Tutorials/Tips and tricks
Here are some tips and little hints for those who are new to Minecraft. Remember, however, that there are often tips under the 'Trivia' section of an item's page, and are likely to be more in-depth:
 Sand farming
Need to farm a lot of sand but you don't want to waste your shovel on that? Use torches! Place a torch under the sand and the other sand blocks (on top of it) are destroyed too.
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 Peaceful mode
Can't seem to figure out those zombies? Too slow for the spiders? Can't make a decent shelter with the worry of a creeper? Low on health and don't have any food? Set the difficulty to peaceful and, voila! Your health will quickly regenerate, your hunger bar won't hurt you, and all hostile mobs will disappear. This becomes very helpful when building large structures or pixel art; however, most players dislike this, as it takes away much of what they see as the challenge and some of the fun of Minecraft.
 Tree technique
If you want to get every block on a tree but just can't reach that top one, try leaving the bottom block intact (not cut down) and then jump on it to get the rest. Once done, harvest the bottom. If you still can't reach after using this, you'll have to place a block such as dirt below you to boost yourself up higher (see Pillar jumping) or use an adjacent piece of land and leave more than one block. For the giant 2x2 jungle trees, see the tree page for techniques.
 Remember the pattern
Struggling to remember crafting patterns? Trying to make a bucket but instead you make a minecart (and waste 5 Iron Ingots!) or even a cauldron (and waste 7 ingots)? Take a closer look at a pattern, like the fishing pole pattern. Take notice of how the sticks and string line up to look like a fishing pole. Many patterns follow this trait, such as doors, which use two columns of wooden planks to make the rectangular shape of a door, and swords, which use two wooden planks, cobblestone, iron ingots, gold ingots or diamonds for the blade and a stick as the handle. (Or you could press ESC to stop the game and then visit the Crafting page for help.) Stack some items to avoid excess item dragging which wastes time. Try putting two diamonds in a helmet shape on top of diamond pants, etc.
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Also, you can make a 3x3 wall with item frames in the shape of a recipe! (You might want to use less pricey items, eg: bonemeal for iron, red flowers for redstone, etc.)
 Set your spawn
If your house is far from your spawn, and you have 3 Wool and 3 Wooden Planks, you can make a Bed. If you sleep in a bed at night, it will set your spawn, and, like in real life, skip the night. Be careful: if you break your bed, you will lose that spawn point! Therefore, it may be smart to make a second bed, and place it and sleep in it before you get rid of the first bed. That way you won't die and spawn at the original spawn point while moving your first bed.
Note: You need to be able to stand on your bed if you want to set a new spawn point.
 On beds and bases
You've discovered a stronghold, an abandoned mine? You're tempted by the riches but far from home and you're afraid if you die you will lose your valuable items, not able to reach them in time? Set up a new spawn point at the outskirts of the discovered structure by placing a bed and sleeping in it. But... you need to think ahead, or risk even worse disaster than a single death!
Consider that when you die, you will respawn without your possessions. If you died someplace deep underground, you are likely to have monsters between you and your dropped items. If you plan to create a spawn base nearby, that base had better have enough resources for you to equip yourself properly before you go charging back into the fray! Your basic "kit" for a spawn base should be at least half a stack of iron (or the equipment it makes, see below), at least half a stack of wood and a quarter-stack of coal, plus bow and arrows, and food. Supplies of other equipment (torches, fences, ladders, etc.) are also helpful.
If you don't have enough to spare to stock the base, you may be better off respawning at your distant base, well out of chunk loading range from your death. Your items will not disappear in unloaded chunks, so you can re-equip yourself at leisure, move to a few hundred blocks from the death site, and then zip back there as fast as you can before the five-minute timer runs out. As preparation for this, you can thoroughly mark your route from the surface to the mine, especially the proper entrances.
If you do decide on a nearby spawn base, the first priority is safety -- you need to pick an area that is well lit and closed off from dangerous areas, and especially protected from creepers (stone/cobblestone walls, a door, and glassed or fenced windows to view the area in front of the entrance). A small room will do, but you need enough space for a crafting table, a furnace and at least one double-chest to store your supplies (these can be embedded in the floor if needed.) Of course, you also need space for the bed, and free space next to the head of the bed for you to respawn. You probably should also make room for an infinite water source, which can be tucked half under a wall.
What you need for the base will be a bed, crafting table, furnace, and a chest. If you haven't any wool for the bed, you can use string (plentiful in abandoned mineshafts) to make some. The chest should contain at minimum a full set of iron armor, iron sword, a bucket, and either a second bucket, an iron pick, or clippers and a flint-and-steel. (By an amazing coincidence, this is exactly what you can make with half a stack of iron.) You will also want stone pick, shovel, and axe, a bow and at least half a stack of arrows, preferably a full stack. While you're at it, precraft some tools: you'll want to toss in another chest (in case you can't carry all the stuff you dropped when you died), and at least half a stack of torches. Some fences, gates, and ladders, a door, or whatever, may come in handy too. You'll want a fair bit of food, at least a quarter-stack of steak/porkchops or more of lesser foods. Just to be careful, stick some spare blocks in there too -- a half-stack to a stack apiece of cobblestone, dirt, and gravel, as well as extra wood. (Sand is less useful, but some glass might come in handy.) Having some extra raw materials handy -- coal, string, redstone, etc., is always good. If you can, top off the selection with a spare copy of your map, and a clock -- these can be in frames if you like.
Before delving into the depths, remember to sleep in that bed at least once. Just placing it is not enough! (When you go home, likewise remember to sleep in the bed there to reset your spawn point there.) Now when you die, you will reappear not helpless in the midst of a dangerous cavern, but in a secure base with a full set of supplies to go back and seek revenge, or at least your stuff. (Creeper attacks and other liabilities not covered....)
 Shelter problem
Is it nearing nighttime and you haven't finished your shelter yet? In an emergency situation and need some shelter? Dig three blocks down and place a block above you, and now you're safe! Make sure you have a torch though; if not it will be pitch black as there is no light source. You may want to expand the boundaries so you may place a bed. You can get out by Pillar jumping if you have no ladders. This method is not recommended though, as you're completely exposed to mobs as you leave. Pillar jumping instead of digging into the earth is another solution. Simply make a pillar directly under you: 10 or 12 blocks will put you out of reach from a skeleton's arrows, and out of range from monsters in general. Or you can simply set your difficulty to peaceful mode and relax. (See second paragraph.)
 Zombieproof Door
Zombies can break down your door when night falls. Here's a solution that doesn't require you to craft an Iron door or compromise your base's security. Simply break down your door (during the day, of course,) turn so that you are perpendicular to where the door just was, and place your door. Get out of the hole the door is occupying, and open it by right-clicking. Now, if you placed it the right way, zombies will think that your door is open and avoid it! One can also place any regular block such as dirt or cobblestone in front of the door to prevent zombies from getting to it. If the block is placed on the outside side of the door, the zombie will not be able to damage the door. If the block is placed on the inside side of the door, the zombie can break down the door, but cannot proceed further inside.
One can also place sand or gravel above the door, that way, if the Zombie does break the door, it will fall and close the entrance off; or can make a water or lava ditch after the door, also preventing Zombies and other mobs from entering. Make sure that your house is not a flammable substance, or that anything is around the ditch.
The simplest solution is to use a fence gate instead of a door, as Zombies do not recognize them as doors. One must, however, guard against Creepers, which will treat fence gates as fences as per priming-time detection range mechanics (Creepers will start the countdown even if blocked by fences, as they are in the same space as the fence).
 Branch mining
This is perhaps the safest method of mining, with higher rewards. Make sure you have a lot of pickaxes and at least 64 torches in your inventory. Slowly mine a big stairway to bedrock, lighting your way with the torches as you go. If you plan to have 1x2x2 paths leading off the side of the stairway, bring as many torches as possible. When you get to bedrock go up 11 stairs (best for finding diamonds) then mine a 1x2 infinite corridor.
Make a 1x2x2 doorway in the back of your home. After that easy step, make a huge room and have several different ways to mine. Low and high, left and right - you're sure to hollow out a mountain soon, getting hefty supplies of coal and iron, however you will not encounter gold, lapis lazuli ore or diamond ore, and there is still a slight danger of lava.
Find a cave, and explore a branch of the cave. If the cave branches off while exploring your current branch, go down one of the paths at random. When you reach a dead end go back and mine the Coal, Iron, etc. that you passed. (Leave at least some of the torches you placed, to keep the area lit and prevent monsters from spawning.) After you do that, go down another branch of the cave, and repeat the above process until the cave is done. Now mark the cave in some way so that you know you've mined out this cave. This is best for peaceful mode or easy, as whilst the ores are more obvious, there is more danger of mob attack.
 Mineshaft with a water drop
You will need about 2 stacks of ladders, 1 bucket of water, a few iron (or one diamond) pickaxe(s) and a sign. The sign is optional, though it is helpful in marking where to place the water.
First, dig a 1x2 hole down to bedrock level. Remember not to dig straight below yourself. If you hit non-flowing lava, stop your mineshaft, or try and find a way around the lava.
Once you have done that, (or as you go down) place ladders along one side so that you can climb back out of the hole. Place the sign 3 blocks above the bottom on the opposite side of the ladders. Place your water just above the sign. Now you don't have to use the ladders to go down; instead you can just fall down.
Obtaining coal without mining
You have made your shelter, already mined some cobblestone and can't find any coal to fuel or light your environment? Just make a furnace, and smelt some wood logs (not already crafted to planks). Use the planks for fuel—2 planks for every three logs you want to cook. This will get you charcoal, which is in all ways equal to coal. (Note that charcoal and coal don't stack together.)
 Building a house
There are some recommendations for early building:
For beginners, you might want to hollow out the side of a hill or mountain. This can be done quickly and turn into a good shelter, but keep in mind it will be harder to find your home if you wander off, or you could place torches if you have any around the entrance.Good thing mobs can't track you down by light sources, except zombies. A second design is to collect a lot of wood and build a house of wooden planks. These stand out easily, look good, and function well. The bad thing is they are flammable (please note that as of 1.3.1, wood slabs are flammable) and may be set afire by lightning.
A more durable shelter can be made of cobblestone, but don't use dirt for anything but strictly temporary shelters (dirt is easily demolished by creepers). Don't build with or on sand or gravel—they are influenced by gravity, which will make things very difficult when you decide to expand the shelter or dig a basement. The best material you can make a house with is obsidian since it is impossible for creepers to blow it up, although obsidian is hard to get.
Out of coal/charcoal? Remember that hostile mobs require a light level of less than 7 to spawn. Use this knowledge to save some torches in your shelter: even if things are a little dim, any space within 7 blocks of a torch is spawnproof. Also, monsters won't randomly spawn near you (24 blocks): You do want to light up a perimeter just to see what's coming, and light your home so you don't come back to find a new tenant, but monsters won't be appearing in front of you.
 Upper-tier ores
See some redstone, diamond, or some fancy ore? Don't use low-level pickaxes to mine them! When the ore mines as slowly as breaking stone with bare hands, that's a hint that it won't drop anything! Indeed, if anything but obsidian takes more than two seconds to mine, you are using the wrong pickaxe. The rules are that wood (or gold) pickaxes only mine coal and (cobble)stone, while stone also mines iron and lapis lazuli ore. Iron mines all blocks but obsidian, and diamond pickaxes can even mine obsidian. Be careful - upper-tier ores are deep enough that you are likely to run into lava lakes.
 Item durability
Mining deep underground and suddenly, inexplicably, your Pickaxe turns into your hand! Is it a bug? Or is it Herobrine? No, it's the item durability feature! Take care to look at the 'health' of your item (the little colored bar underneath the item) before departing on any long trips, be it exploring or mining, as the last thing you want to do is to take the long trip back home just for an Axe, or a Pickaxe. Time is precious, so try bringing along a crafting table, or stock up on tools if you have to. Try not to use tools up completely—instead, hang onto the almost-dead tool while you switch to a new one. Then when the new tool is itself mostly used up, you can combine the two. This pools their remaining durability, with a "repair bonus" for good measure. Also, if you press F3+h it shows the durability of your weapon/armor.
 Ravine mining
We've all been there. The level generator has created a giant ravine. After you get past the initial "where did that come from?", you'll often see some rare ores within. Well, don't think about jumping down, because that will lead to (nearly) certain death! There are two ways that you can use to get to the bottom without digging lengthy staircases. Either way, take a careful look down to see what you're descending into....
One way is to get plenty of sand or gravel. Place blocks in midair (next to the edge), and allow them to fall to the bottom of the ravine in a stack. When they reach your own level, jump on and dig down. (Note: This is the only time when digging down should be attempted.) When you reach the bottom, give yourself a high-five, go get the ore, and re-stack the blocks to get back up. (See Pillar jumping.)
Another method is to make a waterfall. Build a simple pool on the edge of the ravine, leaving the side that borders the ravine open. Make a bucket, fill it with water, and fill the pool so that it overflows into the ravine. (Or you can just dump your water bucket a block or two away from the edge.) The water will leak out of the pool and fall to the bottom of the ravine. This can be used as an easy way to get down and back up. If you're really impatient, you can actually jump down the ravine into the water at the bottom, which will protect you from a fair bit of fall damage. Be careful however, as most ravines found underground have lava pouring from the sides or in lakes at the bottom. Don't miss ;). Doing this over lava is dangerous: The water will quench lava directly under it, but if the lava extends more than 7 blocks away, you'll have a water current trying to carry you into the remaining lava! Be prepared to swim back up or deal with the situation: Fences or blocks might contain your original waterfall, or you can bring a second water bucket to dump (and then retrieve) closer to the edge of the lava. Either way, the idea is to get you some water-free obsidian to stand on.
 Farming techniques
Rarely do passive mobs ever respawn after they have been killed, which means meat can only last so long (unless you have 2 of each animal and breed them). At this point, starting a farm is the best idea.
 Wheat farms
Most people will start a wheat farm first because seeds are one of the first items one can acquire. Note that all methods for wheat will work identically for potatoes and carrots, except that those don't have separate seeds -- you replant the crop.
Besides seeds, you will need dirt/grass, a hoe, light, and water. One source block of water will hydrate farmland four blocks in every direction, including diagonally. Therefore, the most effective wheat farm is 9×9 with a source block in the middle. Again, that one source block extends to all tilled soil in the 9×9 area. That area yields 80 wheat after fully grown (9 x 9 = 81, minus one for the source block is 80). This not only saves water sources, but also gives more room to grow crops for less water.
If you want to farm more efficiently with only having to use a single bucket of water/Water source, it's best to make a multi-level greenhouse. Here is one plan:
Make the floors 12 long by 13 wide it will allow for a walkway to put torches on. The plots go as follows: 8 rows by 4 columns, a trench 8 blocks long, then another 8 rows by 4 columns. Make each level 5 blocks high minus the foundation layer. Place an extra layer of of cobblestone or wood beneath each new level to prevent water drops from leaking. Place a hole in the ceiling where the water will enter from the top levels and on the ceiling of each floor, torches or glowstone can be placed to accelerate crop growth. Repeat for as many levels as desired. When flooding the trench at the top, remember this, it is necessary to have the holes in a zig zag pattern to allow the water to flow from level to level. This will net 64 Wheat per floor and will allow faster crop growth since the crops will all be in the same confined area. To clarify the trench system: If the ceiling of one level has a hole on one side of the water trench, make the hole of the floor above or below on the other side of the water trench. This allows for only one bucket of water to be used for optimal farming. Water flows 8 blocks in a trench and will spread the same for each level it goes to, the last block is purposely made to be a hole to capitalize on this.
 Pumpkin/Melon Farms
You'll likely find pumpkins first, and these are far more useful -- melons provide small-change food (similar to cookies) and are used for brewing, but pumpkins provide Jack-o-lanterns, which are valuable for marking your way and the direction home. (They also can be used to create golems and make pumpkin pie. You can also wear them on your head to prevent endermen from seeing you.) However, the two crops grow almost identically. They do use farmland, so that 9×9 plot with a water block works well, but instead of planting the whole field, you will plant half the squares, in strips. These will grow into stalks, each of which needs dirt or farmland next to it to place a fruit. When you harvest the pumpkins or melons, leave the stalk to grow another fruit. See the appropriate tutorial for advice on how to arrange the fields.
 Sugarcane Farms
Once you are past the initial "I NEED FOOD NOW" stage in your world and are ready to craft some more complex items, you may want to start sugarcane farming in order to craft sugar and paper, sugar being a key component of cake, pumpkin pie, and some potions; and paper being required to craft maps, books, bookshelves, enchantment tables, and firework rockets. When you come across a patch of sugarcane (it grows near water), break it down and take it to your base. One more tip is that you can place sugarcane underwater (doesn't matter how deep) on sand or dirt that is adjacent to water. Doing this should create an air bubble so you can breathe underwater. You can use this trick to aid in the creation of underwater structures.