I've been playing survival for a few hours in the latest snapshots.
I explored around 10 exposed to surface caves and found no Iron early game. I know it's intentionally to cut them back early game, but it should still be possible to find a few. Scattered irons have many interesting uses. Completely getting rid of them disincentivizes exploring caves, and limits my early game play style.
At the start of the strip mining, I came across a cave system at level 30, which is closed to peek spawn of iron. I fully explored it found only 30 irons. The spawn fade out is so extreme that the moment I step out of that level, almost no iron can be found. 20 out of the 30 irons were found at Y30 of the cave system. Making exploring the rest of the cave a waste of time.
I stripped mined at Y32 at my feet. I found around another 20 at with my first iron pick. I later comeback for another mining trip, broke 2 iron pickaxes and a half and found a stack of coal, and 10 copper.
TLDR; 1. I find the lack of iron in near surface caves disincentivize exploring them and limits early game options. 2. Even at optimal mining level, either caving and strip mining, is not giving me enough iron for just pickaxes, let alone making some lanterns.
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