SWTOR Gear Progression Guide
This is a guide to help get you started once you hit 50 and to get geared for the endgame content. Some people recommend that the first step towards getting geared is to purchase the PVP Recruit Gear set, but through most of your way to 50, you should have received almost a full set of orange Custom gear: Head, Chest, Legs, Boots, and Gloves...If you're lucky, Belt and Bracers which all can be modded to have better stats than the Recruit Gear.
The first step to getting geared is the daily missions on Corellia, Belsavis, and Ilum. More importantly are the heroics. The daily missions yield daily commendations used to purchase mods as well as implants and earpieces. The heroics yield more commendations as well as a purple mod. To be considered ready for the next step of progression, you need to have most, if not all, your gear fully modded with purples this includes weapons as well as having your Matrix Cube. The Guide for obtaining your Matrix Cube is found here.
The next step in your gear progression is the Tioneese/Columni/Rakata sets. These are obtained through Hard Mode(HM) Flashpoints(FP) , Normal Mode Operations(Ops), and HM and Nightmare Mode(NM) Ops. HM Flashpoints yield Tioneese comms and crystals for the bosses and a Columni token for the end boss. The tokens you get from the end boss are listed below.
Taral V: Columni bracers
Esseles: Columni Gloves
False Emperor: Columni Chest
Battle of Ilum: Columni Offhand
Directive 7: Columni Leggings
Maelstrom: Columni Boots
Kaon Under Siege: Columi Head
The new HM FP Lost Island will drop Columni tokens on every boss and the last boss also drops Rakata Chest.
Normal Mode Ops yield Exotech gear (a mid lvl gear between Tioneese and Columni) from the bosses as well as Columni Tokens. HM and NM Ops yield Exotech Gear, Columni Tokens, and Rakata Tokens from the bosses. A BIG part of doing the HM FP's are the daily and weekly quests obtained from the fleet. There is a terminal in the supplies section that you get the quests from and turn in. The missions yield a large amount of Tioneese and Columni comms. Once you have enough comms or a token, you trade them in at the appropriate vendor also located in the Supplies section of the fleet. The vendors are not well marked for classes, but just look at the vendors armor, and choose the one that is for your class. From left to right they are Knight, Consular, Trooper, Smuggler. How you progress through this tier depends on your activity in the content. All three of the sets have a set bonus on them for your specific Advanced Class(AC), and they all work towards the set bonus. For example if you are a DPS Guardian and have a Tioneese Vindicators Chest, a Columni Vindicators Leggings, and a Rakata Vindicators Gloves you will get credit for having 3/5 for the set bonus. You only need to have 4/5 to get the best bonus, which leaves you an extra slot to play around for appearance. Now that the sets can have the Armoring mods removed, place these mods in a piece of orange Custom gear to have the best stat distribution. Yanking mods out of Columni gear gets expensive though at around 33k per mod. More about the lvl 50 Daily missions, Ops, and HM's are found here
Black Hole Gear
The next phase of gear progression is the Black Hole Gear. Black Hole is a new tier of gear introduced with patch 1.2. There are 3 variants: Black Hole MK-1, MK-2, and MK-3. MK-1 gear can be purchased directly from the Black Hole vendor on the Fleet with Black Hole comms. You get the comms from the Corellia Black Hole weekly, Rakghoul Conflicts weekly(complete HM Lost Island and HM Kaon Under Siege), Galactic Crisis Points weekly, Nightmare Pilgrim the World Boss on Voss, normal mode Explosive Conflict, HM Explosive Conflict, and NM Karagga’s Palace.
MK-2 and MK-3 are dropped from the new HM Op Explosive Conflict. The MK-3 legs also dropped off the last boss of Normal Mode Explosive Conflict.
Campaign gear is the final set tier, and is obtained from HM Explosive Conflict and Nightmare Pilgrim the World Boss on Voss. Keep in mind that tokens for Campaign gear are not class specific (bosses will drop a helm token that any class can trade in for armor). Unlike Black Hole gear, Campaign gear does have a set bonus. It can also be Reverse Engineered for a schematics, which allows it for crafters the chance to add an augment slot if they crit while crafting. The point of Black Hole gear is to offer a stats alternative to the campaign gear.
Custom Augmented Gear
What everyone is grinding towards is the Augmented Gear. The Best in Slot gear is going to come from orange gear with augment slots. You will need a crafter to make you an orange armor shell that has an augment slot. Then you can move your armoring, mods, enhancements into that orange shell and also add an augment for additional stats. Unfortunately, the set bonus won’t transfer with armoring for any of the pre-1.2 gear (Tioneese, Columni, Rakata), only Campaign gear has a set bonus that will transfer with the armoring. This means that you won’t be able to wear fully augmented gear to its full potential until you start clearing HM Explosive Conflict.
There is another good write up over the gear progression located off-site here.