Block of the Week: Soul Sand

What secrets lie within this sinister block?

Only in the fiery caverns of the Nether, amid columns of lava and flame-belching Ghasts, will you find this creepy material in abundance. At a quick glance it might look like a ruddier version of cobblestone, but then you look a little closer - are those screaming faces etched into its surface? Eep!

The Nether is not a location for the faint of heart. Accessible only once you have constructed a Nether portal, it is a hellish underworld stalked by monstrous mobs - and, fittingly, soul sand itself can prove deadly: players and mobs sink into it, hampering movement. If you are wading through it while close to lava, you may just catch fire.

But there’s never reward without risk! Soul sand is useful in all kinds of surprising ways. You can turn it into a handy trap to slow incoming enemies - and some, like silverfish and endermites, sink far enough into it to drown. It’s also the only block on which Nether wart grows - a vital ingredient in many potions.

If you’re feeling destructive you might use soul sand to assemble a wither, a terrifying boss mob which will attack anything that isn’t a skeleton, zombie or another wither. Building a wither isn’t like crafting an item: you have to stack these things together in the world, and not while using a crafting table. I’m just using the crafting table image below to make it super-clear how things fit together!

You’ll need: 4 x soul sand, 3 x wither skeleton skulls

There are other riches to be plundered down in the depths. Nether Fortresses contain all manner of goodies worth grabbing - and soul sand can help you find them. Look at the top surface of a block of soul sand and you’ll see two circles (or are they wailing faces?) clumped onto one half of the texture. That side of the block always points West.

This is handy to know: since Nether Fortresses tend to run along lines from North to South, you have the best chance to find one if you head West or East from your starting location. And once you’ve found one, you know that others are likely to be only a few hundred blocks away, North or South.

Happy hunting!

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