Taking Inventory: Sword

Parry! Parry! THRUST!

Today, we’re focusing on a very important item. An item so vital to playing Minecraft that it’s usually one of the first things you make when you start a new world. An item that’ll have your back in a corner. An item that you’ll always want by your side.

That’s right: it’s Minecraft’s foremost cobweb-swishing tool – the sword! Oh, you use it for killing mobs? Well, okay, I guess you can do that too if you want.

The sword has been a part of Minecraft since January 2010, when it was added alongside diamonds, sticks... oh, and the entire crafting system. Since then, the basic sword concept has pretty much stayed the same but the details have been tweaked repeatedly. Enchantments were added in version 1.0.0, drops from mobs in 1.2.1, and 1.9 – the combat update – changed things up all over again.

Crafting a sword is easy – line up a stick and two planks, cobblestone, iron ingots, gold ingots or diamonds in a line in a crafting grid. You can also “acquire” them from zombies, husks, zombie pigmen, pillagers and vindicators. With powerful magic in your hands, you might have a chance of getting one from a vex, too. Not keen on fighting or crafting? You can trade a sword from a friendly villager, or find one in many of the chests dotted around Minecraft’s secret places.

As previously discussed, the primary function of swords is swishing away cobwebs, and they’re very good at that – they’ll break one in less than half a second. If you do end up hitting something with a sword (by accident, obviously), then it’ll do 2 to 3.5 hearts worth of damage, which increases as you go from wood/gold to stone to iron to diamond. An enchantment will pump up that damage further.

The other cool thing that swords can do, though only in Java edition, is a special sweep attack that’s particularly useful if you’re surrounded by cobwebs (or mobs). Wait for your strike to recharge almost to full, stand still, and then your attack will damage everything nearby and do a small amount of knockback. Perfect for getting a bit of breathing room in a crisis.

In the real world, the first weapons that can be described as "swords" evolved from knives and daggers around 3300 BC. Found in Turkey, they were made of bronze, and about 60cm long. The problem with bronze is that it bends rather easily, so long, thin objects (like swords) would tend to droop after a while.

Swords became more popular in the Iron Age. Iron was easier to find, and didn’t bend so much, so for the first time it was possible for entire armies to be outfitted with metal weapons. At this point, swords also started showing up in tombs a lot, because warriors began to be buried with their weapons. The Romans were fond of swords, and the designs they created remained popular for centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, particularly among the Vikings.

Metal forging technology improved substantially during the Middle Ages, and so the sword developed too. The crossguard, for example, which protects the user’s hands, was invented in the 11th century, and in the 14th century came swords that could be used with either one or two hands – giving the user some flexibility when swishing away cobwebs.

The sword’s popularity only started to fade with the invention of crossbows and guns, which changed warfare. They stuck around for self-defence situations for a bit longer, but pistols and revolvers eventually replaced them in that role too. Today, swords are only really used for ceremonial purposes among the armed forces.

But hey, a revolver or a crossbow isn’t much good for clearing an abandoned mineshaft full of cobwebs. So maybe there is still a point to swords after all.

Written by
Duncan Geere
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