Atlas rewards you for past team effort and ongoing individual effort. If you’re casual and don’t put much into it, you can get some extra daily egg tokens if your team has castles, event timers and shards, easy XP bases, and access to a few more riders. (But you need to play Atlas more to train these riders.)
If you go hard, you can start claiming a large part of the Atlas seasonal prizes and rapidly get maxed gear and tremendous progression resources (timers for your base, egg tokens for your dragons).
If you don’t like Atlas, i would say find a strong non-atlas team and stay in high gold or low Platinum league and get riders from the core game season so you can craft and upgrade at least some rider gear. Gear makes dragons and bases much much stronger, so how much you invest in it is a big determinant of your strength vs other players with similar level, base, and dragons.
You may also progress more slowly and score lower in fort and breeding (fewer breeds and levels per month) due to not having the extra source of egg tokens and timers. If you’re enjoying the game at your level and speed, that is probably fine. If you’re itching to get to endgame and compete with the big kids, it really takes a lot of effort and some money, and effort in Atlas can reduce the amount of money.
The biggest benefits in Atlas come from attacking other players in Atlas pvp. That doesn’t require money, but time and possibly a helpful team. (Getting Atlas elite at least occasionally really helps though.)
For riders in particular, four older (with mostly worse skills) riders are very easy to get. Each season has one or more riders you can earn through pvp. Any of these riders requires more pvp to train their skills to a useful level.
Depends on your team. It’s nice for you if you can attack players at their castles, because there are just more players on castles than in the red zone. Many teams will limit attacks against castles because they don’t want to deal with reprisal attacks. Ask about this when looking for an atlas team.
Some players also find a buddy on another team to “glory swap” with. This saves time at the cost of troops, because you’ll typically be agreeing to a bad result in one fight for the sake of an easy good result in the next, instead of trying to get all good results.
Some teams arrange team glory swaps, attacking each others’ castle guards. Unlike player to player swaps, guard swaps are pretty great.
Last thing: your device makes a big difference. Android vs ios all have their issues (more for Android), but any device with low memory or storage space will probably struggle with atlas making it a lot less fun or impossible. Maybe also Android tablets with cheap graphics hw? Turning down the graphics level can help some.
Sorry so long-winded, I need an editor and also to go kill things. Hope this helps. I kinda like Atlas myself.