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.