A large part of Terraria’s gameplay revolves around digging and naturally, you have many tools at your disposal to dig as efficiently as you can. All of those tools can be sorted into two categories, pickaxes, and drills. Now, if you asked which group of tools was better pre-patch 1.4 the answer would be obvious. Pickaxes have been better for the most part of Terraria’s history, with patch 1.4 drills having been greatly improved and now, we’re not sure anymore. When it comes to drill and pickaxe, let’s see what are the differences between the two and which one should you choose.
Drills are by default better than pickaxes in Terraria since Laser Drill is the most powerful mining tool in Terraria. However, if you plan on boosting your mining speed you should stick with pickaxes as drills can’t benefit from speed boosts.
I am aware that our answer is not as clear-cut as you were expecting. If you stick with the rest of the article and our analysis of the subject you’ll see why we’re a bit reluctant when it comes to declaring the winner. If you’re interested stay with us and keep reading!
Editor’s Note: This guide has been updated to reflect the current state of the game. Drills are still a better choice when it comes to various tools and their abilities.
Pickaxes in Terraria
Pickaxes are the first mining tool you will have in Terraria. In the early game, they are the only mining tool that you have at your disposal naturally. Currently, there are 31 different pickaxes in the game ranging from extremely inefficient to absolute monsters.
With pickaxes you can remove both blocks and furniture, they deal damage as well so they can be used as weapons too. The most powerful pickaxes currently in the game (based on their base values) are Luminite Pickaxes.
Drills in Terraria
While powerful, drills are not available from the start. Drills are a hardmode tool that was imagined as an alternative to pickaxes. Most higher-end pickaxes have their drill counterparts. Drills also count as a weapon since they deal projectile-based damage to enemies. Currently, there are 13 different drills available in Terraria with the Laser Drill being the most efficient.
Drills vs. pickaxes: original investment
We’re going to compare the highest tier of drills and pickaxes available in the game, those in the Luminite category. As you can see from the images below they require the exact same amount of material to be crafted.
Considering that they “cost” the same to make, this one is a draw. Overall Pickaxes are “cheaper” to make since they are available from the start of the game which can’t be said for drills, but to be fair, we won’t be using this as an argument.
Drills 0, Pickaxes 0
Drills vs. pickaxes: mining
This next comparison is probably the most important. While both pickaxes and drills have nearly identical stats there are two major differences. Pickaxes dig slower but have greater range. When it comes to drills, the opposite is true, while they are generally faster they have a shorter range. You can see the efficiency comparison in the image below taking all factors into account.
Taking everything into account the most efficient pickaxes in the game, the ones from the Luminite category are still only the second best mining tool in the game, Laser Drills are slightly better and thus this point goes to drills.
Drills 1, Pickaxes 0
Drills vs. pickaxes: modifications
It is a known fact that drills cannot benefit from melee speed enhancements which makes pickaxes a better option if you want to maximize your mining speed. Only universal modifications can be applied to drills, and Godly, Demonic, and Superior modifications are considered the best. Thus when it comes to modifications, pickaxes take this point since a modified pickaxe can be much faster than the base-speed drill.
Drills 1, Pickaxes 1
Drills vs. pickaxes: combat
Both drills and pickaxes can be used in combat but there are differences. Pickaxes are considered melee weapons while drills have projectile-based damage. Projectile damage of drills is based on NPC immune timer and not with a weapon collision using the item’s usetime. This makes drills a superior weapon.
Drills 2, Pickaxes 1
Version 1.4 was supposed to equalize the major differences between pickaxes and drills. And it managed to do just that.
As you can see from our analysis drills are only slightly better than pickaxes, and that goes only for base values.
If you want to prioritize mining speed pickaxes are still your best choice, to be more precise Shroomite Digging Claws are your best choice. Pickaxes benefit from a larger range as well which is good for strip-mining. Your best bet, in this case, are Luminite Pickaxes.
Even though Laser Drills are currently the best mining tool in the game you can clearly see that it doesn’t hold true for every situation. Besides, pickaxes have one more added plus as they can break furniture as well.