Digging up those diamonds – Minecraft.

In the past I’ve written a two-part review of the pre-full release Minecraft, here and here. I’ve also written a post which dealt with how to escape a few of the silly situations that beginners, and occasionally overenthusiastic experienced players, can get themselves into. Well today for a change of pace I’m going to provide a personal insight into the acquiring of those most sought after of Minecrafting materials, diamonds.

This will mainly be aimed at the beginner player, but it’s possible that an experienced player might just pick up something new. So please keep reading if you’re interested. If not come back on Saturday when we have an extra special post where your humble narrator writes not just one, but three very personal letters to Satan Claws.

So let’s start by speaking a little about why you want diamonds. First of all, just like in reality, in Minecraft diamonds are a girls best friend. They’re pretty, sparkly, and they make the best tools in the game. A pick made with diamond for example will mine over 1,500 blocks before it’s destroyed. This compared to a mere 250ish uses for diamonds nearest rival, the iron pick.  So it uses much less space. It lasts longer. And guess what? I actually mines faster as well. Here we’ll use the nastiest substance in the entire game for our example, obsidian. Obsidian is a stone cold pain in the patoote to mine. Even with an iron pick it takes almost a minute to mine just one block. However with a diamond pick you can chop through them in ten seconds. Oh and let’s not forget that diamond tools also just look cool. Not an inconsiderable selling point if you play on a multiplayer server.

Now with the why out-of-the-way, let’s move on to the how.

Diamond only occurs below level 18. By that I mean up to 17 levels above the bedrock region. So our first challenge is reaching that depth without getting a molten lava facial, or having a heart to heart with a creeper. Obviously if you play on Peaceful mode you can scratch out the creeper. My method for this is as follows.

Pick a location a reasonable distance from my build site, I do this because I tend to build from bedrock upwards, I know I’m nuts. Put way-markers between your dig site and build site, a couple of blocks with torches all around the top of them being a good way. Right now a hundred readers screamed as one “Just carry a compass.” Yes that’s a solution, but here’s the thing, that’s a backpack slot you won’t have to carry tools, or loot.

Now build a covered doorway, nothing fancy just a tube three high and maybe five or six long. Close off one end, put a nice thick door on it, and surround it with torches. This will mean that you don’t have to worry about covering your back from those sneaky creepers quite as much. After this step you’re ready to mine.

Start digging down on a diagonal line. After ten drops plant a torch, turn 90 degrees, and repeat. You’ll do this until you either hit bedrock, which is our initial goal, or lava. Lava is the reason for the diagonal movement, nothing ruins your day like a swim in the hot red-stuff, but by being sure that the block you’re standing on is safe you can avoiding losing your life, and all your resources. If you do hit lava, and the pool is small enough just fill it in with gravel, then keep digging. If it’s too large to do this, then go back up one flight of your mine stairs, and turn the other way, this should get you around the obstruction. Once you hit bedrock you can start the next stage.

For the record bedrock is easy to identify, no other block in the game looks like it, and it won’t break. Seriously it won’t, so don’t even try.

From bedrock go back up 9 or 10 steps, and cut a 3 block high shaft at 90 degrees. Cut it as far as you feel appropriate, but I would keep it limited to about 100 blocks. Next pick a side, left or right it doesn’t really matter. Now cut into that side four deep, and plant a torch on the side furthest from your shaft entrance. (Yes folks we’re going to make a branch mine, my personal favourite type in fact.) Now every 20 blocks dig a similar short shaft, putting a torch where you won’t be digging again, until you’re back at the entrance to your branch mine. Then excavate between them. That’s it. you’ve done the first segment of your branch mine. Have probably found several iron ores, perhaps even your first diamonds. But that’s not the end of the story.

After you’ve gone back segment by segment maybe ten times you return to your original shaft, and now you cut in,  leaving a solid two block space between every shaft. This means you will not miss any diamonds or iron that might be available. but still minimising the amount of material you have to mine.

I use this system for a few reasons, but the two main ones are these;

  1. If you hit lava it’s no big deal, you just drop a block in front of yourself straight away, and either fill the pool, or ignore it and work around it.
  2. At that depth you’re very likely to hit a large cave system, as well as dungeons. Mining this way means that you have a higher chance of hitting them, and when you do it’s a piece of cake to explore them, thus usually finding a lot of easy to mine resources.

The only real catch with this method is that in order to keep yourself safe from the nasties that dwell below, you’re going to need lots of torches, and sharp ears. But trust me it works. A single hour of this method usually leaves me with enough diamonds to outfit myself for the following week of play.

Anyway I hope this is of help to someone out there. And I’ll see you again on Saturday for a very special Christmas edition.

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