Block of the Week: Magma
Deep in the lowest parts of the Nether, amidst the soul sand and quartz on the shores of the lava sea, you'll find something as dangerous as it is beautiful. No, not a horde of zombie pigmen. I'm talking about magma.
"Don't step on it" was Jeb's advice when he first tweeted a screenshot of magma on 4 April 2016. The block appeared in-game for testing a few weeks later on 18 May in snapshot 16w20a, and was then released properly in version 1.10 - the Frostburn update - alongside other dangerous additions like strays, husks and polar bears.
Magma is a good block to keep a decent supply of for several handy reasons. The first is that it emits a small amount of light, making it a good choice for mood lighting in the darker corners of your home. The second is that a fire lit on top of a magma block with a flint and steel will burn indefinitely, just like netherrack. No short-lived log fireplaces any more!
The third, and perhaps most useful, is that magma blocks will deal one damage every half-second to any living entities standing on top of them, but won't destroy items. By shoving mobs into a pit lined with magma, you can easily kill them off in large numbers. Be careful collecting the drops, though - to avoid hurting yourself you'll need to sneak, use a potion of fire resistance or wear a pair of boots with the Frost Walker enchantment.
Best of all, you can conceal a magma block underneath any thin block - like a layer of snow, carpet, redstone repeater or comparator - and it'll still do full damage to anyone that walks on top. No-one will ever know that your beautiful hallway is actually a death trap!
Some people claim that that if you dig straight downward from Europe or America, you'll end up in Australia. That's not true, and we don't recommend trying - because way before you get there, you'll dig into the real-life magma that lies at the centre of our planet and burn to a crisp. Cool! Actually, the complete opposite of cool, we guess.
The magma under our feet, which occasionally pulses to the surface in the form of volcanoes, is a thick and extremely hot mixture of molten and solid rock. Many billions of years ago the whole surface of the Earth was made of magma - but the outermost layer hardened when exposed to the coldness of space, forming a crust that we live on today. In fact, it's pretty amazing that we've able to live here at all - go upward or downward a couple of kilometres, and it's impossible for humans to survive.
Magma planet photo by the European Southern Observatory