I’ve played Minecraft for more hours than I can easily count. During this time I’ve come up against most of the problems that players will encounter. Here I share a few pointers that might be of help.
I won’t repeat well-known advice like “don’t mine straight up or down”, “always carry water in an active slot to douse yourself when you get set on fire” or “gold armour and weapons are rubbish” but instead focus on advice I haven’t come across before.
1. Come up with a system for exploring caves or you will get miserably lost
Your sense of direction is not at its best operating in sprawling dark caverns, particularly when your mind’s focused on desperately running away from a gang of creepers. Getting lost in a cave system that you have explored and illuminated is an existentially terrifying experience, and not one I’d recommend you indulging in too often. So come up with a way of exploring that will allow you to dependably retrace your steps.
(Spoiler: My method involves putting torches on the left-hand wall of any cavern system on my way in to unexplored territory. This means that returning home is simply a case of keeping the torches on my right.)
Creepers insta-kill you if you are not wearing armour. If, like me, you like to hoard your resources, you should still invest in – and wear! – a set of leather armour. This will be enough to protect you from the inevitable creeper that gets the jump on you. Because it’s going to happen sooner or later.
3. Monsters can’t mine
You alone are gifted with the power to shape the world around you. Whilst creepers can create the odd crater, their power is nothing compared to yours. So use your mining and construction abilities to your advantage in combat. Create corridors to funnel enemies into your arrows, or mine round to get a better angle on a group of enemies in a cavern. Don’t think of combat as an interruption to mining, but, rather, see the two as part of the overall process of exploration.
4. You’ll never get enough arrows without a skeleton archer spawner trap
Don’t even think about trying to craft arrows. In a serious battle through a large cavern system, fighting back mobs and illuminating the darkness to stop them respawning, you can get through a hundred arrows pretty easily. It’s much better to have an (effectively) infinite supply than to mourn every arrow fired.
5. Death doesn’t have to mean the end of your items
If you get back to where you died within a few minutes, your items will still be there (unless, of course, they’ve been burned by lava). So hurry back from your spawn point, and make sure you don’t get killed on the return trip! (Bring a few torches, a bow and some arrows as minimum) If you have a minecart system, this can be incredibly helpful for getting you back in time. (This set of youtube videos explains exactly how to set up a minecart railway)
6. Construct a vault for your riches
Store your glorious wealth somewhere safe. Not just a box in your base – this can lead to tragedy if a creeper somehow infiltrates. Think like a greedy dragon hoarding away his treasure until the end of time. I’ve set up a brightly-lit vault near the surface, reached by minecart, and protected by a series of traps.
7. Listen carefully
If a creeper sneaks up on you, sound is your only chance of an early warning. The “Tssss” gives you a split second to spot the creature and jump away to escape the worst of the blast. You’ll soon be able to distinguish the different monsters in the dark from their sound – the rattle of skeleton archers, the cutting screech of spiders and the moan and slurp of zombies.
8. Optimise your quickbar set-up
Having the right tool in the right numbered hotkey can be incredibly helpful. Find out what works best for your needs. I like to have my stone pickaxe at 2, my torches at 3, my iron pickaxe at 4, my bow at 5. At 1 I usually have a sword, as a base-level defensive option. This set-up works well with WASD, allowing you to switch between pickaxe and torches as appropriate.
9. You can never have enough torches. So bring some sticks.
You always need torches when exploring cavern systems, and you will often run out of them. In exploring cavern systems you’ll come across plenty of coal, but no wood. So bring lots of sticks down with you and make new torches on the fly. You can do this on the inventory screen, so you don’t need to wait until you’re back at a crafting table. Just make sure you don’t get ambushed in the process…
10. Sustainable resources are safe resources
Wandering outside too soon after dawn can lead to creeper ambush for the unwary, so set up sustainable resource production points inside your base. A glass ceiling and a dirt floor will allow you to grow trees inside, and crops are a good source of food.