I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority when I say that I’d rather dig a trench than go spelunking in Minecraft. The whole point of Minecraft is going into deep caves, exploring, discovering dungeons and strongholds, fighting off monsters and finding diamonds. Then most likely going round in circles as you wander through caverns and try to remember which way the exit is.
Me though? I’m not into that.
It’s mainly two things. Firstly, skeletons are bastards. Every other mob in the game is fine, but I hate skeletons and their dumb sounds and their stupid aim. The only good thing about them is when they die in sunlight and drop free arrows and bones. Or when you make a mob farm around a dungeon spawner and can mass-slaughter them for easy experience.
The second thing is getting lost. This isn’t normally that much of a problem because I try to make a compass as soon as possible. But having a compass (or a map for that matter) isn’t always that helpful because you can be directly under your spawn point and still be stuck deep underground. But compasses only seem to point towards the world spawn, not your own spawn point if you’ve used a bed. Depending on their mood. Compasses are prissy bitches.
Of course, you can use markers and torches and things like that. Blocks of sand or exotic wood make for good, simple markers to show where you’ve been. But you’re still going to be running around, fighting monsters, avoiding lava and things like that. You might fall into a patch of lava, or get blown up by a creeper, or have something sneak up on you. Or you might run out of pickaxes, torches and other tools. Or you might die and lose those 4 diamonds you found. The list is endless.
That doesn’t happen so much with artificial mine shafts. Or strip mines. Or player-made caves. Or whatever you want to call them. Because you dig your own path, you have a better idea which way to go to get home.
But in top of that, if you use a system similar to mine, you may find more diamonds.
You see, diamonds only spawn in particular places – generally anywhere below 22. That is, block 22 on the Y axis (view-able via the debug screen which can be toggled on and off with F3). Apparently diamonds are most common on block 15, but I don’t know if that’s true or not, I just know that the game uses less tries to spawn diamond and only spawns it below a certain point. The problem is though, lava spawns far more commonly at ‘diamond’ level too.
Now, one can create massive, square caves and dig out every single block looking for diamonds. But unless you really, really need cobblestone (cobblestone deserves more credit, it’s useful stuff), then digging out a massive area is far less efficient.
My own mine shafts, they are generally quite simple. I dig down to block 12, then create 1×2 or 1×3 tunnels, set one or two blocks apart. This means I can see every block at levels 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 (assuming 1×3 tunnels) and don’t have to dig up nearly as much cobblestone. More importantly, this mining system, like anything else that starts on level 12, avoids most lava lakes. Lava spawns elsewhere as well, meaning this mining system isn’t foolproof, but as long as you have water on hand and have Particles on (which enables the dripping lava particles when lava is one block above you) then you should be pretty safe.
Mobs are also not too much of a problem, as long as you use torches. I always place mine on the left hand side of a wall, so I know which way to go whenever I turn around and go back, or if I veer off course or break into a cave system. Because each tunnel is only 1 block wide, spiders and slimes can’t spawn, and Endermen won’t spawn in 1×2 tunnels.
Admittedly, this way of mining is pretty boring and not nearly as exciting and reckless as traversing caves and exploring normally. But if you’re looking for efficiency and tons of resources, then an artificial mine shaft is the way to go.