Minecraft 15w31a Features - Dual Wielding, Shields and Shulker Mob

Minecraft 15w31a Features - Dual Wielding, Shields and Shulker Mob

Posted in minecraft

The first snapshot for Minecraft 1.9 is finally here. Aptly named 15w31a and following the Mojang tradition, this official update is the first of its kind since Microsoft took over Mojang last year. New features including Dual Wielding, Shields and Shuker's, to name only a few.

It's been a hell of a long time since the last Minecraft snapshot and I'm not sure I can even remember what the last one was about! Thankfully, the familiar Mojang team is still working together on Minecraft. This includes both Jeb and Dinnerbone, who have been heavily involved in this first 1.9 update and it's always good to have their ideas on board.

Without further ado let's look at 15w31a and see exactly what Mojang have been conjuring up these last nine months...

Dual Wielding

Dual Wielding

You know it's going to be a big change when players get to use both arms in Minecraft; never before have you been able to hold two separate items at the same time.

Starting in 15w31a you can now use what's known as the off-hand, which is basically the players "other" hand. As you equip an item in this hand, it's icon appears to the left of the familiar hotbar (where the selectable items appear). See image below:

hotbar - off hand item


  • To use the item in your off-hand you simply click the right mouse button.
  • You can use the keyboard hotkey to switch your off hand item with your main hand.

The benefits of Dual Wielding don't just come from combat scenarios. For example, imagine you're mining; constantly smashing through blocks with a pickaxe whilst placing torches along the way to light the tunnel. With Dual Wielding you can equip the pickaxe in your main hand and bash away whilst having the torch in your off-hand for convenient and quick placement of light sources. This simple example demonstrates the increased efficiency that dual wielding brings to Minecraft.

If you don't like using your left hand as the off-hand then don't worry, Mojang have given us the option to configure the off-hand for ourselves. Simply open the usual options menu and under Skin Customisation you'll see a new option to choose which hand is the off-hand (left or right).

Shulker Mob

Shulker Mob

The first of the new mobs in Minecraft 1.9. The Shulker is shorthand for Shell Lurker and it looks similar to a cute hermit hiding inside a shell. The mob purposely disguises itself as a block, either on the ground or on walls, then when you're not expecting it the Shulker's shell pops open and it launches a surprise attack.

It's attacks are projectile based, following the x, y, z axis with medium speed and a homing missile effect.If you get hit by one of the projectiles you'll immediately start to levitate (levitate potion effect) and slowly ascend upwards. The only way to end the levitation is to sit it out and wait. A better way to deal with Shulkers is to swipe at the projectiles with your sword and destroy them before they hit you.

The Shulker mob is found in the new End Cities which are described further below.

New Arrows - Combined with Potions

New arrow types shown in inventory screen

Arrows have been in Minecraft since 2009, at a time when the game was still in it's infancy. Fast forward 6 years and arrows are about to get a major overhaul. In 15w31a you can combine arrows with potions to create more advanced projectiles, which inflict their potion effects on impact.

A simple example is a poison arrow which players can craft by combining a vanilla arrow with a potion of poison. The new arrow changes colour in your inventory, making it easy to distinguish from others and it also becomes it's own stackable type of course.

Examples of new arrows:

  • Invisibility arrows (grey colour) - makes the target turn invisible on impact
  • Spectral arrows - turn entities a glowing colour when you hit them
  • Poison arrows - inflicts poisoning on targets
  • Night vision arrows (blue colour)

Of the examples above, the Spectral arrow is the new effect. It's most useful in PvP mode, giving players the chance to "tag" opponents and track their movement for a short duration (roughly 10 seconds). When a player is tagged with Spectral, their outline is visible even through walls:

Spectral arrow effect

These are just a small sample of the available potion effects that can be applied to arrows. You can in theory apply any potion to an arrow and long time players will know that potions are brewed in Minecraft and stored in your inventory along with other items.

In addition to the new arrows, the hotbar has been improved slightly for arrow use. You can see how far arrows have been drawn by looking at the bow icon in the bar. As you draw the bow, the little icon animates showing the pull distance.



Shields are another of the big changes in 15w31a and they work perfectly with the new Dual Wielding physics - I wouldn't be surprised if Dual Wielding was conjured up so shields could be implemented in the first place.

These shields can be crafted from the usual mix of raw materials such as wood and iron, but they can also be "pimped" to create luxurious designs. We already know about Banners, which are craftable items created from different coloured dyes, but Shields will not directly have patterns or colours. Instead you need to mix a particular Banner with a Shield to create the colourful pimped version.

Apart from looking neat, shields also have a defensive purpose; you can block attacks on the side that the shield is worn. So for example, if you choose the left hand as the off-hand, and then place a shield on that hand, you will gain protection on your left side. This is useful for both melee and projectile attacks.

Players can also hold two shields (using Dual Wielding) to provide complete protection from the front.

Other notable features

End Cities - New End Dungeons and Islands

End Gateway

A new End Portal called the End Gateway grants access to the new End Cities. the gateway only appears after you defeat the Ender Dragon. These green and purple islands (End Cities) are covered in new block types and you'll also find the new Shulker mob here as well. Players can use the Shulkers projectile to their advantage (levitate effect) and leap between islands.

You will notice immediately that the End Gateway is far too small for you to pass through. Instead, players need to place an Ender Pearl in the portal, which determines the direction of teleportation and ultimately which island you end up on.

Respawning Ender Dragon

Ender Dragon

The Ender Dragon fight can now be replayed by respawning the Ender Dragon using crafted Ender Crystals. Killing the new Dragon will not give you a new egg but instead you'll get his breath which is a new crafting ingredient in 1.9.

Chorus Fruit

Chorus fruit

Behaving very much like a cactus, the Chorus Fruit is an edible purple plant, found in the End Cities which can be regrown using farming techniques. Only the flowers on top of the Chorus can be replanted for farming purposes.

Eating a Chorus Plant will randomly teleport you to another place.

Dragon Head

Dragon Head

A new wearable item, much like the pumpkin that players can put on their head. The mouth moves while you walk and the mouth opens/closes based on Redstone power.

Potion effects shown on HUD

Potion effects on HUD

Any potion effects are shown on the top right of the screen (main hand side) via icons. The top row is for positive effects whilst the bottom (second) row is for negative effects. Dinnerbones advice is to avoid having things on the bottom row! Item's expiring soon will flash briefly before disappearing from the screen, with the leftmost items expiring sooner vs items on the right. The image below shows these icons:


The new snapshot is available through the Minecraft launcher; simply accept the option to download experimental updates and the snapshot will be immediately available. As always, make sure you backup your worlds before playing around with the new version.