Blackbeard is arguably Luffy’s most direct rival when it comes to who will challenge his claim to Pirate King at the end of the series.
Oda’s characterization of Marshall D. Teach has been very deliberate – he’s an antagonistic version of Luffy. They share the same drive to accomplish their dreams, but their approach is diametrically opposed: Blackbeard is cunning, meticulous, patient, manipulative, and cheats his way to what he wants while Luffy is oblivious, reckless, impulsive, selfless, and often takes the burden upon himself in order to accomplish what he wants.
Both are direct opposites of another, each driven by their ambition to become Pirate King. But what’s interesting about the way Oda has written Blackbeard’s journey is comparison with Luffy’s – both characters’ adventures influence another at every step. What’s more, Blackbeard’s journey, while similar to Luffy’s, is the exact opposite of what Luffy accomplishes during his travels.
- Luffy begins his journey by obtaining a devil fruit through a friendship forged with a Yonko; Blackbeard begins his journey by stealing a devil fruit while breaking his relationship with a Yonko
- Luffy’s Devil Fruit is, at face value, one of the weakest while Blackbeard purposefully seeks out the strongest ones.
- Luffy enters the Grand Line chasing the man he looks up too; Blackbeard enters the Grand Line being chased by a subordinate of a man he once looked up too.
- Blackbeard banishes Wapol from Drum Kingdom and leaves it as a nation without a king; Luffy banishes Wapol from Drum Kingdom and leaves it as a brand new nation with a king.
- Luffy sails through the first half of the Grand Line taking down the Shichibukai; Blackbeard sails through the first half of the Grand Line hoping to become a Shichibukai.
- Luffy declares war on the World Government; Blackbeard joins the World Government.
- Luffy sneaks into Impel Down in order to rescue his brother, Blackbeard forces his way into Impel Down in order to recruit strong pirates.
- Luffy uses his astounding will to live to recover from Magellan’s poison, Blackbeard cheats and relies on an antidote to do the same.
- Luffy leaves Impel Down by barely escaping Magellan, Blackbeard leaves Impel Down by nearly killing him.
- Luffy’s will is broken at Marineford while Blackbeard’s will is vindicated.
- Luffy wants the Mera Mera no Mi in order to preserve his brother’s legacy, Blackbeard wants it because it’s both powerful and to perverse Ace’s legacy.
- Due to the events at Dressrosa, Luffy befriends the Revolutionaries while Blackbeard ends up assaulting them.
- Blackbeard attacked the remnants of the Whitebeard Pirates while Luffy will most likely befriend them.
Every narrative beat these two take is mirrored in one another. What’s more is that each action one takes influences the other, forcing their journeys to change. Blackbeard’s actions on Drum allows Luffy to recruit Chopper; Luffy defeating Crocodile opens the gap in the Shichibukai that Blackbeard wants; Blackbeard becomes a Shichibukai but does so by defeating Ace; Luffy infiltrates Impel down in order to rescue Ace; Blackbeard is only successful in recruiting the Level 6 pirates because of the rebellion Luffy starts in Impel Down; yet Luffy is only able to enter and influence the war at Marineford before Blackbeard’s crew hypnotized the staff who control the Gates of Justice.
This trend even continues in the New World – Luffy’s actions in Punk Hazard causes Doflamingo to start a tournament with the Mera Mera no Mi as its prize, Blackbeard sends Jesus Burgess in order to obtain it – indirectly causing Blackbeard to enter a conflict with the revolutionaries in order to later rescue him. Even the way they become Yonko is opposed – Blackbeard defeated a weakened Whitebeard and the scattered remnants of the Whitebeard Pirates while Luffy will defeat a fully-powered Kaido and his entire army of Beast Pirates.
Every. Single. Step of the journey, these two mirror and influence one another. Even now that we’ve entered the New World, what’s they’re doing is directly opposed – Blackbeard is stealing the fruits of the old generation of pirates, bringing their powers together, while Luffy is uniting the next generation of pirates, bringing their powers together.
So now the question is – what does this mean going forward?
Well, if Blackbeard is Luffy’s direct contender for the title of Pirate King, Blackbeard needs to reach Laugh Tale. The only way to do this is to obtain the Road Poneglyphs, decipher them, and sail in the direction they point. So we know this is likely to be Blackbeard’s next objective. We also know that one’s journey affects the other, and what has Luffy done recently? Ransacked Totto Land and forced Big Mom to chase him to Wano. This has created a power vacuum in Totland that Blackbeard can take advantage of; especially since the Big Mom Pirates left behind are already weakened due to Luffy’s actions.
Now, Blackbeard attacking Whole Cake Island for the Poneglyph isn’t a new theory, but what I’m betting is that he’ll leave with something more – after his assault, Blackbeard will obtain both Big Mom’s road Poneglyph and kidnap Pudding. Here’s my reasoning: Luffy and Blackbeard’s journey is mirrored, as I’ve hopefully aptly demonstrated. This means that if Luffy does something that advances him towards being Pirate King, Blackbeard will take the same step albeit in an opposed manner. So, since Luffy snuck into Totto Land in order to rescue a crew mate, Blackbeard will subsequently attack Totto Land in order to kidnap someone in return. This will be Pudding.
Why Pudding? Well, as far as we know, there’s only two ways to read the Poneglyphs, you either decypher their texts or you somehow utilize the Voice of all Things and learn their secrets that way. Since Nico Robin is the only known living character who can read the texts, that forces Blackbeard to utilize the Voice of all Things. But, everything we know about Blackbeard indicates that he doesn’t have this ability and he most likely never will. Remember, he’s opposed to Luffy and since Luffy will decipher the Poneglyph through his friendship with Robin, Blackbeard will in turn force someone to decipher them for him.
Coincidentally, Pudding was specifically conceived by Big Mom because it is believed that members of the three-eyed race have the potential to unlock the ability to hear the Voice of all Things. While she herself has said that she doesn’t yet possess this ability, I believe that her development during Whole Cake Island will bring her to a point where she will unlock it. Blackbeard, knowing this connection, will take advantage of it and force Pudding to decipher the Poneglyphs for him, thus continuing his mirrored journey with Luffy and bringing him one step closer to becoming a contender for Pirate King.
*Theory by Therrester