Entirely situational and entirely convenience. Entirely convenience - they are not necessary. Don't mistake usefulness for necessity. Tool merchants? You mean the tool merchant whose spawner can only be found in randomly generated chests and who only sells Flares and Bombs? Way to increase accessibility instead of, you know, keeping the recipes accessible to all players. Um... no? I do not "lack some degree of understanding". It seems that you do. The Matter Manipulator, unupgraded and upgraded, breaks through less durable materials just fine while it tends to struggle with more durable materials, including magmarock, obsidian and other such stone. Picks and drills break through these materials very quickly but, due to their obscene nerfs, break extremely quickly If the material is so weak as to not whittle down the drills durability in seconds, then you can just, you know, use the Matter Manipulator which will probably be just as fast. If you are using the drill on a more durable material (which is why you would want a speed boost in the first place), then it will definitely break shortly after you start - not even Diamond drills are durable enough for prolonged use. Most of the time, the extra inventory space from not bringing along a tool is better than having one just in case there is a time for a "speed boost". The problem is, however, that "valuable substances" aren't found, generally, in "weaker materials". Before CF changed what kind of ores spawn on which level planet (much to my chagrin), the valuable substances were found deep in a world where Dirt and Dry Sand are not the primary components of the area. The deeper you go, the more durable the material around you and the greater amount of ores around you. No, the significance is pretty much entirely gone now, aside from people who spawn the drills in. Their use was already drastically changed when they were nerfed into the ground between versions, and now that you can only find them through exploring... they're something you'll probably sell to the nearest merchant or a novelty you'll keep in your ship storage "just in case".