How To Get a Nether Star and Make a Beacon in Minecraft

Beacons are a block added to Minecraft in 2012 as a part of the 1.4.2 “Pretty Scary Update”. When activated, beacons create a beam of light to the sky and provide status effects to nearby players. These status effects are extremely useful and include things such as faster mining, quicker movement speed, and rapid health regeneration.

The key crafting ingredient for a beacon is the nether star, a rare item dropped only by the Wither boss. The Wither can be very dangerous if you don’t have the proper knowledge, supplies, and equipment. Luckily, this tutorial will guide you through all the steps to kill the Wither, get a nether star, and craft a beacon in Minecraft.

How Do You Summon the Wither?


How to Summon The Wither in Minecraft

PHOTO: When you place four soul sand and three wither skeleton skulls in this exact arrangement, the Wither Boss will spawn.

The Wither is spawned when three wither skeleton skulls are placed on soul sand in a specific arrangement, as shown in the photo above. These skulls are a rare drop from wither skeletons, a mob which spawns only in Nether Fortresses found in the nether. You will have to farm this mob until you obtain three skulls to summon the Wither. The Wither does not have to be spawned in the nether, it can also be spawned in the regular world. Note that the Wither cannot be spawned when the difficulty is set to peaceful.

How To Find a Nether Fortress


The first step is to find a nether fortress as this is the only place where wither skeletons will naturally spawn. The easiest way to find one is to run east or west in the nether, along the X coordinate. This is because nether fortresses spawn in strips going north and south, and if you go east or west you are much more likely to intersect one.

If this sounds confusing, I have made a diagram to better explain this:

How To Find a Nether Fortress in Minecraft

PHOTO: Nether Fortresses spawn in strips north to south along the Z coordinate. Therefore, if you go east or west (along the X coordinate), you are significantly more likely to find a Nether Fortress. If you go only north or south, you can go for thousands of blocks without finding a fortress!

Getting Wither Skeleton Skulls


Wither Skeletons Spawn in Nether Fortresses

PHOTO: Wither Skeletons in a Nether Fortress.

Once you find a nether fortress, you have the option of building a wither skeleton farm or simply running around and killing them as they spawn. If you are only looking for one or two beacons, it is probably most time efficient to simply run around the fortress and kill every skeleton you see until you have the three skulls.

Important Tip: The normal drop rate for wither skeleton skulls is very low, 2.5%. This means you would have to kill on average 40 wither skeletons for one skull. A sword with the Looting III enchant will increase this drop rate to 5.5% which is an over double increase. A looting III sword is strongly recommended!!

Wither Skeleton Spawning Rules

Regardless of whether you want to make a farm or not, it is important to understand the spawning rules for Wither Skeletons:

  • Wither Skeletons only spawn in areas with little light, just like most other mobs. Do not place torches anywhere you want a wither skeleton to spawn! Also, any nearby lava or glowstone can emit light and prevent skeletons from spawning.
  • Nether Fortresses have an invisible “bounding box” around them, and wither skeletons can spawn anywhere in this box on most types of blocks (including cobblestone and dirt). To increase spawning chances, you can increase the width of the roads and remove walls. A wither skeleton farm can be made by modifying large amounts of a nether fortress.
  • Wither Skeleton Farming - Bounding Box

    PHOTO: Modifying a nether fortress to increase wither skeleton spawning. Modifications include widening roads by 2 or 3 blocks and demolishing walls.
  • Wither skeletons can also spawn on the roofs of nether fortresses.
  • There is a limit as to how many total mobs can spawn in a nearby area, including zombie pigmen, blazes, ghasts, and wither skeletons. If there are too many zombie pigmen or other mobs nearby, less wither skeletons will spawn. Make sure you kill all the nearby mobs!



Killing The Wither


Congratulations on getting three wither skeleton skulls! You’re now ready to summon and take on the Wither. Follow these next steps and it will be a piece of cake.

Important Information

  • The Wither causes significant damage to nearby blocks. It will destroy nearly any block it touches and it also shoots block-destroying fireballs. I cannot emphasize this enough: do not spawn the Wither in your base! If you do so, you will have a boss flying around your base blowing up all your builds. If you happen to die, it will be a total disaster dealing with it afterwards.
  • The Wither inflicts a health-draining status effect when it attacks you. This will turn your health bar black and transfer your hearts to the Wither boss.
  • Damage potions will heal the Wither, so don’t bother using them.

Step One: Proper Supplies

I recommend bringing your best items to take on the Wither. This includes:

  • Full diamond armour and a diamond sword (preferably all enchanted).
  • Bow (again, preferably enchanted to do more damage) and arrows (if not enchanted with infinity).
  • Quality food (for example bring steak and not carrots or watermelon).
  • Golden apples or healing potions are recommended for quickly regenerating health.
  • Pickaxe and shovel for digging out the summoning area.

Step Two: Prepare The Summoning Area

The summoning area will need to be dug out deep underground, preferably a decent distance away from any of your buildings. This will contain the wither’s explosions to a smaller area and also prevent the wither from flying around. The spawn room should look like this photo:

Wither Spawn Room

PHOTO: Wither spawn room, deep underground.

Next, dig a long 2×1 tunnel and connect it to the spawn room (make sure it is well-lit with torches) as shown in the next photo:

Wither Spawn Tunnel

PHOTO: Wither spawn tunnel, deep underground.

The Wither will not be able to enter this tunnel as it is too large. It will be stuck in the initial room and then use explosions to break blocks and come closer to you. The length of the tunnel will depend on how strong your bow and sword are. If you have enchanted weapons, then the fight will be very short and the tunnel doesn’t need to be very long. If you have just a plain unenchanted bow and sword, make the tunnel fairly long.

Step Three: Summon and Defeat The Wither

Wither Spawn Room

PHOTO: A Wither will spawn in the room once the skulls are placed.

When you are ready, place your three wither skeleton skulls on top of the soul sand. When the Wither is spawning, make sure you run away into the tunnel as it will create a powerful explosion. After the explosion, you will simply use your bow to hit the Wither with arrows from the tunnel. If you are far away enough, you will be able to continuously hit the boss with arrows and probably not even take any damage.

Once the Wither’s health is 50% (there will be an HP bar at the top of the screen), it will be immune to arrows. You must then get up-close and use your sword to attack the boss until it is dead. You will still be able to attack it inside of the tunnel, just try to keep the maximum distance possible.

When the Wither is dead, it has a 100% chance to drop the nether star.

Relevant Video


Crafting The Beacon


Minecraft Crafting Beacon

PHOTO: Crafting recipe for a beacon (glass, obsidian, and a nether star).

You may now craft your beacon using the recipe as shown above! The recipe uses obsidian, glass, and one nether star.

Activating Your Beacon


Activating Minecraft Beacon With Pyramids

PHOTO: Four types of beacon pyramids.

Placing your beacon on the ground by itself will unfortunately not do anything. The beacon must be placed on a pyramid of “valuable” blocks obtained by mining with a completely unobstructed path to the sky above it (other than glass). The larger the pyramid underneath it, the more powerful the beacon will be.

These are the only blocks you can use for a beacon pyramid: iron blocks, gold blocks, diamond blocks, or emerald blocks. Lapis lazuli and redstone blocks do not work. Any combination of these blocks works, so for example you could use half iron and half gold if you wanted to.

Beacon Powers


The larger the beacon pyramid, the more powerful your beacon will be. There is no benefit to making a pyramid larger than 4 levels as this is the most powerful type. The following table summarizes beacon powers:

Pyramid Size Blocks Required Beacon Range Beacon Powers
1 Level 9 Blocks 20 Blocks ONE of the following: Haste I, Speed I
2 Levels 34 Blocks 30 Blocks ONE of the following:Haste I, Speed I, Resistance I, Jump Boost I
3 Levels 83 Blocks 40 Blocks ONE of the following:Haste I, Speed I, Resistance I, Jump Boost I, Strength I
4 Levels 164 Blocks 50 Blocks ONE of the following: Haste I, Speed I, Resistance I, Jump Boost I, Strength I

Additionally, ONE of the following: Regeneration I OR upgrade any boost to level II

Beacon Powers Explained

  • Haste: Increased block mining and attack speed.
  • Speed: Increased movement speed.
  • Resistance: Reduces damage taken.
  • Jump Boost: Increases jumping distance and height.
  • Strength: Increases damage done.
  • Regeneration: Regenerates hearts.

Changing The Beacon Beam Color


Changing Beacon Beam Color in Minecraft

PHOTO: Beacon beam passing through red and blue stained glass.

The default color of the beacon beam is white. However, this color can be changed by passing the beam through stained glass. The beam color will be an average of all the successive colors it passes through. For example, if you pass the beam through red and blue stained glass as shown in the photo, you will get a purple beam.

For more information on different beacon color combinations in Minecraft, check out this photo.

Beacon Tips and Tricks


  • Larger pyramids can be created to house multiple beacons. You do not have to make a separate pyramid for each nearby beacon. See the photo below for an example:
  • Four Beacon Pyramid in Minecraft

    PHOTO: Four beacons on the same pyramid.
  • Increasing the size of the pyramid will increase the range of your beacon and also how long the status effects last.
  • Using an Efficiency V pickaxe (created by combining two efficiency IV pickaxes in an anvil) with a Haste II beacon will let you break stone instantly like it’s butter. This is extremely useful when clearing a basement or underground area.
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