A common complaint of holy paladins is about their healing leads. About their healing leads blindly telling them where to put their Beacon of Light (BoL).
When told by a healing lead where to put my BoL, I’ve always retorted with where that healing lead can put my BoL, with proper anatomical references and the issue would be closed for the reminder of my time with that healing lead. (I’m joking of course- the more effective the communication among members of a healing team, the better the team performs. If you have a game plan for your BoL that conflicts with your leads’, just say so.)
Fact is, optimal placement of BoL is strategic. It always has been to an extend, but until recently, you could get away with “beacon the tank and spam heals around“. Most of the time at least. Now that Beacon only transfers half of a heal, getting the most out of its use isn’t as straightforward.
These days, you’ll want to know a few things before deciding where to put your Beacon (or, if you’re a healing lead, before risking being told where to put your Beacon assignments):
- Damage patterns
- Number of holy paladins in the raid
- Everyone else s healing assignments.
If you’re healing with other paladins, you’ll want to make sure you track all the Beacons in the raid. If a teammate isn’t cooperating with the current BoL strategy in place, you need to know so you can adjust according.
A Little Background on Beacon
Beacon of Light is a buff you can put on yourself or on another party or raid member. It transfers half (50%) the value of each of your heals onto the player with the BoL buff. So, if you have Beacon on Mary and cast a 3000 heal on Jack, Mary receives a 1500 heal through Beacon. Beacon doesn’t care about effective and overheal, 50% of the total heal with transfer.
One paladin can only have one Beacon active at a time, but one player can be buffed with several Beacons from several paladins at a time (in other words, Beacons stack).
Most paladin heals (direct heals, Light of Dawn, Protector of the Innocent, Enlightened Judgments and, if you’re reading this before 4.0.6, Lay on Hands) transfer through Beacon. However, heals received by the person with the Beacon don’t transfer. If you cast your 3000 heal on Mary, she’ll only receive the 3000 health from that heal. (I think they did transfer at some point, but we’ve since been hotfixed).
An added feature to BoL is via the Tower of Radiance talent: directly casting Divine Light and Flash of Light on your Beacon target will give you one (1) charge of Holy Power. (The tooltip still mentions Holy Light, but the tooltip is a LIAR.)
Strategy 1: Beacon the tank (or your single target assignment) and heal around
This was the strategy of choice during Wrath, but thankfully we can be a bit more creative now, at least in raids. 5 mans generally don’t give us a lot of options: you’ll almost always want your tank Beaconed so you can stray and heal the dps (or yourself!) as needed and not worry about the tank turning into a smoothie.
In any setting, the biggest advantage of this trick is building up Holy Power faster with the Tower of Radiance talent, given you cast Divine Light or Flash of Light on your Beacon target/tank/singe target assignment. It can also come in handy on fights where you might temporarily be out of direct healing range of your target. The range on Beacon transfers is 60 yards from the target of your heal, while direct heals only reach 40 yards. So if your assignment pops out of range, dumping a Divine Light on someone standing between you and your assignment, can make the difference between a kill and a wipe.
There are two main disadvantages to this strategy. The first is that Beacon of Light only transfers 50% of a heal. Damage in Cataclysm, especially in raids, is intense, so straying from your assigned target is risky. The second is that heals on your Beacon target don’t double up. So by direct healing your Beacon target, you’re wasting a lot of potential healing.
Situations where I like to use this strategy:
- 5 mans.
- When raiding with an uncooperative or communicationally challenged paladins.
- When being out of range of my assignment is very likely (have yet to encounter a fight where this situation applies… maybe Ascendent Council, but I still prefer cross-beaconing for that fight)
- When assigned to raid/melee healing on fights with high tank damage (Magmaw, Valiona)
Strategy 2: Cross-Beaconing
Cross-Beaconing is when you have two paladins, each assigned a separate target. The paladins each direct heal their own target and Beacon their teammate’s target. Alternatively, a solo paladin variant is to direct heal your target and have another tank (or target taking a lot of damage) Beaconed.
While you’ll be getting a lot less Holy Power from Tower of Radiance using this strategy, you’ll get extra healing output. Having some cushion heals on your target from your teammate is also helpful in case you have to move/get out of range/scratch your leg.
Even when I’m the solo paladin (ok, that has yet to happen in Cata, but lets pretend it has), I like having my Beacon on a tank I’m not currently assigned to. Healing my beacon target for reasons other than charging up Holy Power just feels like a waste.
Situations where I like to cross-beacon:
- 2 tank fights, when I’m tank healing
- Raid trash
- Fights with a lot of movement and two paladins.
Strategy 3: Beacon Stacking
You’ll need at least one other holy paladin for this one. Beacon stacking is when two or more holy pallies Beacon the same target and heal a different target. This strategy works by constantly bombarding the target of multiple beacons with small, but very frequent, heals. As you may imagine, this trick is best used on targets taking damage too frequently to be healed at a conventional pace.
Fights where I like to Beacon Stack:
- Halfus (Beacon stack on the drake tank)
- Chimearon, when tank healing (Beacon stack on the main tank)
Strategy 4: DPS Beacon
I rarely use this one, but it has its moments. Instead of putting your Beacon on a tank, you put it on a dps, preferably one who has trouble healing itself.
Sitautions where I’d pick a DPS Beacon target
- When damage isn’t really aggro based (Cookie in Deadmines, those exploding wisps in Vortex Pinnacle before finding high stam Cataclysm gear)
- When perfectly-timed raid healing is crucial (when healing a party on Chimareon)
A Note about Beaconning Yourself
During Wrath, there were a few times when Beaconing yourself was an awesome trick. Last phase of Sindragosa normal mode or Putricide any mode, for example. This doesn’t translate to Cataclysm: unless you’re spamming Divine Lights and pumping out Light of Dawns, Protector of the Innocent offers as much or more self-healing than a Beacon would. Beaconing yourself, therefore, is a huge waste of healing.
The first time we faced Halfus sporting our blues and greens that probably wouldn’t have even gotten us through heroics, we had our arses handed to us. With both hands. Especially our drake tank. When I looked at parses from guilds who had killed Halfus, I discover they were doing something we weren’t, and it wasn’t wearing content-appropriate gear. It was Beacon stacking. The light shone, the little naked angels sung. We Beacon stacked on our drake tank, and Halfus toppled over dead.
The moral of this story is that Beacon strategies can make or break a progression fight. Too often, Beacon positionning is left out of healing discussions, or worse, assigned inappropriately. So be vocal about your Beacon use. Be vocal with your healing lead, with your fellow pallies, with your fellow healers and even with your entire raid team.
It’s like they say, “the better the Beacon brainstorming, the smoother the raid“.