The 1.9 Combat Update has a heavy focus on improving the combat of Minecraft. Shields are a new tool that allow players to take reduced damage from melee attacks and explosions. They also completely block projectiles.
Players are now able to equip items in their offhand. This goes hand-in-hand with the addition of Shields, but there may be interesting Enchantment combinations that make equipping something other than a Shield in the offhand worthwhile. Unfortunately, using two weapons to attack or two tools to dig twice as fast is not possible.
Swords and Axes have had special attacks added. Swords have a "sweeping" special attack, and Axes have a "crushing blow" special attack. Furthermore, Axes have a chance to disable shields for a few seconds upon contact.
The End dimension has had some improvements. Among them are a new item called Elytra which are wings (equipped in the chest slot) that allow players to glide. End Cities make the scenery look a little less bland, and Chorus Plants and Chorus Flowers now dot the landscape of the otherworldly dimension. The Ender Dragon can now be resummoned, and the Shulker will populate End Cities.
Further combat improvements in the 1.9 Combat Update include the addition of Spectral Arrows and Tipped Arrows. Spectral Arrows will imbue the target with the Glowing status effect for 10 seconds. Tipped Arrows are a combination of Arrows and Potions. While you can now hit targets at greater ranges thanks to Tipped Arrows, the duration of the effect is 1/8th of the base potion.
Of course, as with all Minecraft updates there were a few additions of new block types as well in the 1.9 Combat Update. The Grass Path is 15/16ths of a block high to give the impression of depressed grass. Purpur Blocks are the foundations of End City architecture and can be turned into other types of decorative blocks in a similar fashion to Netherstone in the Nether. Lastly, End Rods provide light in End Cities and can serve as an alternative to torches.
That's some of the more interesting stuff in Minecraft's 1.9 Combat Patch. The 1.8 patch released in September of 2014 making it over a year and a half since the last major update to Minecraft. Comprehensive details can be found on the Minecraft Wiki post for the 1.9 Combat Update.
Minecraft has certainly come a long way since the beginning, but it's a bit ridiculous that they still haven't managed to remove Herobrine by now. This issue has persisted since the early days of the game and yet none of Mojang's fixes have managed to resolve this longstanding bugged NPC. That aside, the combat in Minecraft has always been pretty janky and it's nice to see some improvements put into it. Maybe all of those Hunger Games streams will be a bit more exciting now!
What do you think of the changes to combat in Minecraft? Do you feel this is an improvement on the game, or are there other issues they should have prioritized first? Let us know in the comments below!