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THE HOW-TO GEEK GUIDE TO MINECRAFT / HOW-TO GEEK SCHOOL

How-To Geek

Lesson 5: Meet the Mobs of Minecraft

At night villagers will go indoors in an attempt to avoid aggressive mobs but their Artificial Intelligence engine (AI) is absolutely awful. Zombies are drawn to villagers and will approach villages in large numbers once the sun goes down but you cannot rely on the villagers to avoid them (and they have no mechanism to attack the zombies).

If you want to keep a village alive so you can trade with the villagers you need to do one of two things. First, you need to avoid the village at night; stay at least 128 blocks away to keep the mobs from spawning in the village. Second, if you wish to live in the village, you need to fortify the village with walls and lots of torches. If you completely light the interior area of the village no hostile mobs will spawn there.

Killing a villager yields no drops and is strongly advised against. Not only is murdering defenseless and villagers bad form, they’re are very slow to repopulate their villages so you’ll deprive yourself of valuable trading partners if you murder everyone in town.

Utility Mobs

Speaking of villages and villagers, let’s take a look at the smallest mob category with a scant two entries: the utility mobs. Utility mobs are named such because they, as the name implies, provide some sort of utilitarian function for the player.

Iron Golems

Irons golems are found naturally, albeit infrequently, in the wild. They spawn naturally in large villages that have at least 10 villagers and 21 “houses”. We put houses in quotations because according to the Minecraft village algorithm a house isn’t a full structure as you and I would imagine it but instead a door attached to a structure. Thus the butcher houses found in some villages (which have two doors) are actually counted as two houses.

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Players can also construct Iron Golems by stacking four iron blocks on the ground and putting a pumpkin on top. In the screenshot above we used the crafting table to conveniently arrange the blocks for reference but the actual golem must be constructed on the ground. Don’t worry, we’ll get into crafting tables, blocks, and construction shortly.

Iron golems protect villages and will attack anyone (player or mob) that attacks a villager.

Snow Golems

Snow golems are not found naturally in the Minecraft world and are the only mob in the Meet the Mobs lesson you’ll only find if you craft one yourself.

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If you find a snow biome you can gather snow, stack it up, throw a pumpkin on top, and make yourself a little snow man. He’ll wander around aimlessly near the location he was created and throw snowballs at hostile mobs (you can also collect snow from the trail he leaves behind).

Again, don’t worry, we’ll get to the topic of crafting items and where to find pumpkins in short order.

Neutral Mobs

While passive mobs will never attack you under any circumstances (you can beat up cows and villagers all day without worrying about a counter-attack), neutral mobs remain indifferent to you until you provoke them. What constitutes provocation depends on the mob type in question.

Wolves

Found in the Forest and Taiga biomes as well as their variants, wolves spawn in packs of 1-8. By default the wolves are completely neutral toward the player and you can walk right up to them. They will only attack if you strike them in some fashion. Be aware that attacking one wolf will cause all the wolves from the pack to attack you.

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If you give wolves a bone it is possible to tame them. They turn into dogs and wear a red collar (much like ocelots turn from wild cats into domestic cats). You can click on the dog with dye (such as a squid ink sac) and the collar will change to match the color of the expended dye unit.

Tamed dogs will follow the player and will attack anything the player attacks or that attacks the player. Large packs of tame dogs can be a hassle to manage but they’ll put up quite a fight defending you.

Right-clicking on a dog will instruct it to sit and stop following the player. Wolves only drop experience when killed.

Spiders/Cave Spiders

Spiders are neutral in bright light and aggressive in low light. If you come across a spider during the daylight hours, you can walk safely past it without fear of attack unless you provoke it by hitting it. At night or in dark caverns however, spiders will attack on sight.

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Regular spiders spawn at night on the surface of The Overworld as well as any time of day in dark caverns. Cave Spiders are a smaller variant of the spider and spawn only via mob spawner (a small fire-filled cage) found in Abandoned Mineshafts. Cave Spiders have a poisonous bite and can quickly overwhelm a surprised player.

Both spiders and cave spiders drop 0-2 string and 0-1 spider eyes when killed.

Endermen

Endermen are a tall, long-limbed creature that spawns at night/in low-light-levels in both The Overworld and The End. They’re notable for their spooky appearance (they have glowing purple eyes and teleport randomly about the world) as well as their hostility toward being looked upon.

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You can provoke an Enderman through normal means, by attacking it, but you can also provoke them simply by looking at them. If you look at their faces or upper bodies from a distance of 64 blocks or less, they will become immediately agitated and begin teleporting and attacking you.

When exposed to light (such as sunrise) or water (like rain or when chasing a player into an area with water in it), Endermen will teleport quickly to avoid taking damage.

When killed Endermen drop 0-1 Ender Pearls, an exotic in-game material necessary for getting to The End.

Zombie Pigmen

Zombie Pigmen are extremely rare in The Overworld as they spawn only when lightning strikes near a herd of pigs. Just like wolves, they aren’t hostile toward the player until attacked, but if you do attack them they, and their nearby kin, will converge rapidly upon the player.

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Although extremely rare on The Overworld, they spawn frequently in The Nether. When Zombie Pigmen are killed they drop 0-1 pieces of rotten flesh and 0-1 gold nuggets. Rarely will they drop a gold ingot or golden sword.

Aggressive Mobs

Unlike our previous two mob types, aggressive mobs will always attack on sight no matter what the situation and will typically actively seek out nearby players.

Zombies

These green-skinned guys are the most common mob in the entire game. As soon as the sun goes down or you venture into a dark cave, you should anticipate running into them. They growl, moan, and otherwise grumble as they shuffle along looking for players (or villagers) to eat.

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When killed zombies drop 0-2 rotten flesh pieces and more rarely, may drop carrots, iron ingots, potatoes, iron swords and shovels, or random armor. Zombies will burn when exposed to sunlight; if you leave your shelter in the morning and find random pieces of rotten flesh laying around, you’ve found the remains of some poor zombie scorched by the morning sun.

There are several zombie variants. Zombie Villagers look like a green version of the regular villager. Unlike regular zombies, the zombie villagers can be transformed back into regular people by using a weakness potion on them and feeding them golden apples. Given what a hassle it is to “cure” and contain the infected villager during the process, it’s rarely worth the effort.

Baby Zombies are only one block tall, very fast, and do not burn in sunlight. They can climb ladders (whereas regular zombies will use ladders only if they literally bump into them) and are sometimes seen riding chickens (an extremely rare variant known as the Chicken Jockey).

Creepers

Zombies might be the most prolific aggressive mob in Minecraft, but Creepers are the ones that get all the fame. Creepers are an odd armless/handless humanoid shape with four squatty legs. They move almost silently (with an occasional rustling sound) or, as their name implies, creep up on players before self-detonating in a TNT-like explosion that inflicts significant damage to the player and breaks surrounding blocks, making them exceptionally annoying when near bases and other player-created structures.

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When killed, creepers drop 0-2 piles of gunpowder. They drop no piles if they explode before you kill them. Curiously, if you can orchestrate it so that a Skeleton kills a creeper, by getting the skeleton’s attention and then moving so the creeper is between the two of you, it will drop a rare music disc for you.

Creepers spawn in the dark like other hostile mobs but, unlike skeletons and zombies, creepers do not burn in sunlight and will continue to roam around until killed by a player or despawned by the in-game timer.

Skeletons

Another common mob, skeletons spawn in darkness and are always armed with a bow. If you’re looking to tame a pack of wolves, skeletons are the handiest source of bones in the game as they drop 0-2 bones and 0-2 arrows upon death (if you run around outside your shelter right after dawn breaks, you’ll often find piles of bones just laying around, no combat necessary).

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In addition to dropping arrows and bones, there is a slight chance the skeleton will also drop its bow when killed by the player (and an even slighter chance the bow will be enchanted). Rarely, it may even drop armor.

Skeletons make a slight rattling sound as they walk around and will seek out players within 16 blocks and fire their bow upon players within eight blocks. Skeletons are skilled at navigating inclines, stairs, and other obstacles in order to reach the player. They can climb ladders but rarely do.

There is a rare variant of the skeleton, the Spider Jockey, where the skeleton is riding on a spider.

Slimes

Slimes are perhaps the most annoying hostile mob in the game. They’re slow, they’re easy to kill, but on top of making a really annoying noise, they split into smaller slimes when attacked. The largest splits into smaller cubes, which in turn split into even smaller cubes.

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They spawn randomly underground in what are known as “slime chunks.” Out of every 16 map chunks, one is selected to be a microbiome of sorts that allows slime spawning. If there is an appropriate cave or opening in that chunk, the slimes will spawn there. Outside of caverns, slimes also spawn in the swamp biome.

When killed they drop slimeballs which are used to make tools like animal leads and sticky pistons.

Silverfish

Silverfish are small insects found in Minecraft and in fact, are the smallest mob in the game. They’re found only in Strongholds and in the Extreme Hills biome. As such, players uninterested in focusing on end-game strategy can play for years without encountering them as extreme hills biomes are rare and Strongholds are difficult to find.

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In Strongholds they spawn from a special monster spawner in the portal room and in the Extreme Hills biome they spawn from “monster eggs” stone blocks hidden in the ground in the aforementioned biome that crack open and reveal silverfish when broken. Attacking a revealed silverfish will call forth nearby silverfish (if present) which can lead to a nasty (and often fatal) swarm effect.

Witches

Witches are, compared to other lighter weight mobs like zombies and skeletons, quite dangerous. They spawn in The Overworld at night and in dark caverns and chambers. They aggressively use thrown potions to injure the player and regular potions to heal/help themselves.

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Although they’re strong and can easily take down an underprepared player, they do drop quite a bit of loot which makes witch hunting a worthwhile affair. Upon death, they have a chance to drop 0-6 of each of the following items: glass bottles, glowstone dust, gun powder, redstone, sugar, sticks, and spider eyes as well as potions.

Given the relative difficulty of finding some of the previous materials, as well as how much effort it takes to scale up to creating potions in the game, it’s oftentimes worth risking a fight with a witch.

The witches and their friends we outlined above constitute all the creatures, friendly and unfriendly, you’ll meet in The Overworld.

Next Lesson: Exploring Minecraft Game Modes

Tomorrow’s lesson is focused on breaking away from Creative Mode and exploring the other game mods (as well as when and why you would want to use them).

Your homework for tonight is to continue to explore your new Minecraft world in search of new biomes, structures, and the creatures we’ve just studied.

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Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/13/14