The WoW 3.1 PTR's have been up and running for a bit and, after a weekend, it seems like there's enough info out there to look at what kinds of incentives we're going to see.
I had speculated that we might see some added options on the badge vendors in the new patch. Bornakk put the kibosh on that. It appears that there will NOT be any new uses for Emblems of Heroism (especially not any means of trading them in for Emblems of Valor), and there may or may not be new uses for Emblems of Valor (depending whether they decide to carry on the decision from Naxx to place some of the class armor set pieces on the vendor for emblems).
It is worth nothing that we haven't seen stats on raid loot just yet. This is noteworthy because there already is a 5-piece ilvl 213 set (from Naxx-25) with two items available on the Emblem of Valor Vendor. It will be interesting to see how the new set (from Ulduar 10) compares.
The Argent Tournament
I was wondering whether there would be some content squirreled away for the non-raid crowd in this patch, and Blizzard appears to have delivered with the Argent Tournament. Based on the news I've seen so far, we can expect two SEPARATE tokens out of the tournament. Here's what I've been able to piece together from the newsposts I've seen:
World of Raids reports on the initial stage of the tournament dailies, which award a currency called "aspirant seals". Based on the achievements included in the patch, I suspect that these seals are used primarily to earn the right to champion one of your five racial factions in the tournament. (They may or may not also be usable for reputation with these cities, it appears that there are new items that boost your city rep, and there are separate achievements for being exalted with cities you can champion.)
The other half of the story picks up at MMO-Champion, where they report on the rewards for "Champion's Seals". Presumably, you earn these from a new round of dailies once you earn the right to champion a city in the tournament. The tournament itself will presumably involve vehicle-mounted jousting of some sort, since that is the object of one of the quests in the previous section.
So what's the loot? Some very cheap rare-quality ilvl 200 items (10 seals), a slightly more expensive set of ilvl 200 weapons (25 seals), and then a large number of cosmetic items including banners (15 seals), tabards (50 seals), fancy version of the racial mounts (100 seals) and an Argent Crusade white hippogryph (250 seals).
Based on the price tag, it will be interesting to see how limited the options for acquiring the champion's seals will be. With weapons priced so low, I'd be surprised to see players able to get multiple seals per day from easily solo'ed dailies. Perhaps we will see an event that cannot be repeated more than once per day via an instance save lockout?
Also, it is a bit refreshing to see the cosmetic items actually priced above the functional items in the reward structure. Many games do it the other way around, which generally destroys the uniqueness of the cosmetic rewards. Case in point, LOTRO's titles for slaying hundreds of mobs, many of which are very common because they are required as prerequisites for traits that boost your stats.
Overall, it's not a bad collection of stuff. There's no new five-man content, which was what I expected, but having a new cluster of dailies would help keep me in the game to do the content that is in the game. I'm happy to run 5-man content when the Alliance owns Wintergrasp, but I don't actually have anything to DO besides grind trivial solo mobs/daily quests for cash while I look for a group since I finished the last Northrend dailies. There are still a lot of details that we don't know that might influence things, but I'm encouraged by what I see so far.