Unlike Badges of Justice which will only be legal tender for Level 70 item rewards, or Arena Points, which will be wiped clean the moment we ding 71, Honor will still be usable to purchase on-level rewards. Of course, we can expect inflation to apply -- a pair of Guardian bracers today cost 11,794 Honor and 20 Warsong Gulch Marks of Honor, but data suggests that the Deadly Gladiator bracers will cost 39,400 Honor and a 1660 personal Arena Rating. The Guardian belt and boots currently cost 17,850 Honor and 40 Eye of the Storm / Arathi Basin Marks of Honor, but looks like they'll cost 62,000 Honor and 1630 and 1720 personal Arena ratings respectively.
The current Honor cap is at 75,000, with each type of Mark of Honor capped at 100. This means that at the cost of the boots and belt, you'll only be able to purchase one piece when you hit Level 80 and play a few games through Season 5 when it starts on December 16. It's still not a bad deal if you've stored away all that Honor to begin with. And this is only if you choose to go for the best of the best... the Hateful and Savage Gladiator equivalents should be much more affordable. I wouldn't trust the current prices just yet -- anything can change once the PvP item vendor finally becomes accessible in Lake Wintergrasp. That said, any Honor you will have banked for Northrend will be a good investment.
Why is it a good idea to PvP now? Because once Wrath breaks, you'll be too busy leveling to do anything else. Since Blizzard estimates roughly a month for players hit Level 80, it means that there's little time to waste piddling about the Battlegrounds once Northrend opens. If there ever was a time to grind Honor, these past few weeks were it. If you're remotely interested in Arenas, hitting Level 80 by December 16 should be part of your Wrath plans.
Levels 71, 77, and 80
There are three key levels in Wrath of the Lich King for every PvP enthusiast. Level 71 is significant because it allows entry into the new Battleground, the Strand of the Ancients. It's highly likely that there will be few games played at that level and at an early stage, but if you want to scope the Battleground out and get some early Achievements, queueing up for it as soon as you've leveled up isn't such a bad idea. This works particularly well if you're already geared up in high end PvP gear. I mean, what else will we use Brutal Gladiator items for? They're a bit of overkill for those Vrykul in Grizzly Hills or Trolls in Zul'Drak. Level 71 also opens up the highest bracket of Alterac Valley, although options will be limited considering the Generals and Captains will be tuned for Level 80.
At Level 77, players will gain access to Cold-Weather Flying, which should open up Lake Wintergrasp, which is only accessible through flying mounts. If you want access to PvP gear early on, getting to Level 77 should be a key target since the PvP gear vendors can be found there. Getting to Lake Wintergrasp early should also help your faction take control of the zone, which in turn helps leveling even faster to 80.
When you finally get to Level 80, hopefully by December 16, you'll become eligible to play ranked Arena matches and qualify for the tiered Arena rewards. This will also open up a new bracket of Arathi Basin, Eye of the Storm, Strand of the Ancients, and Warsong Gulch. It's also possible that the Honor cap will be raised at Level 80, considering Blizzard's original estimation for the Honor limit was roughly a few times as much as the most expensive Honor item. since Deadly Gladiator items will cost over 60,000 Honor, we might see an Honor cap raise. Blizzard stated that "the limit is subject to change depending on what works best for long-term game balance," so a limit raise shouldn't be unreasonable.
At Level 80, the Honor gains should be significantly higher, as well. This is in keeping with the trend of the game where it was always best to PvP at the highest level to get the best returns from Honor. Since Level 70 is only the highest level for a couple more days, it's best to squeeze it out now, so you can build on it later. So before Wrath come out, I hope I'll see you in the Battlegrounds!
Are you ready for the challenges that await you in Northrend? WoW Insider has you covered with our 8-day guide to Preparing for Wrath. Also, check out our feature on AddOns new, old and outdated written especially with the expansion in mind.