Stardew Valley How To Run The Skull Cavern Efficiently

Stardew Valley Skull Cavern guide
The farmer has to enter the Skull Cavern even though he doesn't like it.

Located deep beneath the scorching sands of the Calico Deserts, the Skull Cavern contains many riches young adventurers can explore. Excited to have unlocked a new dungeon, you jumped straight in. But after just five levels, you ended up knocked out and lost all your precious items. Frustrated, you swore to ever attempt to run the dungeon again. 

Sadly, you won’t be able to progress the game without running this dungeon regularly. With the right knowledge and a bit of practice, you’ll soon be grinding heaps of Iridium Ore and Prismatic Shards. 

In this article, I’ll teach you how to run the Skull Cavern as efficiently as you possibly can. The article contains a lot of spoilers, so read it at your own risk. 


Why is running the Skull Cavern important in Stardew Valley?

Running the Skull Cavern will be one of the most important tasks in your playthrough. This dungeon is the best source of Iridium Ore and Prismatic Shards. Iridium Ore is a material you can never get enough of, no matter how far into the game you are. On the other hand, Prismatic Shards allow you to obtain the Galaxy Sword and upgrade your other tools. 

To access it, you’ll need to get the Skull Cavern Key and repair the bus. The key lies at the bottom of the Mines. You can repair the bus either via the Community Center or JoJa Warehouse. 


10 tips that will help you run the Skull Cavern more efficiently

10. Hoard bombs

Bombs will make your runs a lot faster.

One of the worst things you can get is to try to run Skull Cavern with just your pickaxe. You’ll need to hit most rocks at least twice to break them, which can take a long time. And remember, you only have until 2:AM in-game to wrap up your run.

Bombs are a much better alternative to clear Skull Cavern levels. They destroy several tiles in each area in one fell swoop. Thus, you’ll be able to find ladders and farm Iridium Ore much more efficiently. 

But before you awaken your inner pyromaniac and start hoarding bombs in Stardew Valley, you should know which types are worth making. You can craft three different types of bombs: Cherry Bombs, Bombs, and Mega Bombs. Of all three, I recommend making only Bombs and Mega Bombs.

Cherry Bombs have a pitifully small area-of-effect radius, making them useless in most situations. Bombs have a radius of 5 tiles while Mega Bombs have a radius between 6-8 depending on the direction. Use Bombs on small rock clusters and on the annoying spiral-shaped level. Whenever you need to clear huge piles of debris quickly, don’t hesitate to use your Mega Bombs. 

Sadly, these bombs aren’t the cheapest to make. To craft a regular bomb, you’ll need 4 pieces of Iron Ore and 1 Coal. On the other hand, each Mega Bomb requires 4 Gold Ore, 1 Solar Essence, and 1 Void Essence. You can farm components for Bombs in icy Mines (levels 40 - 79). Mega bombs are a bit trickier. While you can farm them in lava Mines (levels 81 to 120), it will take a while. 

Fortunately, you can buy both types from the Dwarf for 600g and 1000g respectively. I recommend buying Mega Bombs from him, especially in the late game. You can also buy a Bomb for 5 pieces of Quartz from the Desert Trader. Mega Bombs cost 5 Iridium Ore each, which isn’t worth it in my opinion.

So how many do you need to have a blast in the Skull Cavern? I usually take at least 50 of each type on the days I go to Skull Cavern. If you take fewer, I guarantee you’ll run out way before 2:AM. 

9. Use Staircases

The farmer tries to use staircases but fails...

If you’ve already hit level 100 of Skull Cavern and have nothing to prove to Mr. Qi, you can take as many staircases with you as you wish with a clear conscience. But why do you need stairs? I recommend using them to cut through the early levels. They usually contain worthless ore such as Copper and Iron, something you can farm much more efficiently in the Mines. You want to skip as many levels as you can, preferably at least 50.

Now, staircases are a much trickier business than bombs. You need as many as 99 pieces of Rock to craft just one staircase. One stack of Rock thus equals 10 staircases. Of course, you can buy the material from Robin, at the Carpenter Shop. However, each piece costs 100g after Year 2. That’s 9,900g per staircase.

A much better and sustainable way to farm staircases is by growing Jade in Crystalariums. I usually dedicate at least one entire Shed just to Crystalariums. It takes something over one day for the Crystalarium to replicate Jade. But what does Jade have to do with staircases? You can exchange each piece of Jade for one staircase at the Desert Trader. Just keep in mind you can do this only on Sundays (in-game). 

8. Use Desert Totems

Desert Totems help you teleport to the Skull Cavern right in the morning.

Although the bus will initially be the only way you can access the Calico Desert, it will quickly become obsolete. To use the bus, you must wait all the way until 10:00 AM which cuts a lot of time from your Skull Cavern run. While you can use the Pam trick, this won’t earn you much extra time.

Use Desert Warp Totems instead. Each one costs only 2 pieces of Hardwood, 1 Coconut, and 4 pieces of Iridium Ore. Even better, you can just buy them from the Desert Trader for 3 Omni Geodes, which is a great deal. These Totems are a one-way consumable ticket to the Calico Desert. You can use them whenever you want, regardless of your location. 

You can also build the Desert Obelisk. This structure costs 1,000,000g, 20 Iridium Bars, 10 Coconuts, and 10 Cactus Fruits. It works like the Desert Warp Totem but won’t be consumed on use. 

Why are Totems/Obelisks so important? The best time to run the Skull Cavern is on high-luck days. These are something of a luxury. Thus, you should make the most out of them.     Using a Totem or Obelisk will grant you extra 4 hours to mine the Skull Cavern, which is a lot. 

7. Stay until 2:00 AM

Passing out is no big deal in Stardew Valley.

One of the biggest mistakes Stardew Valley players make when running the Skull Cavern is returning early. They either use the Farm Warm Totem or Return Scepter. Worse, they just leave at 00:00 via the bus. 

This is a big mistake. The Skull Cavern progression is very linear. The deeper into its murky caves you descend, the more riches you’ll uncover (especially when it comes to Iridium Ore). Thus, it’s only logical that at 00:00 AM you will be clearing a very high level. This can make the two extra hours invaluable. 

So what if you pass out? The energy debuff isn’t a big deal and neither is the money loss. When you pass out in the Skull Cavern, you can only lose up to 1,000g which is nothing. This is the main reason I think Return Scepter is useless, though that’s a tale for another article. 

6. Bring a lot of food

Some of the best food you can take to the Skull Cavern.

A good Skull Cavern run in Stardew Valley requires a lot of food. And I don’t mean just buff food. As you work your way through the Skull Cavern, you’ll lose a lot of health in the process. The monsters are quite powerful, especially if several Serpents or Iridium Bats overwhelm you. Not to mention you’ll take damage from using bombs and jumping down the holes. 

What makes for good food? Firstly, your food can’t come with a buff. This is because different food buffs do not stack. It should also be easy to farm in large quantities. I like to cook a lot of Sashimi simply because you can make it from all types of fish, including those from Crab Pots. I also brought a lot of Iridium Quality Purple Mushrooms and Cactus Fruits. Both can replenish over 80% of your HP. They aren’t too hard to find either. 

If you don’t have enough food on you, you’ll have to play safer. This will inadvertently slow down your Skull Cavern run. 

5. Prioritize resources

These should be your priorities when farming the Skull Cavern.

The goal of a Skull Cavern run is to gather as much Iridium Ore and as many Prismatic Shards as you can. The best way to do this is to blow up Iridium Nodes with bombs. To maximize your efficiency, make sure you ignore everything else. Don’t kill any monsters unless they are in the way. Ignore all Copper, Iron, and Gold Nodes even if you could use the ore. You can find them more efficiently in the Mines. Only break these nodes if you still haven’t found the floor’s ladder. 

4. Upgrade your pickaxe to the iridium quality

A better pickaxe breaks rocks a lot faster.

Although you should use bombs whenever possible, you might have to remove small chunks of rocks with your pickaxe. Without the Iridium Pickaxe, this will take you a very long time (3 hits even for more basic nodes.) This will slow you down a lot. And believe me, spamming your pickaxe action that many times is not fun either. I’d  even go as far as say pickaxe is the first tool you should upgrade as soon as you can. 

3. Take adequate equipment

This is the ideal equipment you'll want to take.

The monsters in the Skull Cavern are quite powerful. Not only are they tough to kill, but they also deal a lot of damage. Without the Galaxy Sword, you’ll struggle to even hold your own ground. Thus, you should spend your very first Prismatic Shard on obtaining the strongest weapon in the game. 

You should also wear at least the Space Boots. These grant 4 Defense and 4 Immunity. You can find them in the chest at the 100th level of the Mines. Although you can find even stronger boots on Ginger Island, Space Boots should be solid enough to run the Skull Cavern efficiently. 

2. Maximize your luck

These will boost your luck and increase your odds of success.

 The first rule of running the Skull Cavern efficiently is maximizing your daily luck. You can achieve this in several ways. Luck increases your chances of spawning treasure rooms, mystic nodes, gem nodes, and ladders. It also boosts the drop rate of Coal and Prismatic Shards.

Firstly, check your luck via the TV’s Fortune Teller. If her reading says, ‘The spirits are very happy today! They will do their best to shower everyone with good fortune’, which means this is the perfect day to run the Skull Cavern. If the reading is neutral and below, I wouldn’t bother running it that day.

You can also receive a Special Charm that will permanently increase your daily luck. To get it, simply give the Truck driver next to JojaMart a Rabbit’s Foot. 

I use two foods to increase my luck. The first one is Magic Rock Candy. You get one when you complete the museum collection for the first time. You can buy additional ones from the Desert Trader for 3 Prismatic Shards every Thursday. Haunted Skulls may also drop it, although rarely.

Given Magic Rock Candy’s rarity, it isn’t the most reliable luck food in the game. Luckily (no pun intended), you have an alternative. Lucky Lunch increases your luck by three points. Though it is less effective than Magic Rock Candy, you only need a Sea Cucumber, Tortilla, and Blue Jazz to make it. All ingredients are easy to farm, even the Sea Cucumber. You simply need to multiply it in a Fish Pond. 

Drinking Ginger Ale will increase your Luck by one for 5 minutes. Of course, you need to unlock Ginger Island before you can craft it. You can buy the recipe from the Dwarf at the 5th level of the Volcano Dungeon. You’ll only need 3 pieces of Ginger and 1 Sugar to make it. 

The final way you can maximize your luck is by wearing two Lucky Rings. You can find them when running the Skull Cavern. If you have access to the Volcano Forge, you can combine them with an Iridium Band to get additional useful stats. 

1. Use drinks to your advantage

Drink these to make your Skull Cavern runs even easier!

I prefer using Ginger Ale when running the Skull Cavern. But before you unlock Ginger Island, you won’t be able to make this drink. Your other option Is Coffee.

Coffee is a very valuable drink for running the Skull Cavern. You can make it by placing 5 Coffee Beans in a Keg. Or you can simply buy it from Gus at the Stardrop Salon for 300g. You can also combine three pieces of Coffee to create Triple Shot Espresso. Both types increase your movement speed, though Triple Shot Espresso lasts for much longer. 

Movement speed is one of the most valuable stats when running the Skull Cavern. It allows you to place bombs and kill monsters much faster, making the run much more efficient. 

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Gamer Since: 2009
Favorite Genre: RPG
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