When starting a new world in Survival mode in Minecraft, one of your first priorities should be to build a shelter and establish a foothold in the wilderness. This shelter would contain everything you need to stay safe and process the materials you gather from your expeditions such as a bed for fast-forwarding time and setting a spawn point in case you die, several chests for storing materials, a crafting table, and several furnaces.
Most of the time, your first shelter is only temporary and will serve as a base of operations while you conduct your gathering trips; much before you actually gather enough materials to build a permanent base. How long this initial gathering phase takes depends on several factors such as your gathering goals (do you want plenty of diamonds before you move out of your base?), your gameplay style (do you play for the mining and exploration, or the building?), and the speed at which you actually explore and mine for ores and precious metals.
However, regardless of your goals, one thing is certain: You’ll definitely spend the first few hours in your world mining for materials and exploring perilous caverns. In this guide, we’re going to share several basic tips and tricks so you can make the most out of your gathering trips, as well as for staying safe while exploring mineshafts, tunnels, and caverns in Minecraft.
Mining Versus Cave Exploring
There are two main methods of mining for materials in Minecraft, both of which require significant effort and preparation. However, the safety of the process, as well as the yield of materials will vary per method. Not to mention that, depending on your playstyle, you may lean towards one over the other. The two methods in question are either via shaft mining, or by exploring and mining in natural cave formations.
The shaft mining method consists of carving out your own mineshafts through which you can safely descend towards your desired layer, and then branch out into many secondary mineshafts to look for ores and other metals. This process is quite time-consuming since you’ll be manually tunneling through the earth and carving out a tunnel large enough for you to traverse. Luckily, the risk here, as long as you take the necessary precautions, is minimal since you’ll seldom deal with monsters and pitfalls are a rare occurrence when you’re carefully digging into the earth. However, it requires plenty of preparation in the form of many pickaxes and shovels—which will likely be completely consumed in the process—as well as other tools such as torches, and food.
The cave exploration method, as its name implies, consists of finding a natural cave and simply diving into its depths, braving the many dangers within. Caves in Minecraft are a natural source of enemies due to the darkness within. Mobs such as spiders, skeletons, and creepers wander within and will attack you on sight. However, due to the sheer size of some caves, it’s not uncommon to find ore veins lining the walls, ready for the taking. This method requires fewer tools than the mining method since you won’t be manually digging a tunnel, but also requires you to arm yourself accordingly to fight the monsters within.
Both types of mining carry significant risks. From uncorking a river of lava and burning alive if you’re not fast enough in the first, to getting mauled by monsters in the second. Luckily, there’s always a way to deal with the hazards in each method.
Dealing With Hazards
The three most common hazards when it comes to mining, regardless of the method, are pitfalls, lava, and enemies. The first two are most common in the former method since you can inadvertently dig into a river of lava and burn alive. Also, if you’re not careful and are digging straight down (why would you do this?!), you can easily dig into an underground ravine and fall to your death. Meanwhile, monsters are the single most common occurrence when it comes to cave mining, and you’ll need to arm yourself accordingly if you’re going to gather materials using this method.
Let’s break down how to deal with these three common hazards:
- Lava: The single most common hazard when gathering via mining. The way map generation works in Minecraft is that, every single block that isn’t occupied by anything beneath a certain layer (called an air block) is turned into lava. In this regard, it’s not uncommon to be digging a mineshaft and coming up to a pool of lava, which will then flow down towards your tunnel, potentially killing you if you’re not careful. Luckily, lava is quite slow and gives you plenty of time to react and get out of the way before being burnt alive. Heck, if you’re fast enough, you can even place a block and prevent the lava from spilling out entirely. If you manage to prevent the lava from flowing, you can simply put a sign on the wall as a constant reminder of the dangers hidden behind it.
However, if you absolutely need to deal with lava or traverse a small lava lake, then buckets of water will be your best friends. You see, when lava comes into contact with water in Minecraft, it turns into obsidian, which you can safely walk over. For this reason, you should always bring at least two buckets of water in any exploration trip. With these two buckets, you can easily build a small 2×2 pit and add the water to opposing corners, this will create an infinite supply of portable water since the pit will fill up again with the water from the opposite corner when you fill up a bucket. Minecraft water physics are wonky like that.
- Pitfalls: Unlike lava, which you can survive falling into if you’re fast enough, pitfalls are usually lethal regardless of your armor or reflexes. Luckily, unlike digging into lava, avoiding pitfalls is completely under your control. The very best way to avoid inadvertently tumbling to your doom is simply by avoiding digging straight down. And you could even get away with digging straight down as long as you do it in a shaft that is at least 1×2 blocks large. That way, you can alternate digging on different sides as you go down, and catch a glimpse of what’s underneath as you dig.
- Monsters: Whether you’re cave mining or shaft mining, monsters are probably going to be a common hazard you’ll face during your time in Minecraft. This is especially true if you happen across a natural cave as you’re digging your shafts. However, the only way to deal with these threats is by always being properly equipped, which you should always be if you’re cave mining, anyway. However, if you’re shaft mining, odds are that you won’t be equipped for combat. So, if you run into enemies, you could head back up to your base, craft a few pieces of gear, and come back to rid the area of enemies before digging further down.
Regardless of your mining method, there are always many risks involved in gathering materials in Minecraft. For this reason, you should always be equipped with the essentials such as food, torches, tools and, in some cases, weapons and armor.