Minecraft, as the pinnacle of open-world sandbox games, has no true ending. But a pivotal accomplishment in any Minecraft world is defeating the Ender Dragon, as it gives you a ton of experience and unhindered access to the End dimension, where the best loot tables in the game are hidden away in End Cities. But if you aren't prepared for it, the fight can be deadly, especially in hardcore mode.
The End Stronghold
First, you need to find the stronghold using Eyes of Ender. Getting enough enderpearls to do this can be a difficult task, especially in older versions of the game, but there are many ways to do it efficiently.
The go-to method of getting enderpearls is, of course, to kill endermen. The best places to find them are very open, flat areas where you can see a good distance; places like plains, deserts, and badlands. In version 1.16 and higher, the best place to find them is in Warped Forests, where they spawn much more frequently than any other biome.
Bartering with Piglins
In versions 1.16 and above, you can barter with Piglins to get enderpearls using gold. It could take a while to get enough this way, since the Piglins' bartering table has a lot of stuff on it,
Trading with Villagers
Lastly, expert-level Cleric Villagers have a good chance (but not a 100% chance) to trade enderpearls for emeralds.
Once you have enough enderpearls (20 is a good number to aim for), turn them into Eyes of Ender using blaze powder, and right-click to throw them. They will fly towards the nearest stronghold; travel in that direction, then throw another, and repeat this process until the Eye travels downwards. At that point, you're right on top of the stronghold.
So, you’ve found the portal room and have enough Eyes of Ender to open the portal. The first thing you should do, though, is create a linked Nether portal (find our article about Nether hubs and linked portals on our blog's front page) that leads to the stronghold, and then turn around and go right back to your home base. Dying in the dragon fight could very well cause you to lose all of your precious items to the void, and if you're in hardcore mode, you'll lose your entire world. It's important to be prepared in any way you can -- too much preparation is always better than too little when it comes to this fight.
The first thing you should consider is your armor. You should have diamond armor at this point, if not fully-enchanted diamond. Not all enchantments are particularly necessary for the fight; the most important one is Protection IV. Unbreaking and Mending are both nice to have, but aren't essential for this. It's a very good idea to have at least Feather Falling III on your boots, if not IV.
You should always bring a pickaxe. Sometimes your spawning platform will spawn inside the End Island, meaning you'll need to dig out; and if you run out of blocks, you'll need to collect more from the island itself. Like armor, Unbreaking and Mending are nice, but not essential; for a pickaxe, Efficiency IV or V is enough.
A sword and a bow are essential for this fight (or an axe if you prefer that over a sword). Your sword should have Sharpness IV or V on it, and your bow should have Power IV or V. Having Infinity on your bow is ideal, but not essential as long as you have a couple stacks of arrows.
While often overlooked, potions can be extremely helpful in this fight. Consider making utility potions like Strength, Regeneration, or Instant Health; if you like using them, potions like Leaping or Swiftness can also be helpful. But the most essential potion, and one that you should never take this fight without, is Slow Falling. It will prevent you from taking damage from jumping off (or being knocked off) the obsidian towers, and will give you time to throw an enderpearl to safety if you're knocked off the island.
During the fight, you'll probably be taking quite a bit of damage, meaning your saturation will go down quickly. Steak and Golden Carrots are both good options for saturation, and Golden Apples are excellent to have for the absorption hearts and regeneration.
Carved Pumpkin: While you might be reluctant to give up the Protection IV you get from your helmet, wearing a carved pumpkin will prevent endermen from becoming hostile towards you when you look at them. This can be very useful for this fight, since having to deal with the dragon and a horde of endermen is not the ideal situation.
Shield: A shield can be useful against both the dragon's attacks and against any endermen you provoke.
Enderpearls: It's a good idea to keep a couple of enderpearls on you so that you can get back to the End Island if you're knocked off or if you need to get down from an obsidian tower quickly.
Water Bucket: If your Slow Falling potions run out, a water bucket clutch could be the only thing between you and dying from fall damage.
Blocks: You'll need lots of blocks to build with to get up obsidian towers or build roofs to hide from endermen.
After the Fight
Minecraft is a unique game, in that the “final boss fight” is actually just a stepping stone; there is no true “ending” to Minecraft, and in many cases there’s actually more gameplay after the fight than before it. But once the fight is over and the End Poem rolls, what next?
The Outer End Islands and Completing the End
Each time an Ender Dragon dies, a new End Gateway spawns; up to 20 of these can be spawned in a circle around the End Island. Defeating the dragon 20 times to spawn 20 gateways is referred to as "Completing the End."
End Gateways grant the player access to the outer end islands, and on these islands are End Cities. These structures have chests in them with the best loot table in the game, which includes enchanted diamond armor and weapons. They are also populated by Shulkers, which sometimes drop Shulker Shells; these can be used to create Shulker Boxes, an essential mass storage solution for late-game players.
Most importantly, though, these End Cities sometimes spawn with an End Ship near them. And these ships hold an item that is, in the author's humble opinion, the best item in the game, bar none: the Elytra. The item allows the player to traverse incredible distances, mitigates all fall damage if used right, and lets you fly everywhere using nothing but fireworks.
Minecraft is one of the only games out there that has no true ending. Everything in the world is at the player's fingertips -- every resource, block, and item can be collected and used in many different ways. The player can continue exploring, adventuring, building, creating, and playing to their heart's content. Minecraft is unique in this way, I think; though there are milestones like the dragon fight and defeating the Wither, the world truly is what the player makes of it -- and it's a world that's theirs for the taking.