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Can't Seem to Find Iron


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Hello all. I've got multiple chunks of Ultra High Magnetite prospected out but when I actually shaft down into the chunks, I can't seem to find any. I've got a layer of andesite from about Y50 all the way down to Y1. Magnetite should be spawning here. But I've already gone through about 3 tin picks and almost 2 prospecting picks and still haven't found any ore at all. Am I doing something wrong? Am I incorrect in my belief that there should be magnetite in a location like this? There is a very thick layer of basalt from the surface that extends down to where the andesite starts, which I know magnetite won't spawn in. But with andesite between Y50 and Y1 that should be well within the depth that magnetite can spawn at, no? Should I try setting my prospecting pick to an obnoxiously high number (it's currently at eight) just to see if there is in fact any ore in these chunks? Thanks for any input or feedback.

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  • Solution
  • You are not doing anything wrong
  • You are correct to expect magnetite at this location
  • You are somewhat unlucky and lack experience

Not all ores are created alike. Indeed, there is a bit of a scale to them, in terms of difficulty of finding them. The common ores, something like copper and bismuthinite, and to some extend even cassiterite? They're easy to find by just going through the motions with the prospecting pick. Hunt down a nice, high peak value with Density Search, dig vertically down in that place, perhaps take the occasional Node Search sample along the way - and you're virtually guaranteed to hit ore. Every time.

But the more exotic and/or advanced ores, they have quirks. Things to know about each of them that inform the way you search and the way you dig for that particular ore. It partially starts with cassiterite, where knowing to dig in a place with all-igneous stone top to bottom will noticeably increase your chances over places with just an igneous bottom layer. And then comes iron - and it's a completely different beast. All of the iron ores, to some extend, but especially magnetite.

You see, to generate ores, the game rolls a number of tries each chunk. It picks a random block within the ore's spawn range in that chunk, and rolls a die against the spawn chance in that location. If you've got an Ultra High reading, the chance to succeed this roll approaches 100%; if you've got a Miniscule reading, it's almost guaranteed to fail (but only almost). When the roll succeeds, the game tries placing an ore vein centered on that block. Now, this may still fail - perhaps it picked an invalid block that cannot host this ore. Or maybe a cave generated later-on might turn everything in that area, including the ore vein, into air. But if the block is the correct host rock, then it and surrounding host rock blocks are replaced by a disc of ore of a certain size, as defined in the ore's spawn config. Then the game rolls another try, up to the number of tries per chunk as defined in the ore's spawn config. It does this for every chunk.

Up to iron, every ore has multiple tries per chunk. Some of them have two-digit tries per chunk. Iron... doesn't. Iron has fewer than one tries per chunk. Magnetite, in particular, sits at an abysmal 0.3 tries per chunk.

Now, when the game goes to roll for a spawn, it has to make two rolls. First it needs to roll whether or not it is even allowed to roll. And with Magnetite, it has a 70% chance to fail this roll. So your Ultra High chunk, where Magnetite has a near guaranteed chance to make its spawn roll? It failed to even be allowed to try. And that's why there isn't anything there, despite what the prospecting indicates.

The takeaway here is that when searching for iron, and magnetite in particular, it's not enough to examine just that one chunk with the highest reading. You need to examine enough chunks to overcome the ore's chance of failing to be allowed to try to spawn. In return, when you do find an iron vein, it's going to be absolutely ginormous and you're unlikely to need to look for another vein for a long, long time.

Iron discs are over fifty blocks in diameter. This means that, since you didn't find any indication of iron in your current shaft despite eight blocks of Node Search range, it is safe for you to go fifty to sixty blocks away to dig another shaft. Continue picking locations with high readings, and/or make some sort of grid around your Ultra High result. You can try closer than fifty blocks, of course, if you're afraid of missing something; but the smaller you make your search grid, the more shafts you may have to dig until you find a vein.

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Also, don't rely too much on the density, reported by the prospecting pick. I have encountered huge amounts of gold and silver in chunks where these materials aro not even mentioned in the ore density report and 2 deposits of iron ore in a chunk which reads "Very poor"...

I ususally dig a shaft while taking samples with the prospecting pick every 16 blocks vertically to find if there is something of interest nearby (Y = 100, 84, 68, 52, etc.). When finished with the shaft, I seal it with a dirt block, move some distance away (e.g. 32 blocks) and dig another one. Using rope ladders helps tremendously as these can be gathered from the top and re-used in the next shaft.

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Just to add 3 cents to Streetwind' knowledge:

1) very often the iron area (as well as salt dome) has very low stability. If you are in very stable area - no iron.

2) sometimes there's a chance for two, or even three iron deposits to be generated relatively close, few chunks apart. So propicking the very middle between the lenses will show  enormous amounts of iron while in fact the iron lenses are located around the shaft.

 3) not in your case which is UltraHigh, but generally speaking, propicking the same area with 3 different probe sets may show you the direction of searches. I.e. you stand on the same block, and then make 3 times 3 probes (9 in total) each time starting with another direction (E, W, N/S) - the difference between the readings may show you exact direction to move to (E/W/N/S).

Another tip to optimize on shafting - make the rope ladders instead of regular. And in case of iron - make the probes at propick distance*2 -3. E.g. for 6, it is each 9th block vertically. For 8 it is every 13th block.

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1 hour ago, BenLi said:

1) very often the iron area (as well as salt dome) has very low stability. If you are in very stable area - no iron.

Do you have a source for that? Other than anecdotal experience, I mean? Because I'm pretty sure that's not a thing. Like 99% sure. Feel free to prove me wrong, though :)

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1 hour ago, Streetwind said:

Do you have a source for that? Other than anecdotal experience, I mean? Because I'm pretty sure that's not a thing. Like 99% sure. Feel free to prove me wrong, though :)

solely empiric experience. tens of deposits.

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8 hours ago, BenLi said:

3) not in your case which is UltraHigh, but generally speaking, propicking the same area with 3 different probe sets may show you the direction of searches. I.e. you stand on the same block, and then make 3 times 3 probes (9 in total) each time starting with another direction (E, W, N/S) - the difference between the readings may show you exact direction to move to (E/W/N/S).

A clarification on this: the only block that matters for the results of prospecting is the first one in the set.

IE: Say you take your first reading of your prospecting set on the block with coordinates (754, 102, -458). If after you complete a set by taking readings at blocks (754, 102, -463) and (754, 102, -468) (and thus get a result) you use a whole rock block to replace the hole at (754, 102, -458) and use it to take a new set of readings with blocks at (759, 102, -458) and (764, 102, -458), the results of both sets will be identical.

Edited by Hells Razer
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11 hours ago, BenLi said:

solely empiric experience. tens of deposits.

I find the same, but kind of in a roundabout way. If I'm in a high iron area, I can often find caverns in the most unstable areas nearby, and these caverns often expose the vein.

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On 11/19/2022 at 4:31 AM, Streetwind said:
  • You are not doing anything wrong
  • You are correct to expect magnetite at this location
  • You are somewhat unlucky and lack experience

Not all ores are created alike. Indeed, there is a bit of a scale to them, in terms of difficulty of finding them. The common ores, something like copper and bismuthinite, and to some extend even cassiterite? They're easy to find by just going through the motions with the prospecting pick. Hunt down a nice, high peak value with Density Search, dig vertically down in that place, perhaps take the occasional Node Search sample along the way - and you're virtually guaranteed to hit ore. Every time.

But the more exotic and/or advanced ores, they have quirks. Things to know about each of them that inform the way you search and the way you dig for that particular ore. It partially starts with cassiterite, where knowing to dig in a place with all-igneous stone top to bottom will noticeably increase your chances over places with just an igneous bottom layer. And then comes iron - and it's a completely different beast. All of the iron ores, to some extend, but especially magnetite.

You see, to generate ores, the game rolls a number of tries each chunk. It picks a random block within the ore's spawn range in that chunk, and rolls a die against the spawn chance in that location. If you've got an Ultra High reading, the chance to succeed this roll approaches 100%; if you've got a Miniscule reading, it's almost guaranteed to fail (but only almost). When the roll succeeds, the game tries placing an ore vein centered on that block. Now, this may still fail - perhaps it picked an invalid block that cannot host this ore. Or maybe a cave generated later-on might turn everything in that area, including the ore vein, into air. But if the block is the correct host rock, then it and surrounding host rock blocks are replaced by a disc of ore of a certain size, as defined in the ore's spawn config. Then the game rolls another try, up to the number of tries per chunk as defined in the ore's spawn config. It does this for every chunk.

Up to iron, every ore has multiple tries per chunk. Some of them have two-digit tries per chunk. Iron... doesn't. Iron has fewer than one tries per chunk. Magnetite, in particular, sits at an abysmal 0.3 tries per chunk.

Now, when the game goes to roll for a spawn, it has to make two rolls. First it needs to roll whether or not it is even allowed to roll. And with Magnetite, it has a 70% chance to fail this roll. So your Ultra High chunk, where Magnetite has a near guaranteed chance to make its spawn roll? It failed to even be allowed to try. And that's why there isn't anything there, despite what the prospecting indicates.

The takeaway here is that when searching for iron, and magnetite in particular, it's not enough to examine just that one chunk with the highest reading. You need to examine enough chunks to overcome the ore's chance of failing to be allowed to try to spawn. In return, when you do find an iron vein, it's going to be absolutely ginormous and you're unlikely to need to look for another vein for a long, long time.

Iron discs are over fifty blocks in diameter. This means that, since you didn't find any indication of iron in your current shaft despite eight blocks of Node Search range, it is safe for you to go fifty to sixty blocks away to dig another shaft. Continue picking locations with high readings, and/or make some sort of grid around your Ultra High result. You can try closer than fifty blocks, of course, if you're afraid of missing something; but the smaller you make your search grid, the more shafts you may have to dig until you find a vein.

Thank you so much Streetwind, as well as everyone else who took the time to reply. It sounds like I just need to keep at it and avoid getting discouraged. The fact that I can move further away before making a new shaft due to the potentially large size of the deposits is promising though. Should save me some time.

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