What is the most elegant TeX format? [on hold]

I have been using LaTeX for quite a long time but I was tempted several times to switch to plain TeX. What attracted me was the proximity with TeX and Knuth’s vision. But it’s still too limited, I can’t even add a table of contents without coding it and I don’t like to make choices like the font size for the title. Even to number the sections I have to use counters.

Is there an option in between, a minimal and beautiful TeX format to write articles in a few commands without importing obscure modules?

Note: I am aware of List of TeX formats.

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