I was under the impression tiers meant what you could complete. Nightmare EV or KP is the last tier 1 op and then SM Denova is the beginning of Tier 2 for Ops, same with LI NM being the beginning of Tier 2 for FPs. That is where the breaking point for new gear and harder content begins as far as I am aware.
Ahh, yes, but it includes HM's too:
tkinnunzero: In Game Update 1.3, can you briefly summarize what is the endgame Operation gear progression, i.e. what is the path a fresh level 50 is intended to be following that will see him/her eventually conquer the highest difficulties and end up fully decked in Best-in-Slot gear in every slot?
Jason: We expect a fresh level 50 character to start with a mixture of high level Premium and Prototype gear from missions, crafting and planetary commendations. For players interested in Group PvE end-game content the first step would be to use Group Finder to go through the Normal Mode Flashpoints until you acquire a full set of Prototype gear, probably mixed with several Artifact/Tionese items or mods. Next up would be hard mode Flashpoints (starting with tier 1 then moving on to the harder tier 2 Rakghoul Flashpoints) and story-mode Operations (starting with Eternity Vault then moving on to Karraga’s Palace) where you pick up your Columi/Energized gear. Finally you’d get into story mode Explosive Conflict to pick up your Rakata gear, and use the Black Hole commendations to start picking up Black Hole gear. To progress past this point you’ll need a guild at your back capable of doing Hard Mode and Nightmare Mode Operations. Starting into hard modes immediately after story mode Eternity Vault will let your dramatically accelerate your Columi and Rakata gearing, and Hard Mode Explosive Conflict lets you rapidly pick up Black Hole gear and is the only way to pick up the top-of-the-line Campaign gear set.
Once you have good gear that you feel you’re going to hold on to for a while you can improve it by adding Augments through crafting and Item Modification Tables. You can also optimize it by extracting mods from duplicate pieces of Operation gear to get the perfect balance of stats for your character build. Crafting also has a role to play, especially if your guild has a lot of extra Operation gear they can reverse engineer. It allows you to augment your gear more quickly and cheaply, customize the look of your gear, and help gear up your new guild-mates with powerful crafted mods and items.
If you enjoy solo content playing the daily mission hubs on Ilum, Belsavis and Corellia can help rack up the credits and accelerate your early end-game gear progression. The Galactic Trade Network provides opportunities to buy powerful mods and items with all those credits, while providing a decent income for the end-game crafters.
Our plan for future Operation game updates is to have Group Finder players to progress from Story mode to Story mode, while Operation guilds move into Hard Mode of the new operation (possibly dropping back into Story Mode to learn fight mechanics or gear up new players) then progress into Nightmare Mode. We intend to introduce Hard Mode and Nightmare Mode in the same update (Nightmare Explosive Conflict was delayed to allow us get some exciting new Nightmare Mode tech into the game which we should have more details on soon). We’re also planning on having Hard Mode Flashpoint rewards continue to progress as we introduce new tiers of content, allowing new players to skip past some of the earlier Operations (if their guild has already completed them and doesn’t wish to go back, for example).