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When you're mining in a tunnel that is 1 wide and 2 high (essentially just drilling through the ground from one place to another), what is the optimal way to place torches? Is there a minimum distance that will still stop mobs from spawning? Also, does it make a difference if the torches are placed on walls or floors? Thanks!

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Always depend on the height you are. Closer to bedrock, torches have less and less effect. My guess would be that monsters will start spawning pretty much at the same place they should be if you placed your torch in a 20x20x2 room. – Fredy31 Dec 20 '12 at 4:51
@Fredy31 In fact, mob spawning do not depend on the height, see my answer below. – Kcats Dec 20 '12 at 8:52

Monsters spawn on light level of 7 or below. Torches give light level 14. Light level decreases by one with each block traveled. So you can place torches like this:

T 13 12 11 10 9 8 8 9 10 11 12 13 T

So torches have to be maximum 12 blocks apart.

When monsters are spawned, only the bottom block light level matters, so it is more effective to put torches on the ground, rather than on the wall.

The light conditions for mob spawning do not depend on the depth you are at. This is a common misconception that comes from a Notch's tweet a long time ago. However, this behavior is currently not implemented in the game (source: The Source for 1.4.5).

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Actually, it was implemented back in Alpha 1.2.0 - but it was removed again after a week, because no one liked the way it worked. – Michael Madsen Dec 20 '12 at 9:11
Just one word of warning about placing torches on the floor... If you happen to mine into a source of water (like an underground lake) be prepared to replace all the torches that get washed away by the water flow. – gnovice Dec 20 '12 at 16:10
@gnovice which is 1 or 2 at most given the water physics and water not flowing beyond 8 blocks – ratchet freak Dec 20 '12 at 16:45
@ratchetfreak: Assuming you never deviate from a perfectly flat floor, then yes. If you start digging up, say to avoid lava, then the reach of the water can be extended. – gnovice Dec 20 '12 at 17:38

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