Minecraft (PC) Strategy Guide

Minecraft is a wonderful piece of design, but one of its biggest failings takes the form of lacking an in game tutorial. So we’re going to drill into Minecrafts juicy core with this article.

Getting started

The first thing you should do on starting a new game is to survey the land. You’ll need to gather some initial resources. You can look around with the mouse, left click punches at stuff with your hand or any objects you currently have selected. Right click will use certain types of objects (doors, boats, etc) or place a currently held object into the game world. You can ‘punch’ some things in the world to collect them, others require hand tools that you make before they can be picked up.

You’ll need to find some trees and punch out the trunks of them to get wooden logs (Don’t need to hit the branch blocks, which drop saplings that you can use to plant new trees). If you see any, punch some sheep once each to get some wool. Now press ‘i’ on the keyboard and you’ll be presented with your inventory menu. Here you can see everything you’re carrying, above that are (from left to right) slots for armour/clothing, the appearance of your character and the basic crafting system.

First, click the wooden logs and drop them into one of the boxes on the left of the craft panel. You can now take wooden planks from the box to the right of the arrow. You could start building a little hut right now, but first we need to get some things done before the sun sets. Note that having the menu open in singleplayer mode will pause the game.

When night falls a variety of monsters will spawn, terrorizing anyone caught out in the open. There are spiders and zombies which will hit/bite you, skeletons that fire arrows at you. The most notorious is the creeper. This beast sneaks up on you, makes a characteristic hissing noise and explodes, possibly damaging your building project as a result. Some monsters burn in sunlight, but not all. You can make swords, even bows and arrows, but the bow requires string looted from spiders and arrows require flint pieces dug from gravel and feathers looted from chickens or zombies, maybe later.

minecrafthowto 3

These are few things you can do to protect yourself from these threats, the easiest of which is to go into the options and set the game to peaceful. But this could deny you items that you can collect from them when they die.

Alternatively, if you want you can do a few things to counter the threat. Creatures do not spawn near light sources so you’ll want to create some. You could also build a home out on a small island with water around it so there are fewer directions from which land based creatures can spawn and sneak up on you.

For the first night in Minecraft, it’s easiest just to dig your way into a cliff with a pick axe and place two easily cleared away dirt blocks in the entryway to prevent anything following you in. A pick axe, you say? OK, let’s discuss crafting further.

minecrafthowto 4

Crafting Tools and Blocks

Go into your inventory menu, grab 4 wooden plank blocks and place one in each of the 4 boxes of your inventory crafting pane. Grab the workbench place it in one of the bottom inventory slots, now highlight it by pressing the appropriate number key or scroll your mouse wheel to it. Right click it to place it into the world, then right click to use the workbench.

minecrafthowto 5

Now it’s time to have some fun. Place two wooden plank blocks one above the other, grab the sticks that you get from it. From here on out, the design of the object creation panel will become more understandable.

First we want to create a wooden pick axe so that we can mine and gather some stone and coal, to do this place three wooden blocks across the top of the panel, then two wooden sticks down the middle.

minecrafthowto 6

Notice how this is roughly the shape of a pick axe, can you figure out how to make a wooden sword or shovel? Whilst you’re at it, if you have 3 wooden plank blocks and 3 wool blocks grabbed from sheep, place the 3 wool above the 3 plank blocks and get yourself a bed – This can be used to skip night time so you don’t have to wait out the monster spawns. Grab the pick, and go mine some rock so that we can make some sturdier pick axes.

minecrafthowto 7

We need coal to create torches for light. The best places to look for coal early on are cliff faces, you can tell them by the black bits poking out of stone. You’ll also find them in some cave sections but be aware that monsters might spawn in the darker parts of them.

It’s usually best to find your first few pieces of coal on a cliff face, then use torches to search exposed cave networks for more plentiful deposits of coal and iron ore. You’ll need a stone pick to get an item drop from iron ore blocks, a wooden pick only destroys the block.

minecrafthowto 8

When exploring caves, it’s possible to get lost in the deep cave networks but there are things you can do to prevent this. First, once you’ve mined any useful materials out of dead end cave sections, wall them off (Recover torches behind wall you’re going to build by hitting them). Secondly, if you place torches only on the left on your way in, you can follow the torches on your right to get out.

Thirdly, you can make signposts or build arrows out of blocks pointing to the way out. If all else fails, start tunneling a long staircase to the surface to get to freedom, but be aware you might tunnel out into the ocean and will then have to swim up to reach air.

Once you’ve found some coal, open up your inventory menu, place some of the coal pieces above the wooden stick pieces and you can now grab torches which don’t burn out. At this point I like to build a starter fortress to serve as a base of operations.

I’ll pick out a bit of land and flatten it with shovels and picks (I only tend to make shovels when flattening a chunk of land because shovels take up inventory space, otherwise I dig with hands).

Fortress Construction

Here you can see the start of a fortress being built. Note that I’ve made the building an odd number of tiles long each way (Eg 9 tiles by 9 tiles wide) so that when I put in crenelations it doesn’t look odd. But to make this look more impressive we’re going to need to tunnel for more stone. I’ll tend to create an access point into the ground and build a staircase down for easy access inside the fortress itself.

minecrafthowto 9

Want a little red brick house instead? Then search in coastal sandy areas for clay, it’s grey like stone walls, but with a smoother texture. Cook the clay you dig up to get clay blocks, then go to the workbench and put them in a 2×2 large block to get brick building blocks.

minecrafthowto 10

A warning – Never dig straight down, you might fall into lava and be killed. Worse still, lava will destroy objects dropped in it. Useful as a dump for unwanted stuff, but can set you on fire even when you do jump back out, forcing you to jump into water to put out the flames. Falling into lava is usually a death sentence, if you’re working near it you should make a bucket, use it on some water and pour it into a hole so you can jump in if needed.

Also note you can hold the shift key and this will allow you to hang over the edges of cliffs to place blocks beneath you. Don’t release the shift key until you’re back on the block fully though!

minecrafthowto 12

Speaking of losing equipment. Want somewhere to keep your loot and construction materials safe? Go to the workbench, create an ‘o’ shape with wooden blocks and hey presto, a chest block you can place into the game world. If you put two blocks next to each other you’ll get a double sized chest with more slots inside it.

There’s also a second type of container, make an o shape in the workbench with cobblestone blocks. Congratulations, you’ve got your first furnace, if you place coal or some other fuel into the lower left box items placed in the upper left box will be cooked.

minecrafthowto 0

This has a variety of purposes. You can cook food to improve their healing abilities, iron (and others) ore can be turned into iron ingots. Cobblestone can be cooked into solid stone. You can also make special blocks, such as cooking sand blocks to create glass for putting windows into buildings.

One piece of coal will provide enough fuel to cook 8 pieces of sand (etc.). This amount is reduced if you have to swarp certain items in and out of the furnace, such as pieces of ham which do not stack in your inventory.

At this point, the game crashed on me (It’s still in ‘beta’ and therefor isn’t feature complete or close to 100% stable, though better than many released games). So here’s an additional tip, everytime you enter the menu screen in singleplayer mode the world gets saved. Best to do that regularly just in case.

I have to recook a bunch of sand now. After some more time, I built up the fortress a bit, all it really takes is placing blocks and sometimes mining/creating/cooking blocks.

minecrafthowto 13

Keeping your health up

You’ll take plenty of damage along the way, getting ambushed by beasties or falling off tall drops. The easiest food source takes the form of piggies, kill them for some tasty bacon and cook it in a furnace to boost the amount of damage it heals. Note that chickens, sheep and cows will not drop any food when killed.

minecrafthowto 14

If you think the piggies are far too cute to be slaughtered, or just want to pretend to be a vegetarian, grab two sticks and atop them place two cobblestone blocks, one above the two sticks and the other to the left of that. This creates a hoe (You at the back, stop sniggering) which can be used to gather seeds from grass when tilling land.

minecrafthowto 15

The tilled land you want to grow crops on should always be next to water so that they grow faster. If need be, fill a bucket with water. Note that players and non-player characters that walk over crops could ruin the harvest, so wall or fence them off. Also, if you hear a ‘popping’ noise whilst near chickens, go hunting for a pale oval shape, that’s an egg – a rare ingredient used to make cakes.

Cakes are placed into the game world and eaten/used up to 9 times, each time healing 1.5 hearts. You’ll also need to grow some wheat, some sugar cane and fill 3 buckets with milk by using them on a cow.

Deep Mining

Fancy tunneling to the center of the earth? Remember I told you never to mine directly down? There’s an exception to this rule. If you dig down two tiles at a time, standing on the overhang between them, you can mine straight down. But first, make a lot of sticks and create a ‘H’ (28 sticks = 4 ladder sections) then as you tunnel down you can place ladder sections once every two units of height downwards!

minecrafthowto 16

Want to get down to the bottom of the world quickly without risk of falling damage? At the bottom, use a bucket to create a two (Preferably 3) tile deep pool and you can fall the whole way to the bottom without taking damage, as long as you don’t hit any solid edges on the way down. Still have to climb out though.

The further down you go, the greater the chance of valuable or useful minerals, like redstone ore, gold ore, diamonds and other fun stuff.

There are risks as well – Lava is much more likely the deeper you mine. So always have a stack of dirt or cobblestone blocks sitting next to the pick axe in your inventory. If you do mine into a lavapool, you can quickly switch items and block the lava flow.

Speaking of lava, if you place water above a lava block, it’ll create obsidian the toughest block type in the game. It has to be mined (slowly) with a diamond pick to get the block. But if instead you pick lava up with a bucket and place that lava into a mold made from dirt or sand, you can make obsidian buildings with ease.

Nether Regions – Finding Dungeons

Obsidian has one additional use – accessing the nether world. This place has its own challenges and look, I won’t spoil that surprise, but will explain how you get there. Let’s first create a mold 4 blocks long and one block wide by placing blocks around that space. Once you have one that’s two block deep fill it with 4 buckets worth of lava as seen below.

minecrafthowto 17

Then take a bucket of water and pour it across the top… Instantly the lava turns to obsidian! Re-collect the water and repeat to form a frame around an empty space 2 blocks wide and 3 blocks tall. Then take a steel and flint, right click on the interior of the frame and you have your portal.

minecrafthowto 18

Occasionally you might also hear special music cues and a lot of noise being made by monsters. This is usually an indication you’re near a small dungeon room. Inside, you’ll find a special monster spawning block and one or two chests with goodies in them.

I’ve found the easiest way to access those goodies is to tunnel a 1×1 large hole into the side wall and reach through to the chest, so I don’t have to fight my way through monsters first.

minecrafthowto 19

Does all this seem like too much for you and you just want to place blocks for a while, hassle free? Then Minecraft classic is for you, it’s even free, so you don’t have to put any cash down to try it! Still want to know more? Try these handy sources of information…

Resources detailing everything you can make in the game:

Found some clever strategies of your own? Don’t hold back – share your tips with us in the comments below!