Holy How-to #5 – To Beacon or not to Beacon

Welcome to my Holy How-To for PVE Paladins. This is the fifth of what I hope to be a great many posts aimed at helping holy paladins succeed at PVE content. I will focus primarily on max-level talent specs, glyphs, enchants, gems and the like, including tools, tips and tricks that I use, but I hope to touch on levelling content and advice as well.

Today, I’ll discuss our 51-point talent, Beacon of Light. Sadly, the spell is also referred to as “bacon”, usually prompting people to discuss the deliciousness of said food item. Anyways. Beacon is a simple spell that is either completely overpowered or entirely useless. It depends on how you use it and the configuration of the encounters in which you use it. Oddly, even over 18 months since its introduction, this spell still causes confusion among raid leaders, healing leads, other healers and even holy paladins themselves. So I thought I’d try to shed some light (ha, ha!) on this subject.

First of all, let’s look at the spell’s description itself.

Beacon of Light
35% of base mana – 60 yd range
Instant cast
The target becomes a Beacon of Light to all members of your party or raid within a 60 yard radius.  Any heals you cast on party or raid members will also heal the Beacon for 100% of the amount healed.  Only one target can be the Beacon of Light at a time. Lasts 1 min.

The first thing you should notice about it is that it’s not exactly what one would logically expect upon reading the name, is it? The name implies that light — or healing — will come from the Beacon. This is not the case and it’s part of why Beacon of Light remains a misunderstood spell by just about anyone who hasn’t taken a few minutes to learn how Beacon actually works.

Now that we’re clear that a Beacon receives healing, let’s examine the various situations in which you can potentially use Beacon. That’s to say, 5-man dungeons, 10-man raids and 25-man raids. (Arenas, battlegrounds and other group configurations are sort of out of the realm of this blog, just by virtue of being PVP, but I’ll touch on them later.)

5-man Dungeons

The group of five in any dungeon should ideally consist of one tank, three DPS and one healer. Assume, of course, that you are that healer and that you are a holy paladin with Beacon of Light. What is the best way to use Beacon in this situation? Beacon is useless and the large mana cost is wasted unless its target is taking damage or will be taking damage in the very near future. Theoretically, in a five-man, one person is taking the vast majority of the damage and that person is the tank.

So beacon the tank. This allows you to continue healing the tank via heals to other party members, including yourself, thus ensuring your tank’s continued life, even while you heal that moron of a hunter who doesn’t know what the Feign Death ability is for. It’s a form of insurance on the tank’s life, particularly as it will copy overheal amounts to the beaconed target, as of patch 3.2.

What does that mean? Well, say that the tank is at a health deficit of 8000. Say that the aforementioned huntard is at a 6000 health deficit. Say that the tank is beaconed and you cast Holy Light on the hunter, hitting for a reasonable 9000 health.

Yes, you overhealed the hunter by 3000 health. But not all of that has gone to waste. The entire amount of the heal, 9000 health, has been transferred to the tank via Beacon of Light. It heals his entire deficit of 8000 and overheals by 1000. With your single cast, you have done 18,000 raw healing, 14,000 of it being effective and 4,000 of it being overheal.

Of course, don’t be afraid to heal the tank directly if no one else is taking damage. If, by some miracle, you end up in a random 5-man dungeon where no one steals aggro and your tank is doing a great job of holding everything, feel free to heal the tank directly even if Beacon is up. What I tend to do in a good group is only beacon the tank for the bosses where, generally, people will take damage. As an example, tossing a beacon on the tank for Keristrasza in The Nexus allows me to spot heal the group easily while maintaining the tank’s health. Same thing for Loken in Halls of Lightning.

Essentially, Beacon of Light does three things when it’s placed on a player:

1) It saves you time by doubling your heals.

2) It saves you mana. Glyphed for Beacon and with the Glyph of Seal of Wisdom, Beacon of Light costs you 1460 mana at level 80, I believe, and in many boss encounters, you can’t let it drop off, so you’re refreshing it every 80-90 seconds or so. That’s a lot of mana, but it’s less than costing you double mana for every heal you cast while Beacon is up on someone.

3) It saves you global cooldowns.

If anyone ever tried healing the Kael’thas fight in Heroic Magister’s Terrace in Burning Crusade as a holy paladin, you know exactly how important a global cooldown can be. With your entire group taking damage from the Gravity Lapse (300 arcane damage per second for 30 seconds, not including getting hit by Arcane Orbs), holy paladins were at a huge disadvantage when it came to healing through this damage. Flash of Light didn’t top people off enough, Holy Light’s cast time was abysmally long and Holy Shock was mana inefficient and on a long (15s) cooldown. Combined with the movement needed in this phase, this is the fight that perfectly illustrated the need for holy paladins to be able to heal more than one target at once. And this might be where the idea for Beacon of Light began. Who knows?

10-man Raids

The majority of encounters in 10-man raids these days require two tanks. Standard setup is two tanks, two healers, six DPS, with one of the DPS having a healing offspec. You can also go in with three full healers and five DPS, it’s really the raid leader’s choice.

So what if there’s two or three healers?

It will likely affect how you will use your beacon.

If you’re a holy paladin and you’re one of three healers in a 10-man, you will likely be expected to take care of the tanks. Period. So you beacon the MT or the OT and focus your heals on the other one. Done. Your entire job is to make sure the tanks don’t die and you are exceptionally well-suited to this job compared to any other healer in this game.

But if you’re only one of two healers in a 10-man, even if you’re a paladin, you have a substantial amount of raid healing to do in addition to your generally expected role of tank healing.

No, really, I did actually say “paladin” and “raid healing” in the same sentence. Shocker!

In this case, what I would recommend is beaconing the MT and keeping an eye on the OT, obviously, but you will need to heal around the raid as well. In this way, healing is like it is in a five-man. You have to be aware of your raid’s status — particularly the status of your other healer — and you have to maintain a steady stream of healing to your MT. If your other healer is bone spiked on Marrowgar or has been picked up by a Val’kyr on the Lich King, it’s up to you to maintain the raid’s health AND the tank’s health until your partner can heal again.

This is actually one reason I hate 10s. I’m stressed enough healing 25 progression raids. Why would I want even more stress on me while two-healing the same damn instance? Answer: I wouldn’t.

Apologies, I digress. On to…

25-man Raids

25s are, surprisingly, somewhat similar to 10s in their tanking requirements. Just about every fight requires two. There are a couple of areas where three really helps (Putricide, Blood Prince Council, even Northrend Beasts for worms) but two is the standard.

The difference now is that you have a bunch of people around you to help you out. Perhaps including another holy paladin.

My guild usually runs with six healers for most fights (8 for heroic dreamwalker) and the setup is primarily two holy paladins, one resto druid, one resto shaman, one disc priest and one holy priest.

The vast majority of the healing assignments can be broken down thusly:

Paladins: Tanks

Everyone else: Raid

Putting one paladin on each tank and cross-beaconing is just terribly overpowered. That means that if I’m healing the MT, I heal him directly and use my Sacred Shield on them, while beaconing the OT. The other holy paladin will heal the OT directly, use their SS on them and beacon the MT.

This works beautifully. It ensures that if either myself or the other paladin are subjected to the RNG of environmental mechanics (Pact of the Darkfallen or Swarming Shadows or any number of other things that mean we can’t cast steadily or perhaps even at all), the other tank isn’t going to bite the big one. It’s not always sustainable to solo heal the tanks, particularly on heroic difficulty encounters, but Beacon of Light enables you to do this, at minimum, on a short-term basis during the encounters.

There are a lot of paladins out there who beacon their assigned target (say, the MT) and raid heal anyways. That’s okay, but I really find that backing each other up in the way cross-beaconing allows is very beneficial in so many fights. Plus, it means that two healers, period, are taking care of the two tanks. You don’t have to worry about there not being enough work for the raid healers or taking someone off the raid to heal tanks. Really, it depends on what your healing lead is telling you to do and what you feel comfortable doing. If your healing lead assigns you a beacon target, beacon the target. If they don’t, you can ask them about it. If they don’t know, use it at your discretion.

But it’s important to note that Beacon of Light is not always useful.

Limited Usefulness

Beacon is at its undisputed best when there are two targets taking insane damage, with you healing one and the beacon healing the other.

But what if just one target is taking damage? Well, beacon that target and heal around, right? Well, that can be useful, but what if you can’t afford that delay?

That’s right, there is a delay between the copying of the heals. The game has to recognize that the first heal actually landed before it copies it. This leads to about a .5 second delay.

[00:33:29.026] Madrana Holy Light OT +7780 (O: 9066)
[00:33:29.735] Madrana Beacon of Light Disc Priest +11449 (O: 5397)

That’s actually a .709 second delay between the heal hitting the OT and the beacon heal on the disc priest. (This is from my raid last night on Deathbringer Saurfang and the priest had a Mark of the Fallen Champion.)

But is that representative?

[00:32:50.875] Holy Paladin Holy Light  OT +*0* (O: 24194)
[00:32:51.666] Holy Paladin Beacon of Light Kitty DPS +3623 (O: 25410)

0.791 second delay.


Sometimes, that fraction of a second is so incredibly valuable that you can’t afford to rely on the beacon heal. Or, sometimes you’re trying to conserve mana at the start of the fight (like on Saurfang) so that you have the mana to get through the rest of the fight.

In these cases, it’s okay to not use Beacon of Light. Just because it’s our 51 point talent and a very useful spell doesn’t mean we ALWAYS have to use it when the situation doesn’t call for it! Do holy priests always pop Guardian Spirit on cooldown on every fight? No. It’s a situationally-useful tool, just like Beacon is.

However, in the right situation, it is invaluable.

Overpowered Awesomeness

On a fight like 25-man heroic Deathbringer Saurfang (or any Saurfang fight, but best seen on 25m heroic), Beacon of Light is your ticket to win. Imagine six Marks of the Fallen Champion. You’re looking at 6k+ damage on each Marked person every time Saurfang does a physical attack… and that doesn’t take Blood Power into consideration.

Again from last night, and apologies for the length of this:

[00:19:21.194] Madrana afflicted by Mark of the Fallen Champion from Deathbringer Saurfang
[00:19:24.157] Deathbringer Saurfang Mark of the Fallen Champion Madrana 7020

First tick.

[00:19:42.465] Deathbringer Saurfang Mark of the Fallen Champion Madrana Absorb (10284)

Fifteenth tick.

[00:19:54.391] Deathbringer Saurfang Mark of the Fallen Champion Madrana 8346 (A: 3212)
[00:19:55.652] Deathbringer Saurfang begins to cast Mark of the Fallen Champion
[00:19:56.073] Deathbringer Saurfang Mark of the Fallen Champion Madrana 11319

That’s the last few ticks as he’s about to cast it on someone else. So that’s about 11k-12k damage at 100% Blood Power. And I wear plate. Ow.

The damage immediately returns to an easier level to manage.

[00:19:57.478] Resto Druid afflicted by Mark of the Fallen Champion from Deathbringer Saurfang
[00:20:00.130] Deathbringer Saurfang Mark of the Fallen Champion Resto Druid 6224
[00:20:00.379] Deathbringer Saurfang Mark of the Fallen Champion Madrana Absorb (5417)

But he’ll gain Blood Power more quickly as his abilities cause more damage, so it ramps up FAST.

All of this to say, this is THE fight for Beacon of Light. Bring in three holy paladins. Assign them thusly:

Pally 1: Beacon Mark 1, heal Mark 4

Pally 2: Beacon Mark 2, heal Mark 5

Pally 3: Beacon Mark 3, heal Mark 6


Without at least two holy paladins on this fight, I don’t know how this is possible unless Saurfang is one of your last hard modes left.

While the Saurfang encounter is the best possible example of a fight where you want as many as three beacons going, most encounters in ICC and TOC/TOGC have a use for Beacon of Light.

Beacon Mechanics and Parses

So now you know when to use it effectively, when it’s not so efficient, where it shines and where it doesn’t.

Do you know why Beacon of Light shows up several times in your World of Logs parse instead of just the once? I’m talking about something like this list in terms of healing done by spell:

Beacon of Light
Holy Light
Glyph of Holy Light
Sacred Shield
Flash of Light
Holy Shock
Flash of Light (hot)
Beacon of Light
Beacon of Light

Three instances of Beacon? What’s that all about?

When I first really noticed this, I had recently joined my current guild and the resident holy paladin was like “its ’cause I’m healing through your beacon and you’re healing through mine.”

I frowned. Doesn’t the description say it’s just your stuff? “Any heals you cast on party or raid members will also heal the Beacon.” Not only that, but how can there be three beacons with only two paladins?

So I went digging, because clearly, the other paladin didn’t know what he was talking about.

First of all, the Beacon of Light talent is in the wowhead.com database as spell ID 53563. So if I cast BoL on, say, the MT, it would show up as:

Madrana has cast Beacon of Light (53563) on MT.

But there are three OTHER spells for Beacon of Light in the wowhead database, with the following spell ID numbers:

53652, 53653 and 53654. Note that these spells are all clumped together and consecutive, whereas the BoL talent is sitting at 53563. This numbering alone indicates that the BoL talent is not a simple copy-the-heal mechanic, which is why we see three other spells with the same name.


I went looking at a log and hovered over the Beacon of Light spell in the following heals listed in the parse.

[20:18:59.698] Madranah Flash of Light MT +*0* (O: 6933)
[20:19:00.456] Madranah Beacon of Light OT +0 (O: 6933)

The spell ID on that BoL is 53653.

[20:19:05.254] Madranah Holy Light MT +0 (O: 14151)
[20:19:06.032] Madranah Beacon of Light OT +0 (O: 14151)

The spell ID on that BoL is 53652.

[20:19:06.062] Madranah Holy Shock MT +*0* (O: 9883)
[20:19:06.854] Madranah Beacon of Light OT +0 (O: 9883)

The spell on that BoL is 53654.

I searched for a LoH and found this:

[21:39:29.687] Madrana Lay on Hands MT +*18642* (O: 25548)
[21:39:30.382] Madrana Beacon of Light OT +2408 (O: 41782)

The spell on that BoL is also 53654.

So, it looks like:

– 53652 is the spell that copies instances of Holy Light from the healed target to the Beacon target.
– 53653 is the spell that copies instances of Flash of Light from the healed target to the Beacon target.
– 53654 is the spell that copies instances of Holy Shock and Lay on Hands from the healed target to the Beacon target.

The lesson here is that Beacon ONLY copies your heals and ONLY the following: Holy Light, Flash of Light, Holy Shock and Lay on Hands.

The following heals are NOT copied: Flash of Light’s hot, Glyph of Holy Light heals and heals from Judgement of Light. The game mechanics simply don’t have a copying spell for those heals. I’m not a programmer, but I suspect the reason for the multiple spells is to ensure that only the heals cast by the casting paladin will carry over and only the ones the paladin intended to cast. Can you imagine if you judged Light and your beacon target received all of that healing? It would be more than a little ridiculous.

The other little-known fact about Beacon of Light (although it’s much more commonly known than the different beacon spells) is that the range to cast it and for heals to be mirrored to it is 60 yards. This effectively allows you a 100y range between heals. You cast Beacon of Light on a tank. They run 100y from you. Someone stands 40y from you and 60y from the tank. You heal the person at your max range, it gets mirrored to the tank. Granted, this makes re-beaconing a pain, but for 60 seconds (or 90, if glyphed), you have a 100y range on heals on that target. Pretty sweet.

The range really helps on fights where people are spread out, such as the Blood Prince Council’s Keleseth tank, the kiting tank on Rotface, the MT on Putricide, even the Airship. Beacon the tank who jumps over and heal people on your boat. If the tank stays at a relatively close range to the edge of the opposite ship, they’re well within Beacon range, even if they’re out of regular heal range.

Final Thoughts

Honestly? Beacon of Light is broken. It has so many applications that really render some of the content laughably easy compared to how difficult it was probably meant to be.

The devs are saying that Beacon of Light is going to be reworked for Cataclysm. Fine by me. Except that I would remove it entirely. I would think about adding something like a different kind of binding heal. It’d be a separate spell that you would pre-select targets for and would have its own distinct mana cost, spell co-efficient and amounts of healing. For example:

Tank 1 is named Shadow. Tank 2 is named Maj. Prior to a boss fight, I could pre-select these player names and then, when I’d cast the “binding heal”, it would heal them both. By removing Beacon and adding a spell that requires some pre-planning and that has its own mana costs and amounts of healing, it would be very easy to tune on its own. Nor do I think it would become too spammy. Perhaps a longish cooldown of 10 seconds (like glyphed Penance) would encourage proper timing of its use?

By making it less flexible and much less powerful than Beacon currently is, I think it would be a nice way of nerfing us but still allowing us to heal more than one target at once, without this Healing Hands stuff. ;)

That about wraps up this Holy How-to post. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful!

Beacon of Light

35% of base mana 60 yd range

Instant cast

The target becomes a Beacon of Light to all members of your party or raid within a 60 yard radius.  Any heals you cast on party or raid members will also heal the Beacon for 100% of the amount healed.  Only one target can be the Beacon of Light at a time. Lasts 1 min.

One Reply to “Holy How-to #5 – To Beacon or not to Beacon”

  1. Mmmm … Bacon of Light! Or ‘Bacon of Lite’ for those on a diet.
    Thanks for the write-up. I was wondering if Lay on Hands worked with Beacon. Also, it really helps to know the fight (basically, how hard it is) to know how to use Beacon. For instance, in Vault of Archavon, generally I beacon the MT (or whoever the boss is targeting) and raid heal, since those guys are fairly easy compared to ICC.

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