On hand carders -- the finer carding cloth has teeth closer together, and on some of the cotton cards the teeth are finer than on the wool/coarser cards. Given that the teeth are closer together, it takes more effort to card the fibers. I'm not sure how much this would affect you, but it's something I personally stay aware of due to recurring tendonitis in my wrists. 50 cotton punis in one sitting -- That put me in icepacks for two days!
As examples, merino, shetland, and angora are fine fibers; corriedale tends to be fairly fine, mohair varies but is nice and slick so wouldn't tend to get hung up on the cards, and angelina is likely to be an accent, so would not get too hung up on fine carders. So looking for cards that are for finer wools would actually probably be the route I'd take if those were the fibers I was carding.
If the cotton cards have finer teeth, they'd be a bit easier to mangle than thicker teeth. But that varies from maker to maker, I imagine; my cotton cards are old clemes & clemes ones.
The main things I use my cards for are cotton and for small projects; it's the drum carder if I want to get through a pound of washed fleece or do major blending. A drum carder really isn't big enough (how's this for justification!!) for a cottage industry carding person unless they've found some way to be super-efficient with it, or have a super value-add in dyeing and blending. I could just about churn out 12 ounces in an hour on my PG Supercarder, if I had a nice medium wool that didn't need a second pass.
On combing -- you are right, it's the longest fibers in your carding that you pull from comb to comb. So you can card the longest stuff out first, then recard the left-behind stuff separately and get a second run of shorter fibers, too. I like the ones you clamp down and then run the second comb past myself -- that way both hands can hold the working comb if I'm having a bad wrist day.
Generally speaking, double-row combs are what I recommend, since you can trap VM and short bits between the rows. Again, it's a tradeoff-- the more rows, the more stuff you might trap between rows ("English" combs are often "5-pitch" -- 5 rows of tines!), but also the heavier the combs. Single pitch traps the least, since stuff only gets stuck behind the one row. A finer comb works best on the fine fibers; with a "regular" comb, the fine fibers aren't as likely to be fully opened. They ought to work for coarser fibers as well, though you'd be doing more work than you needed to, perhaps, at the expense of more effort.
That said, I wouldn't comb raw fleece -- if it's lanoliny/greasy it'll get all tangled up and stuck, won't it? A friend carded raw llama once, which was okay since her llama fiber had no grease, but it sure made a mess of the combs! I'll usually wash the fiber first, then comb it.
Sooo, if I had it to do over, what carding equipment would I have?
a drumcarder, fine cloth, motorized
cotton hand cards
2-row mini combs
oh wait a sec, I have all those (wink). But I could "do without" my wool cards, except there's a project already started on them that I might just get back to one day ...
and in my retirement, I hope to get a 12" hackle to experiment with color blending while dizzing ... maybe I can just borrow one from the local guild for that, though.
Now, if we compare combing to carding -- everyone has their own reasons for each, and it sounds like you have your reasons too. I personally choose to comb llama because I love llama top to spin, to maximize the luster of the fiber. Wool I throw on the drum carder, and cotton I put on the cotton cards. Angora -- now, I buy it prepared (grin!) but I've played around with carding it and combing it. If I were to try again from raw, I'd probably card it into wool, or if I really wanted it 100% angora, I'd use the cotton cards and try making angora punis.
(posted by me on spindlers, this day)