As you participate in PvP, you accumulate Honorable Kills (HK). Generally speaking, an Honorable Kill is awarded whenever you or someone in your group kills a player of the opposing faction, if that player has sufficiently high level (not gray).
Not all HKs are equal. Each HK comes with a certain amount of "Honor Contribution Points" (CP). You get more CP for killing the enemy Field Marshal than for a player with no prior PvP experience. In addition, you get CP for fulfilling Battleground objectives. You can see your lifetime HKs, last week HKs, and last week Honor Contribution Points on the "Honor" tab of your character screen in WoW GUI.
Once a week, during server maintenance, your gathered Honor Contribution Points are used to recalculate your "rating" or Ranking Points (RP). Your new rating is calculated as an average of your previous rating and your standing relative to the other players on your server during the previous week. Exact details of this calculation can be found in honor system. The Top 2000 players from each faction on each server can see their ratings at official site.
Your Ranking Points and numbers of your Honorable Kills are used to determine your "rank." There are 14 possible ranks. See the table below for details.
This is not a levelling system like experience levels or faction. Your Ranking Point score is a measure of your PVP effort as compared to all the other ranked PVP players on your side of your server. For example, if you consistently play with a weekly standing of 100 every week, your overall ranking should approach 100, and whatever rank that position holds on your server. The only way to make more progress is to put more time into PVP and get higher standings every week.
The amount of honor awarded for killing any person gradually decreases if you kill him repeatedly within a 24-hour window. This is the reason why long Alterac Valley battles, which can result in excess of 1000 Honorable Kills in the matter of 5 hours, yield relatively meager amounts of Honor. Participating in many short Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin games against different opponents is probably the fastest way to gain Honor. For each kill the gained honor decreases with 10%. For example an unranked player gains 160 honor on the first kill, second kill is 144, third kill 128, 112, 98, 80, 64, 48, 32, 16 and the 10th kill gains no honor.
Your honor is calculated each week ONLY if you obtain 15 honor kills that week. Having less than 15 honor kills in a week is the same as ZERO honor.
A second pass that takes all Honor contribution for your faction into consideration is performed. If that calculation comes in higher than 25 HK, then everyone less than the new contribution floor level is also culled before ranking calculation is done.
Usually honor gained from HK to honor gained from bonuses in AB and WSG is 1:2. Which means that victory in AB and WSG usually gives more than two times the honor you gain from HK farming.
I went through the PVP rankings pages on the official site and found where the cut points for the ranks are. Even on the one realm with 2 GM (rank 14) on the Alliance side the rating numbers still break at these points. One new realm had privates listed with 12 contrib points but >15 HK so 15 HK seems to be the entry point to get a rank.
The percentage notes in the Contrib Points column is Blizzard's published estimate of the percentage of characters of a given realm which will be at or above that rank in the Honor System.
Note though, that there is a rank promotion limit, which is due to the fact that you simply cannot earn more than a certain amount total rank each week, plus your total rank decays by 20% each week. A rank 0 (pre-private) can earn at most 13000 RP, which would put him in the middle of rank 4. A rank 5 (with the minimum 15000 RP) can also earn 13000 RP but will lose 3000 RP to decay, so his new rank will be barely 7 (25000 RP).
Also note that the contribution points (CP) you get in a given week is not the same as the RP on the website or the RP used in the rank calculation. I received over 2600 CP but am still Private but moving up from 69% to 80% so in a few weeks of 2000+ CP I may get Corporal.
There is also a rank cap based on your experience level. Characters under level 30 cannot advance past Rank 3 (with 6500 RP). A level 58 character is capped just below the RP needed for Rank 14.
Though they have the same name, the effects of the trinket are different for each class. For most, they are similar to the Forsakenracial ability, Will of the Forsaken. Each trinket has a cooldown of 5 minutes and can be used to dispel three of six effects as indicated in the table below:
Players who are grouped in a party equally split the contribution points they earn. The Priest who heals will receive an equal share of points as the Warrior who is swinging away at the target.
There is no set amount of contribution points needed to reach a certain level. The PvP ranking system is based on the number of players engaging in PvP combat, and how good each player is in relation to other players. Think of the PvP rankings as a curve, where the highest ranks will encompass the top percentage of players. While there are a finite amount of players who can be in the top ranks, the actual number will depend on how many other characters on the server are involved in PvP. The more players competing, the more players will be able to reach the top ranks.
PvP ranks are compiled once a week, and will coincide with the weekly server maintenance. There is a minimum number of honorable kills per week required for eligibility; this number is flexible and depends on the average number of honorable kills for your realm that week. Based on the number of contribution points received per week and the amount of people involved in PvP combat, a rating value is assessed for each player. This value is used to determine progression through the PvP ranks.
The Honor System is created so that players have to continue killing the enemy in order to keep their ranks. If a player does not fight or does not earn as many points from week to week, his or her standing will fluctuate. Over time Honor points will "decay". If a player goes down in ranks, any titles he has earned will be taken away until the rank is earned back. As of patch 1.6, any items earned will not be taken away if your rank decays. If you earn the Grand Marshal gear, then you will be able to wear it forever, even if you stop PvPing. Which means you do no have to maintain the Rank of Grand Marshall/High Warlord it order to continue wearig the GM/HW Gear. ANY rank you obtain will be listed as a Former Rank so if you make Sergeant Major(Alliance) and take a month off and get demoted, you can still wear the Sgt Major gear you bought before.
The dishonor system has been implemented. If a player kills a passive opposite faction NPC labeled civilian, then he or she will receive a dishonorable kill. The dishonorable kill immediately lowers how close you are to the next rank. If a player attacks a player on the opposite faction whose level is 10 or more levels below his or her own, then he or she will not receive any contribution points for that honor kill.
During our testing we did not come across any one class that had a distinct advantage over the others. Each class has an equal chance of rising through the ranks depending on how it is played. Keep in mind that the number of honorable kills that a player makes does not determine the rate at which ranks are gained, only that a fair kill was made. That should help alleviate some of the fears about certain classes being better than others. The more a player participates in player-vs-player battles, the higher the rank will be.
Contrary to popular belief, the numbers of Horde and Alliance are very similar on player-vs-player realms. Also, most players will be fighting for contribution points in Battlegrounds once they are released. The Battlegrounds will have a controlled number on both sides, so the overall realm balance should not affect either faction's abaility to gain Honor.
Once Battlegrounds are released the amount of player-vs-player conflicts found around the world will most likely decrease significantly. The same goes for ganking found in the contested zones around Azeroth. Fighting in the Battlegrounds will yield far more contribution points than fighting anywhere else. With that said, players who chose to create characters on a PvP realm are supposed to feel a sense of danger where ever they go, that is why we offer player-vs-player realms!
The honor screen now displays a bar indicating how far along your current rank you are (Scout, Private, etc). This will let you know whether you are moving towards your next rank or falling back towards your previous rank from week to week.
There is a new "This Week" section of the Honor tab, which will display PvP accomplishments of the current week.
The "This Session" section of the Honor tab has been changed to "Today", and will now display the entirety of your accomplishments for the day instead of the most recent session.
Honor system reward items with a rank requirement will now require a lifetime "highest rank" of that rank, rather than requiring the character to currently have the required rank.
Players rank 11 or higher can now chat in the WorldDefense channel.
The WorldDefense and LocalDefense channels will now display your rank as well as your name when chatting.
Dishonorable kills - gained by killing a trivial Civilian NPC - now has a negative impact on a player's honor. Enough dishonorable kills will reduce a player's rank all the way to zero.
Players may now see an "estimated contribution point value" in the combat log for an honorable kill. Note that this value does not take diminishing returns against the same player into account, and is therefore "estimated".
"Team Contribution Points" has been renamed to "Honor"
Added tooltips to the different elements of the Honor System UI.
Players will see their last week's kill data in the "Last Week" section of the Honor System UI even if they did not achieve the 25 honorable kills required to gain standing or rank.