Let me hit you all straight. In the Fifth Experimental Combat Snapshot tridents and diamond axes have the same damage and reach, but tridents have longer reach. In PvE, I did not find a reason to use an axe once. And it's even worse for an iron axe.
To be fair, in PvP axes can disable shields, but that is the only reason to use them (unless you don't have a trident I suppose, but tridents aren't too hard to get).
My suggestion is: Buff axes to +5 damage. This will make a diamond axe deal 9 damage, and have the same DPS as a diamond sword. You may think this is a lot, but it's not an insane amount. Axes are supposed to be slow, heavy, high-damage dealing weapons. They need to be that.
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