Most of the Light's channelers don't know balefire. Most of those that do understand the harmful effect it has on the Pattern. Also, unlike some readers, channelers tend not to look at balefire as a catch all solution to problems - most of the time, other weaves will do the job as well, without destroying the Pattern while they're at it. Winning a fight isn't just about strength. Graendal has greater knowledge and a good grasp of tactics. And Moghedien's use of balefire was more like an RPG than a sniper rifle - it sank the boat (several minutes in the past), even though it missed Nynaeve.
RJ had already begun closing down plot threads and increasing the pace while driving towards a conclusion. He was aware there was a lot still to cover - his statements about a 2,000 page AMoL make that clear. But he wanted one more book because he felt that more than that wouldn't work, structurally. Given the poor structuring of all the books post TGS, he might have had a point. Point is, what you cite as Brandon's greatest strength was just following on from what RJ was doing anyway, and RJ did it without sacrificing the characterisation or voice, and he got the details right while he was doing it. Those losses of voice and characterisation, they are not a product purely of an increased pace.
As for RJ backing himself into a corner, that would be true if it wasn't for the huge level of variation in terms of how many channelers could be brought to the fight - as already shown, depending on how big the initial population is, the percentage of it that is comprised of channelers, the number of channelers that are actually found and trained and the number Demandred could muster to his banner Shara could be bringing thousands or tens of thousands. Given that level of variation, that idea that he had written himself into a corner is laughable. There are enough variables involved that Demandred's army can literally be as big as the plot needs it to be at the outset and have it be plausible.
Mr Ares, thanks for the reply, I really enjoy your well reasoned thoughts.
I need to clarify what I meant.
I agree with you that there were ways of getting out of the Light forces being too strong and having too many channelers. One method, as you rightly argue, was to increase the Sharan numbers. Another would have been to introduce new shadowspawn with powers that could negate the Light's advantages. An example could be worms, jumjara or kafar, [ even Graendal was scared of them ] or for that matter, a small army of new gholam. Any of these methods could even up or even tilt the scales in the shadow's favor.
The problem with any of these things and for that matter so is the introduction of a vast Sharan army, is that it seems forced and contrived, and RJ was supremely good at creating smooth flowing arcs and plots. These methods don't follow that style. That is what I meant.
Yes RJ was starting to speed the story up somewhat, but it seems to me that BS accelerated the pace significantly more than RJ. When you start going as fast as BS was going, I think that some voice and characterisation will be lost.
Personally, after reading Lucker's and Dwynwen's posts on battles between characters, I wish they'd have had an input into the books as they in particular seem to have captured some of the style RJ had with characters.
"unfortunately , what else was mat going to do against one of the Forsaken? Right now, his battle plan revolved around keeping Demandred occupied, forcing the man to respond. If Demandred had to act as general, he couldn't do as much damage channeling. (p. 688)