Nuke’s comment to a previous thread made me realize that I am starting to assume that everyone is up on the WoW lingo and so lets help out a bit.
Gear in WoW comes from three main sources.
Crafting: Someone makes the stuff
Drop: You kill a dude and after decimating you something useful is left behind (where do murlocks keep their gold?)
Badges – Tokens – Honor: If the encounter did not give you a new shiny, it most likely gave you a token! WOOT (Quests, Arena and BG can also give you such things)
Gear in WoW becomes outdated every time there is a major patch. When harder content is released, all other gear currently hard to get its automatically easier to obtain. Since I have been playing WoW there are ways to obtain gear if you grind. Many pieces that are meant for PvP can be used in PvE while you get a drop or grind some more… but it applies mostly to DPS classes, and to some extent healers. Tanks are probably the hardest to gear since there are no really good PvP tanking… but that can be debated.
Right now tier 10 is what the top tier set is. The t9 set is very simple to get since all the dungeons now give you Emblems of Triumph. This set is not purchased in Dalaran, is actually sold right outside of the ToC area. There are also several pieces in between t10 and t9 that come from killing mobs in the new dungeons. If you get a toon to 80, farming the new instances every day will allow you to get geared in a quick fashion, probably the quickest that the game has allowed. Also, the Emblems are downgradable, so if there is trinket or back that might be from a lower tier set (sold in Dalaran above the portal room), you can downgrade your badges and purchase it.
This is the main reason that most raiding guilds will laugh at someone with even a set of blues for their raids. It has become pretty easy to purple yourself out in days instead of weeks like in previous iterations. I believe that it used to take even months to get just a piece in the original WoW raiding, and most people did not even get to wear purples. BC made it weeks to see a purple, and months to get a complete set… I would say about 75% of the people did not get to even see a full set, but most got at least some purples. In Wotlk getting a purple is just a matter of entering a heroic dungeon, and in days with the right grinding you can have a full set of tiered gear.
Getting items crafted is very expensive. You can sometimes get them from the auction house, but it will most likely cost you over 1K gold for any current gear. Again, since pieces will become outdated, it is likely that you can get something crafted from the previous set at a lower price. Patterns to make the best stuff come from the latest content, so it is unlikely that you will be crafting your own pieces unless you are already raiding the latest content. I would not steer you away if you have a lot of gold, but for most people this is not the route to go. Specially if you plan on actually raiding because a drop most likely will replace something that you got a week ago for 3K gold.
Drops is the best way to gear up. You have to create a list of where you can get the best gear from. Raids will obviously get you the best, but dungeons can also gear you up quite a bit and get you ready to raid. Be efficient about your time and run your toon through dungeons you actually need, unless you are still looking for tier pieces where I would suggest you get as many emblems as quickly as possible.
Once you get the gear, then you go for enchants and gems… but that is for another post and another day