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Taking Inventory: Shield

Our most defensive article yet?

Heading into a dangerous situation? You’ll want to equip yourself properly. A weapon, of course. Some armour - yeah, probably, but you can still get hurt wearing armour. If you want to avoid damage entirely, then what you really want to bring is our item of the week - the shield.

Shields were originally promised by Jeb in a 2011 interview and then added to the game in 2016 in the Combat Update. Prior to the arrival of shields, the only way to avoid damage was to dodge an attack or block with a sword. But now shields are a thing, and what a fantastic thing they are.

Shields are pretty simple to make - arrange six planks in a crafting grid in a Y-shape, and then pop an iron ingot into the top of the Y. You can also acquire them from Armourer villagers for in exchange for five emeralds, which to be honest is a bit on the pricey side considering its just wood and iron. 

Once crafted, you can customise your shield pretty extensively. Create a beautiful banner and pop it into a crafting grid with the shield to apply the pattern onto the shield’s front face. They can be enchanted too - with unbreaking, mending, or a curse of vanishing if you’re feeling dangerous.

Oh, you want to use the shield in combat, rather than just waltzing around with it looking pretty? Well, I guess you can do that too. Simply right-click with it, and it’ll slow you to a sneaking pace and start blocking attacks that come from the front of you. It’ll also knock back attackers, and stop you from being knocked back. But be careful - some attacks are not blockable, and axes can disable shields.

If your shield gets damaged, pop it into an anvil with some planks for a full repair that keeps the pattern. On the battlefield, you can combine two damaged shields together, but they’ll both lose their patterns.

In the real world, shields have been used since before the beginning of recorded history. Some early shields were made of metal (particularly those used for ceremonial reasons), but wood and leather construction was much more common. Even turtle shells were used in some places.

There are many ancient warriors famed for their shields, but the Ancient Greek hoplites and Roman legionnaires are particularly well known. The Romans even used their shields to create a tortoise-like formation called the “testudo”, in which a group of soldiers would be protected from arrows inside what was effectively an armoured box.

Perhaps surprisingly, shields are still in popular use today. Riot shields are commonly used by law enforcement agencies around the world, which protect their users from thrown rocks and bottles. But there are also more tactical shields that are bulletproof and can even stop rifle rounds, which are used in high-risk situations.

So I strongly advise Minecraft players who need to deal with a swarm of rioting zombies and skeletons to take some advice from real-world riot police and pack a shield. You’ll be glad of it.

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere

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