So, I'm back to Debian Testing (Jessie) on my main laptop. This is the version where they've controversially introduced systemd under the hood. Haven't done much poking around yet but it still feels like good old Debian to me. I remember the Arch switch to systemd being much more painful. I suspect the Debian developers have been hard at work molding systemd to the Debian way of doing thing.
What wasn't a pleasant experience was trying to get the Debian installer to play nice with UEFI. In the end I gave up and just disabled secure boot. Don't know who thought up the whole scheme but it's a pain in the backside. Apart from that the install process was painless
My desktop "environment" is composed of the spectrwm tiling window manager with components yanked from the LXDE desktop (lxterminal, PCManFM, lxappearance etc.). It's probably not to everyone's taste but it works well from my experience: