Sage advice is still useful for sane and common sense gaming.
The problem, as @Charlaquin
illustrated, is that that's not really true. It kind of started out that way, but pretty rapidly became rules-lawyer-y stuff as if a slightly annoyed DM was rules-lawyering for some reason (as opposed to making rulings).
This suggests to me that Crawford expected (perhaps nievely so) that there would be relatively few rules questions that demanded an answer in Sage Advice. He expected groups of 5e players to mostly sort it out for themselves, and only in very rare cases would clarification from the developers be needed.
This is correct and reflects a weird WotC misunderstanding of their own game. They seem to have echo-chamber'd or group-think'd themselves into believing this, when, given 3E and 4E, it was a obviously completely irrational, because they'd just spent 14 years convincing players that they needed really solid rules, and clear answers on how those rules worked. The idea that you could just turn around and say "Oh just play it fast and loose!" to that audience is pretty hilarious. It's part of the whole "apology edition" vibe D&D Next/early 5E had, where they also seemed to mainly be focused on input from more, shall we say "old-fashioned" groups and approaches during the D&D Next test and so on. There's no perhaps on the naively - it was naive.
I believe quite confidently that some time between September 2015 and August 2017, Jeremy Crawford’s approach to Sage Advice changed.
It’s just about giving the most straightforward, technical interpretation of RAW possible.
Is it though?
I don't really think so myself. Quite a few times since 2017, Jezza C has given us an SA which is definitely not just "straightforward RAW", but it's not RAI or RAF either, it's more like a spin on RAW with a heavy lean towards what he considers balanced.
First of all, ignore Sage Advice. All it’s ever going to give you is a legalistic reading that’s unlikely to be of any real use in a practical context.
Agree. It's disappointing because 5E does have unhelpfully unclear rules which kind of unnecessarily exist in places, but SA rarely sheds any light these days.
Personally I'd say the big two takeaways from this for me are:
1) The D&D Next team had pretty unrealistic expectations about D&D Next's audience, and how they would approach the game.
2) D&D 5E isn't actually particularly
well-designed to be run in the fashion they've described, especially when you compare it to things like Worlds Without Number, let alone PbtA and so on. 5E's rules-writing is better than WWN in that it's much
harder to miss rules outright in 5E (Kevin Crawford has an unfortunate tendency to write rules in the middle of paragraphs and so on), but it's worse in that it frequently fails to convey the intent of the rules, and often has very legalistic/MtG-ish rules writing, which whilst compact, strongly encourages people to think of D&D 5E as a game where you want to be "rules-correct" and where there's a right and wrong way of interpreting the rules. I'd say from the reddit and other sources that many new players coming into the game approach it this way and I think this is very much a result of how 5E was written.
It's also worth noting that a number of 5E systems don't really match up with any kind of "common sense"-based approach, but fit well with a tightly-ruled and legalistic one. Surprise is one example, and not only has how exactly the rules are "supposed" to work for Surprise been debated endlessly (particularly on the reddit, where there have been multiple heated discussions on it with hundreds or thousands of posts each), but perhaps ironically, it's one of the most common places for groups to simply ignore RAW (often without knowing they are) and approach surprise in a "common sense" manner, which often resembles older D&D editions.
Overall I think 5E rather missed the mark if that was their intention. Ironically, I think it may be somewhat more successful because it missed the mark, given that some people do want a more regimented game with harder answers and so on, especially people coming off of 3E and 4E.