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The Light and How to Swing It: How to rock Baleroc

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Every Sunday, Chase Christian invites you to discuss the finer side of the paladin class: the holy specialization. Feel free to email me with any questions you want answered, like how to fly, you fools.

While I hate to boil down an entire encounter to a single idea, sometimes it simply can't be helped: Baleroc is the healer fight of this tier of raid content. The developers have been throwing one healer fight at us per tier since Wrath began, making Baleroc the latest in a long line of mechanics designed to let healers play outside the box. Chimaeron and Anub'arak made us focus on keeping health pools low but not too low, while Loatheb and Valithria challenged our burst and sustained throughput. General Vezax's awful aura forced us to make every point of mana count, although our love affair with intellect helped us weather that storm.

Baleroc makes us choose between healing the raid and healing the tank. It's one of the age-old questions for healers, but Baleroc has upped the ante with the Vital Spark/Vital Flame mechanic. The choice of healing targets is transformed from a simple problem to a crucial decision, as the wrong move can cause a wipe. Luckily for you, Beacon of Light will help you truly shine on this encounter, allowing holy paladins to dominate the top 40 board on World of Logs.

Blaze of Glory trivializes our heals

Healing your raid against Baleroc seems easy at first glance. There's no raid-wide or random damage being tossed about, allowing you to focus on just a few players. The catch is that even as the number of targets we need to heal plummets, the difficulty in choosing between those targets rises. Throughout the encounter, your tank will be picking up stacks of Blaze of Glory. My guild decided to use a single tank on this fight, although it can also be two-tanked as well. Either way, the tanks will see a huge increase in their overall health.

They'll also be taking more damage to compensate for the bonus health, but the two changes average each other out. Each of the boss' attacks will still hit for the same overall percentage of the tank's life. The only problem with this trade-off is that as our tank's life increases, the potency of our heals decreases. While a 30k Divine Light might move a normal tank's health bar significantly, it won't even budge a tank with a million HP. That's not an exaggeration; your tank will literally have over a million HP by the time this fight is over. We're clearly going to need to increase our healing done in order to be effective.

Vital Flame evens the odds

In order to enhance our heals to conquer these supernatural HP pools, we need to use the Vital Flame mechanic. The mechanic allows us to stack up Vital Sparks by healing the crystal tank and then ignite those sparks into a Vital Flame. The Vital Flame buffs significantly increases our healing done, which makes moving a seven-digit health bar possible. Toward the end of the Baleroc encounter, your Divine Lights can easily exceed a quarter of a million life per heal. Holy paladins haven't seen numbers that big since Valithria Dreamwalker (which is fitting, since these two fights have much in common).

In order to build up our Vital Spark stats, we need to focus on healing whichever DPS player is currently being attacked by the crystal's Torment ability. As a holy paladin, you want to toss your Beacon of Light onto your main tank and then focus on healing the Torment targets. You can find them easily by looking for the Torment debuff icon on your raid unit frames. The player under Torment's focus will be changing constantly as the DPSers rotate through the position, so make sure to adjust your target quickly. You want to focus on quick, cheap heals like Holy Shock or a 1-point Word of Glory to get as many heals in on the Torment target as possible.

I've seen some holy paladins burn their entire mana bars on Flash of Light early in the fight to stack up their Vital Sparks, then spend the rest of the fight recovering mana in preparation to heal the fight's final moments. I don't suggest this method, as using your cheaper heals is far safer in the long run.

You're basically going to spend the entire encounter stacking up Vital Sparks to outpace the Blaze of Glory stack on your main tank. You will need to build up about 150 stacks of Vital Spark to survive to the end of the fight, although that's just an estimate. In order to directly counter Blaze of Glory's HP boost, you would need four Vital Sparks per stack of Blaze of Glory. I ended up with 130 stacks at the end of the fight, compared with my tank's 28 stacks of Blaze of Glory. Your focus is building up Vital Sparks, so you'll be focusing on healing whoever's targeted by Torment, which is pretty easy since they're the only player (besides the tank) taking any damage.

Vital Flame blocks our Vital Sparks

I should mention that the tank is getting beat up this entire time, which means he's going to need some of our superpowered healing. Unfortunately for us, when we heal the tank and turn our Vital Sparks into a Vital Flame, we're preventing from picking up new Sparks for a full 15 seconds. Once you've been forced to heal the tank, just continue to heal him until your 15-second Vital Flame buff has nearly expired. You'll want to set up a rotation system with your healers, where someone will be using Vital Flame to heal the tank at all times while the others build their Spark stacks. The key to being effective against Baleroc is properly balancing your Spark stacking phases with your Flame tank healing phases.

One important note is that Vital Flame doesn't ignite until after you've healed the tank once, so your first heal is unaffected. When switching to tank healing, use a quick Holy Shock or Word of Glory to ignite the Flame so that your next Divine Lights are fully effective.

Decimation Blade requires quick action

If everything were simple, we could just have the healers take turns using Vital Flame on the tank, and Baleroc would just fall over. In order to make things more difficult, Baleroc has a special ability called Decimation Blade that throws in an element of randomness. Once Baleroc hits your tank with Decimation Blade active, your tank is reduced to less than 10% of his total life. You then have but a couple of seconds to heal him back up to the 90% threshold in order for him to survive the next Decimation Blade swing. It's very similar to healing your tanks during the Feud phase of heroic Chimaeron, as your tank is brought to his knees and needs to be revived in mere seconds.

I like to keep Beacon of Light on the tank for Tower of Radiance procs on this encounter, as it's really not useful anywhere else. During Decimation Blade, you'll want to queue up a Divine Light to land right after the boss swings. Try to get in one more Divine Light, and then unload your holy power points into a big Word of Glory. Tower of Radiance should produce at least 2 holy power points per Decimation Blade swing, so you will always have a couple of points available. You can also use a healing cooldown like Avenging Wrath or Guardian of the Ancient Kings to help make these phases easier. You don't want to use Aura Mastery, since the shadow damage isn't able to be mitigated, and you definitely don't want to use Hand of Sacrifice, since you'll instantly die for little gain.

This is actually once situation where our mastery bonus, Illuminated Healing, can be useful since we're getting in multiple heals between boss swings. Every healer needs to focus on healing the tank during Decimation Blade, which forces everyone to stop collecting Sparks.

Baleroc's other special ability, Inferno Blade, isn't nearly as threatening. My guild kept one healer on the tank at all times (we rotated through the position), two healers on the tank during Inferno Blade, and all three healers on the tank for Decimation Blade. We found this rotation to be perfectly adequate for keeping the single tank alive, and we just followed our established order for switching between collecting Vital Sparks and Vital Flames. Gathering Vital Sparks from players with Torment may not be as fun as flying around Valithria's room collecting orbs, but the mechanic feels very similar. The only difference is that we also have to heal the tank in order to give our fellow healers a break. With good coordination, the entire process will feel very smooth once you've gotten it down.

The Light and How to Swing It: Holy helps holy paladins become the powerful healers we're destined to be. Learn the ropes in Cataclysm 101 for holy paladins, study the new balance between intellect and spirit and learn how to level your new Sunwalker. Tanking is a job, DPS is a craft -- but healing is truly an art.

Filed under: Paladin, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It

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