Reading, and participating in, a few of the more popular recent threads about optimal or near-optimal approaches to the first Spring, such as the ocean fishing thread, the tulips vs. parsnips thread and the spring powergamer thread by @ShneekeyTheLost made me question one or two fundamental assumptions that seem widespread, and I thought I'd re-examine my own tendencies along with it It seems like everyone and their dog is always hating on the basic Sprinkler, with criticisms including that it doesn't water enough crops, and that it is too expensive for what little it does manage to water. These alleged failings seem to go unchallenged and I think it's about time we investigated their validity Introduction A very popular goal for a new farm, and with very good reason, is to reach, as quickly as possible, the point when you are able to put the watering can in a chest, and then just forget about it forever. And there seems to be a widely held view that the only reasonable way to do this is to be aiming for at least a scarecrow's worth of about 20 Quality Sprinklers by the end of spring, to water summer crops automatically. But getting done everything that actually needs to be done to position yourself for extensive watering coverage by Quality Sprinklers by the end of spring is not trivial. Far from impossible, of course, but not exactly easy either, because unless you get epic amounts of rain, it commits you to using thousands of units of energy to water everything, and even that is on a large number of the most expensive crops, that cost a lot of money to purchase. That necessitates the acquisition of thousands more units of energy to be able to do all the other things that enable you to afford all those expenses. And that usually entails industrial quantities of fishing, which comes with the caveat of engaging in a minigame that can best be described as not universally adored. So, although we already know that the Sprinkler is objectively not as good at watering as its big brother, the question is, particularly in the early game, can it offer other things to make up for this reduced coverage? Comparing the contenders First, let's quickly quantify the difference between the two and see what we're up against. Before we crunch any numbers, it's important to note that the cross-shaped watering pattern of a well-placed array of Sprinklers will tessellate perfectly, so they lose no further ground to their square-shaped competitors, either in duplication of watering, or in unwatered tiles. Laying out the correct placement pattern for this cross shape might take a little getting used to, but once you get it down pat, you can replicate it almost as quickly as for the simpler shape of the Quality Sprinkler; it's not significantly more difficult, and only takes longer because there are simply more items to place. OK, the numbers are in, and here they are - the Quality Sprinkler occupies one tile for every eight tiles it waters, so the usable crop space is 8/9, or 88.88%. The more basic Sprinkler occupies one tile for every four it waters, so the usable crop space is 4/5, or 80%. If we now divide one by the other, we find that the Quality Sprinkler gets 11.11% more crops of out the same total area. Honestly, that doesn't really sound like a huge deal to me, certainly not in the early part of the game. So, the first thing we find out is that unless you're planning to use almost literally every last plot on the farm for crops, you aren't really going to lose any farming capacity by using the basic option. Even if you are planning on eventually planting a huge crop, you're probably not reaching that extreme amount within the first few weeks, that's probably a goal for at least the second year, making the basic Sprinkler a viable option at the start. So, sure, it takes an extra minute or two to lay out, you need to clear a little more debris to be able to plant the same total crop volume, and you might even need another scarecrow, but those shouldn't be deal breakers. Accessibility How else can we compare the two? Let's start with accessibility. The Quality Sprinkler isn't unlocked until Farming 6, which needs a hefty 3300 XP, but the Sprinkler is available at Farming 2 for just over one tenth of that, a mere 380 XP, which you can conceivably reach on day 5 by harvesting 48 parsnips planted on day 1. Or, if you don't want to splurge all your cash on extra crops on the first day, you could replant about 33 parsnips on day 5 and get there let on day 9, or plant 17 kale or 20 potatoes and get there on day 11. Either way, it's neither a significant watering effort nor a big cash investment to gain access to Sprinklers. But after your first 15 parsnips, it's a whopping 188 kale or 228 potatoes, or a truly colossal 398 parsnips, to hit Farming 6. Unlocking Quality Sprinklers will cost you more than eleven times as much in both effort and investment. So, Sprinklers can be crafted very quickly, and if you plan ahead and plant to fit their layout from the very start, you can add a few Sprinklers each day very early in the game, and reap the immediate benefit of slowly getting more crops watered each day, to allow you to quickly increase the amount of available mining time and energy each day, but if you're chasing Quality Sprinklers you'll be chained to the watering can for much longer. Furthermore, you won't be tempted to buy the copper can upgrade when Sprinklers can be unlocked so soon; after your initial parsnips, it's fewer than 100 individual waters with the basic can, and only 2 more refills, potentially saving 2,000g and 5 copper bars along with an enormous amount of time. Compare with the Quality Sprinkler, which needs almost 1,200 uses of the basic can, or a staggering 30 refills, plus a lot more hoeing as well, and the temptation to spend money and copper on a can upgrade is more difficult to avoid. Another thing we could use to compare the two is furnace time for the ingredients. Copper bars take 30 minutes, iron bars take 120 minutes, gold bars take 300 minutes and refined quartz takes 90 minutes. So, each Sprinkler uses up 150 minutes of furnace time, or 37.5 minutes per tile, and each Quality Sprinkler consumes 510 minutes, or 63.75 minutes per tile. So, it'll take 70% more time to smelt everything for equivalent watering coverage by Quality Sprinklers, or you'll just need to craft 70% more furnaces, which means acquiring a lot more copper ore. Getting the ingredients Now let's look at getting the raw ingredients. Shortly I'll imagine the hypothetical cost of buying everything, but realistically you're mining all of it, so let's look at that physical act. If you're using Quality Sprinklers, you can reasonably expect to find sufficient quartz as you spend time in the mines getting the ore, so that's basically a freebie. Coal is a common bottleneck, and it looks like the Sprinkler performs less well here. You need 0.5 coal per tile watered with a Sprinkler. Finally the Quality Sprinkler has got on the scoreboard, costing only 0.375 coal per tile. While you're farming iron on floor 41, which will be required either way, you'll likely come across plenty of dust sprites to slaughter for coal. This isn't likely to be enough, however, so you can expect to need to top it up by breaking the shiny gray rocks you'll see on either 21 or 81 while farming copper or gold, as they have a fair chance of dropping extra coal along with their guaranteed stones. If you do have to go further out of your way hunting for coal, that's obviously a win for the Quality Sprinkler as it doesn't require as much. Another small advantage for the Quality Sprinkler is that, assuming you choose the Miner profession, and mostly avoid using explosives, each tile watered saves about 14% on energy for swings of the basic pickaxe. So it looks like it'll also take longer to mine for Sprinkler coverage, but it's not quite as simple as that. The flip side is that to mine the gold you first need to descend an extra 40 floors, and that's around two whole days lost to the extra descent time. It's also much more dangerous to loiter on floor 81 to get gold than it is on floor 21 to get copper. You can virtually ignore whatever monsters are on floor 21, or kill them with just one or two blows from one of the more powerful weapons you'll quickly find in a crate on floor 41 while getting iron ore. But the void spirits and red slimes on 81 will make mincemeat out of you, if you don't waste time either taking evasive action or facing up to them, and you won't kill them with a single blow. While mining copper, you'll only really need food for Energy, so you won't actually eat much each day. But getting gold, you'll actually be eating to sustain HP while mining, and that tends to get very expensive very quickly, another hidden cost for Quality Sprinklers, and the early gains in reduced energy and less coal are quickly eroded by these indirect costs. The reality is that, in the early part of the game, per tile watered, it's actually easier, safer and faster to get what you need for basic Sprinklers than for Quality Sprinklers Cost comparison As I mention the word cost, now let's have a look in financial terms at the assumed prohibitive cost of the basic Sprinkler. There are a number of ways this could be measured, and the first way I'll look at it is the saleable value of the ingredients. By this yardstick, without any perks, the Quality Sprinkler costs 250+120+50=420g, and the Sprinkler costs 120+60=180g. If we then work out the cost per tile watered, then without any perks, the Quality Sprinkler is 420/8 = 52.5g per tile, while the Sprinkler is 180/4 = 45g per tile. There's a surprise winner here, and maybe not the one we were expecting; the Quality Sprinkler is actually 16.66% more expensive per tile watered. OK, if you're too lazy to mine your own ore, another way to measure cost would be how much to simply buy the ingredients, and I'll use Year 1 prices for this. I know that buying ore is, for the most part, so expensive as to be a mug's game, but let's see anyway. The Sprinkler needs 5 copper ore, 5 iron ore and 2 coal, costing a total of 375+750+300=1425g, or about 356g per tile watered. The Quality Sprinkler needs 5 iron ore, 5 gold ore, a quartz and 3 coal, and here we hit an obstacle, because you can't buy quartz anywhere, you actually have to go out and find it yourself. So, let's assume that you still find it for free somehow, and then it's 750+2000+450=3200g, or 400g per tile watered. Once again, the Sprinkler takes the win, with the Quality Sprinkler working out at over 12% more expensive, and at year 2 prices the gap between the two would only get bigger. And as both items are actually sellable via the shipping bin, it's the same story there too; Sprinklers sell for 100g each, tying up 25g per tile watered, whereas the Quality Sprinklers sell for 450g, which is about 56g per tile watered, a whopping 124% more expensive. So, whichever way you look at it, in return for that extra 11% crop space, the financial cost of the Quality Sprinkler is higher per watered plot, by an amount greater than the extra crops it would otherwise water. Summary Looking towards the longer term, the Sprinkler only really starts to struggle to compete if you want to fill the whole farm with crops, or grow huge numbers of hops, neither of which are realistic year 1 strategies for any but the most hardcore min-maxers, and I'm not aiming this thread in their direction. For anything else you're likely to grow in year 1, once you tally up the pros and cons of each, the Sprinkler has much more going for it than I realised, and it's hard to justify skipping them entirely. Once the Quality Sprinkler is unlocked, and the mines opened up to allow resources for them to flow freely, then of course you should start to add those instead, as you probably now want copper for tappers and kegs anyway. But there seems to me to be no reason not to make 30 or 40 of the basic Sprinkler as soon as you can, and let them take the strain of watering your strawberries and other spring crops, then leave them there for the rest of the first year, before upgrading them in winter. Best of all, you can get all of this done, in time to water all your strawberries, without needing to catch a single fish, either for food or money. With only minimal energy needed each day for watering a handful of crops, you can survive on spring onions, other food you find, and your first 15 parsnips, until the salmonberries arrive. Money for the kale comes from Spring Seeds, and money for strawberries will be supplemented by all the additional loot you will get from the mines, such as gems, geodes and weapons. Work smarter, not harder. Make Sprinklers!