A lot of players use them, though grudgingly. Like far more than most think. There are times when there is simply no other option.
As a free player even I found that when leading Hd I would nearly every event use the few PVP event items I had on a mega attack or two at the right time. I regularly sacrificed my own progression in events and in the game as a whole for strategic hits.
Now I didn’t want to. Bonus meter was always a better balance. But with that removed, there’s simply no other option for many of us. A team of 50 players, even with a majority low or non spenders, can come up with probably a dozen or two strategic times to pool resources and run some well planned mega attacks and its crucial against big spenders.