prevention. When it comes to elite skills with 'oomph' - "Feel My Wrath!" might suit, as might getting an opponent into a Dragon's Maw, but YMMV, of course.
Necromancer: Here, we're basically looking at marks as an alternative to traps. Reading between the lines, it seems you might already be leaning this way - some of the armours you can get for a scholar might get more of the 'practical' look. If you go with Reaper rather than a core necromancer, you may well be able to achieve being more of the "battle mage" feel than the "wizard" feel, with the ability to pull out a staff to lay down some traps when it's appropriate to do so.
The wiki is not a reliable source unless it directly quotes from in-game or some other source. The administrators don't care about making sure that what's in the wiki in lore terms is accurate as opposed to someone's opinion being posted as fact.
Working through what's in-game, though, what it seems happened is that the charr invaded, then Adelbern got Ascalon out of the Guild Wars, then the Searing happened. From the timeline, though, this appears to be on a scale of 'months' rather than 'years'.
It's likely that the charr never stopped fighting on the border entirely, but Ascalon had been steadily pushing north, roughly doubling its territory, at the latest from the time of the completion of the Wall to the Third Guild War that ended in disaster.
Regarding the other points:
I don't think it's that the Gods gave greater power to the Orrians, and more that Orr in general was a location with greater magic than most of the rest of the world at the time. Orrian magic was powerful in Orr, and magic items created in Orr would retain their power if taken elsewhere (such as Magdaer and Sohothin, the Scepter or Orr, the Staff of the Mists, and likely other artifacts such as Stormcaller and the Drascir-Nolani teleporter). However, it's quite likely that an Orrian spellcaster, moved to a location where there's less magic, is going to be at a disadvantage... unless they've practised how to use magic in such locations. This would explain sending students to Nolani.
Regarding the Orrian army getting spanked... it may well be the same root cause. From what we know of Orrian foreign policy, it mostly stayed within its borders, only getting involved in the Guild Wars when the guilds started fighting in Orr. (I think there's even a mention of fighting in the streets of Arah - it was a forbidden city to most mortals while the gods were still in residence, but...) In the case of the charr army, they'd seen what the Searing had done to Ascalon and weren't willing to risk that happening to Orr as well, so they marched out to intercept... and if they were relying on magic-users that were used to having the abundant magic of Orr, this would certainly explain their defeat.
If you do Gwen's historical mission, the location that she escapes from is an Ascalonian estate that is north enough that the majority of the region wasn't burned by the Searing. So when you compare to the GW1 map, the northernmost reach of Ascalon is actually outside the Seared region. The southernmost extent is, more or less, Ebonhawke. The same mission indicates that the estate was Ascalonian at least within twenty or so years (one of the characters there claims to be the former owner) and that they were caught by surprise.
The invasion, when it happened, seems to have swept south to the Wall fairly quickly. I don't think the exact timing is specified, but Adelbern brought an end to the fighting with the Guild Wars in order to focus on the Charr fairly quickly, and the Guild Wars are said to have ended in 1070AE, the same year as the Searing, which implies that it all happened in one year. If you have information that says otherwise, please let me know where it is!
What may well have happened is that the Titans instructed the Flame Legion to stop raiding and build up their strength, which in turn lead to the Ascalonians developing the sense that the threat had gone until the invasion came.
Regarding where it says that magic was more abundant in Orr:
Everyday Magic in Orr: "My early career as a merchant began in Foible's Fair, in southern Ascalon. Imaging my shock at my first encounter with the enchanted markets of Wren." "Fishmongers display live catch in watery orbs above their tents. Porters enhance their strength with spells, routinely carrying loads that would cripple a pack bull." "The finest silks ripple in the air, showing their quality: songs play themselves on golden lyres; parents project their voices across the square to find the ear of a wayward child." "Yet the real oddity is just how normal all this seems to them. It makes me ponder: How did magic become so common, so everyday?" "In Ascalon, we apply magic only to things of import-when ordinary means cannot succeed. For the Orrians, magic is like any other tool, to be used at whim and with little concern." "I worry at what this means for Orr. Such great feats with so little caution. Surely, even in the land of the Gods, there must be a cost..."
OK, if your theory is true, then why not add more levels and tiers in the Expansion, where the majority of MMO players expect it?
Because masteries are intended to fill the same role.
Personally, I think Ascended was a mistake. People talk about people leaving because there was no endgame carrot to chase - I know people who quit (some even demanding - and receiving - their money back) around when that announcement was made because it raised the specter of endless gear treadmill from other MMOs. Stat grind may keep some people playing, but it acts as a wall to fence out those who play more casually.
I've been playing since release, and my activity both in and out of game is such that I wouldn't describe myself as a 'casual player', but contrary to Phineas' claim, I don't have any characters fully kitted out in Ascended. I play an average of a couple of hours a day... but I prefer to do different things each day rather than getting the most potent build and repeating whatever seems likely to give the best rewards over and over again.
The Guild Wars franchise was based around the idea that getting the best stats and being on a level playing field with the obsessives was a fairly easy target to make. After that, progression came in the form of chasing better-looking skins (obsidian armour, legendaries), acquiring and learning how to use new skills, and so on. Problem is, Guild Wars 2 largely failed on the second part, with only a handful of new skills and abilities added in between release and the HoT announcement.
However, it seems fairly clear that they're taking the route of new skills and abilities over simply bumping up stats so you can fight monsters with ever-increasing stats.