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Gas costs for even a simple contract deployment on Ethereum mainnet are astronomical. If I spin up my own node and connect directly to it can I deploy on that node and avoid/minimize the gas fees?

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No you won't. If you were to spin up your own miner you could wait to mine your own transaction. However given the current hash rate of Ethereum you would be very unlikely to find the next hash with just a consumer-grade machine. Not impossible, but would certainly take a while. Having a full node will possibly speed up propagation as you aren't competing with everyone else hitting a public endpoint.

You can think of the difference between a miner and a node, is that nodes will talk to each other about the current state of the blockchain, but miners will actually change the state of the blockchain, which other nodes then update each other on. This is an oversimplification, but I think it should do for the question you're asking.

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