I'm currently sitting on more than 90 of WoW's Emblems of Heroism. I should, in principle, have a good idea of what to spend these on, since I wrote a post on the topic.
There's a spell hit belt, the [Plush Sash of Guzbah], which would make a good sidegrade (up to 69 hit rating if buckled and socketed with a pair of yellow gems) for my spell hit set. There's the token that gets me the [Heroes' Frostfire Robe] (though I remain reluctant to pay 80 emblems for an item I could win outright off Archavon). If I really don't want either, there are some shiny heirloom items I could pick up.
So why am I sitting on that many banked badges? Because there's a patch coming.
The picture as it now stands....
Before the expansion's launch, the discussion was that 10-man raid gear would lag 25-man gear by a tier (which apparently means 13 item levels). Presuming they've stuck with that plan, here's what we already know:
(By M/S/K I mean Malygos, Sartharion w/ at least 2 drakes, and Kel'Thuzad, who drop loot from a higher tier due to their signature status)
ilvl 239: Optional bosses/hardmodes in Ulduar-25
ilvl 226: Ulduar-25, M/S/K-25, Optional bosses/hardmodes in Ulduar-10
ilvl 213: Naxx-25, Sartharion-25, Ulduar-10, M/S/K-10
ilvl 200: Naxx-10, Sartharion-10, Heroic 5-man end bosses and Emblem Rewards, Exalted Rep Rewards, Top end crafted items as of 3.0
ilvl 200 BLUE: Heroic 5-man regular bosses, pre-exalted level 80 rep rewards
ilvl 187 BLUE: Non-heroic 5-man, pre-exalted rep rewards (attainable prior to level 80)
Via a lengthy thread on arena itemization, we have a few more tidbits:
- There will be an Emblem of Conquest from Ulduar-25. I think I heard that Ulduar-10 will drop Emblems of Valor, but I don't have a source for that on hand.
- Kel'Thuzad is on a higher reward tier in part because Blizzard underestimated how easy he would be to get to.
- There are no plans to allow trades of 10-man Emblems of Heroism for 25-man emblems of valor (which makes sense in the context of Ulduar-10 dropping Valor emblems).
- Ulduar will be balanced assuming Naxx loot.
Will the non-raid game see progression in patch 3.1 or beyond?
I don't think there is any way that non-raid content will see ilvl 213 epics in this patch cycle, and, I think it is highly unlikely that there will be new 5-man content in patch 3.1. Though I have finished the current heroics, the expansion launched with a dozen of them, compared to only three raids. (Naxx does come with 4.5 wings the size of a 5-man, so it's not exactly 12 to 3, but, then again, Naxx is recycled content). Heroics already have their "hard mode" reward for bosses in the form of a meta achievement, and it would not make sense to add optional, tougher bosses to existing heroic dungeons unless Blizzard had the time to cover all twelve dungeons (otherwise, players would overwhelmingly prefer the dungeons with the good loot).
(I also don't think we will see rare-quality ilvl 213 items this patch, or ever this expansion cycle. As you can see in a comparison of PVP robes, the difference between rare and epic items of the same tier is about identical to the difference between epics of different tiers. I.e., an ilvl 213 blue item would look a lot like an ilvl 200 purple one.)
In the short term, it is possible that Blizzard may expand either access or variety in the Emblem vendors. I think we could see, at a minimum, more cosmetic rewards (such as pets, which aren't currently available, tabards or mounts), and possibly a wider selection of gear as well. As I noted when I did a roundup of pre-raid mage gear, there are a number of slots where the pickings at the heroic level are very scarce. New rewards would help convince people to continue using the existing non-raid content while Blizzard works on the raid game.
In the longer term, I think Blizzard will have to consider some means of making ilvl 213 loot available to the non-raid populace. This is more likely to happen somewhere further down the line, such as patch 3.3, when even the 10-man raiders have moved beyond that tier (similar to the addition of Magister's Terrace in patch 2.4). At that point we might see Emblems of Valor in 5-man content and solo daily quests with some chance of rewarding Emblems of Heroism. The comparatively low cost per item - most cost 40 or fewer emblems - is an obstacle there, but these items will be well behind the gear curve at that point in the expansion cycle, and heirloom items may be the most attractive rewards as a new gear reset looms. With heirlooms involved, players might be willing to continue using that content for the heirlooms AFTER the next expansion hits, which is about as good a return on the dev time as anything in Blizzard's toolbox at the moment.
(Yes, in principle the 10-man raids are puggable and/or will become more so as players have more time to outgear them. Personally, I have a hard enough time pugging heroics. My one and only attempt at a pug 10-man featured TWO melee DPS who flatly refused to even attempt to move out of the WALL OF BLEEPING FIRE on Sartharion, and then pulled out damage meters in an attempt to blame everyone else's "low DPS" for the ensuing wipes - apparently the high numbers they were able to rack up as a result of not moving outweighed even the possibility of loot for doing the fight properly.)
Awaiting another PTR....
So that's why I'm sitting on my emblems for the time being. Perhaps this patch is too early to expect any changes, but I find it hard to believe that Blizzard would fail to offer any further non-raid progression for the rest of the expansion cycle (which is likely to run for at least a year from now, more like a year and a half given Blizzard's track record).
Will I be disappointed when the PTR's happen (probably in the next week or two, judging from the increasing amounts of information Blizzard is releasing about the patch)? Perhaps. But hey, at least the emblems aren't taking up bagspace anymore. :)