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I'm trying to make a vanilla spleef arena, with a redstone clock attached to a /setblock command. No matter how I tried, I could not get the command to set the block under the player air. this was the closest I got: /setblock ~ ~-1 ~ air is there some way I can attach the ~ ~-1 ~ to @p? If not what is another way to do this?

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What you are looking for is the amazing execute command:

Executes a command on behalf of one or more other entities, with originating permissions, optionally on condition that a single-block /testforblock-style check passes.

The syntax is:

execute <entity> <x> <y> <z> <command …> 

<entity> is a target selector, such as @a, <x> <y> <z> are coordinates from which to execute the following <command …> from. In most cases, setting this to ~ ~ ~ (i.e. the exact location of the entity) is fine. To set the block under every player to air, you can use

execute @a ~ ~ ~ setblock ~ ~-1 ~ air
  • 1.13 syntax: /execute positioned as @a run setblock ~ ~-1 ~ air – pppery Aug 26 '18 at 3:01

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