Minecraft is upping the challenge in the upcoming 1.21 update, and it's looking rather... Ominous

Image of Ominous Trials in Minecraft 1.21.
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios | X)

What you need to know

  • The Minecraft 1.21 update has been steadily expanding with new features, mobs, and mechanics, and Mojang Studios doesn't seem to be slowing down.
  • The latest Minecraft: Java Edition snapshot is available, and it adds a new level of challenge to the new Trial Chambers.
  • Now, the Bad Omens effect (previously only useful for starting Raids in villages), can trigger Ominous Trials when infected players are nearby.
  • Ominous Trials are significantly more difficult than normal Trials, but have a chance to spawn Ominous Keys, leading to hidden Ominous Vaults filled with extra valuable and rare loot.

When it first announced, Minecraft's 2024 content update didn't seem to elicit a ton of excitement from the community, given its modest initial feature set. Well, Mojang Studios seems to have taken that personally, as the update's scope has steadily grown as the studio developed more features, content, and mechanics. The latest Minecraft: Java Edition snapshot makes the Minecraft 1.21 update even bigger, and — most importantly — more challenging.

Detailed at Minecraft.net, Minecraft: Java Edition snapshot 24w13a adds to previous major content drop with an all-new mechanic. Yeah, we just recently got a new weapon, more armor trims, and new decorative pot and banner designs. Now, the in-progress Minecraft content update is testing Ominous Trials, a new level of challenge for players to take on. Here's what's new in the latest snapshot (which is coming very soon to Minecraft Preview).

  • Bad Omens. No, this isn't the metalcore band that recently collaborated with Poppy (that'd be cool, though). Bad Omen is an effect added to Minecraft in the infamous Village & Pillage update released back in 2018. Previously, you obtained the Bad Omen effect by killing a Pillager Raid Captain (the Pillagers holding the banners). In Minecraft 1.21, that effect will be changing slightly.
    • Now, the Bad Omen effect is obtained by drinking the new Ominous Bottle potion, which comes in 5 variants and can be found in Trial Vaults or by defeating Raid Captains
    • Entering a village with Bad Omen is one way to activate an Ominous Event
    • This transforms it into a Raid Omen for thirty seconds, starting the Raid at the end of the timer (rather than immediately)
    • It can also be used to access the new Ominous Trials (read below)
    • The Bad Omen effect has a new logo design to accompany the changes
  • Ominous Trials. Trial Chambers are one of the new features in Minecraft 1.21, challenging players to navigate labyrinthian structures and take on waves of foes and traps in exchange for valuable loot. Ominous Trials are Trial Chambers turned up to 11, with more danger at every turn (and more rewards at the end).
    • Ominous Trials can be accessed by approaching a Trial Chamber with the Bad Omen effect
    • When affected players get near a Trial Chamber, the Bad Omen will turn into a Trial Omen with a duration of 15 minutes times the level of the Bad Omen effect (determined by the variant of Ominous Bottle)
    • Any nearby Trial Chambers can be affected, and those Trial Spawners will transform into an Ominous Trial Spawner, which has a much higher chance of spawning more dangerous hostile mobs carrying weapons and armor
    • Ominous Trial Spawners can also spawn projectiles, potions, and mob effects above players or hostile mobs
    • Defeating the Ominous Trial Spawner challenge will offer different, more valuable rewards than normal Trial Chambers, and even has a chance to drop Ominous Keys
    • Ominous Keys can be used to unlock Ominous Vaults, rare chests that give extremely valuable loot to each player with a key
    • Ominous Vaults are also hidden around Trial Chambers, but are more difficult to find
  • Other changes. The headline for this particular snapshot is definitely all the Ominous business, but there are other new features and changes worth highlighting here.
    • For one, the new Maces can now be enchanted, with three available enchantments entirely unique to the weapon class (Density increases the damage of falling smash attacks, Breach adds armor piercing damage, and Wind Burst causes a knockback effect and sends the player into the air for another smash attack)
    • New mob effects, which can be crafted by players using Awkward Potions, have also been added to make Ominous Trial Chambers more interesting, including making enemies spawn Wind Bursts, cobwebs, or Slime upon death, or giving mobs a chance to spawn Silverfish when hurt
    • Trial Chambers and Spawners have been tweaked and balance with new difficulties, loot tables, and designs
    • The Mace has been tweaked to be a more powerful and effective weapon overall, but is now harder to obtain as the necessary Heavy Core crafting item can only be found in Ominous Vaults

The Mace is now even more effective at smashing your enemies. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Honestly, I'm loving the direction the Minecraft 1.21 update is taking. In addition to brand-new mechanics directly targeting more advanced Minecraft players eager for more difficulty, Mojang Studios is introducing plenty of interesting new features and even long-awaited community requests, like new wolf variants and customizable wolf armor. This content update feels like a much-needed boost for what has been one of the best Xbox games for a long time, now.

If you want to learn more, you can check out our in-depth FAQ on the Minecraft 1.21 update. In more recent news, Mojang has added a new, optional Game Pass-like subscription to the Minecraft Marketplace. Now, though, I'm eagerly looking ahead to the impending release of the Minecraft 1.21 update, which I'm expecting to land on Xbox, Windows PC, PlayStation, Switch, and mobile devices later this year (possibly during the summer).

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.