There are many discussions regarding the strength of Admirals vs Younko to establish that Admirals are as strong as a Yonkou, but that also leaves out the other Marine personal in the equation and their status to others, and I wanna discuss this.
So, Gorosei and Commander-in-Chief Kong.
We have nothing in terms of feats for them. We can assume Kong is exceptionally powerful as he was Fleet Admiral, but as he’s older, he’s probably a step down from that strength. Gorosei we have absolutely no clue. We don’t know anything about them besides the fact that they’re Celestial Dragons, but considering they have body scars, we can assume they have some form of combat experience. Im let’s not even include; Im is a shadow, we don’t even know if they’re human.
So, Commander-in-Chief at least = Fleet Admiral, maybe stronger. Fleet Admiral (theoretically) is stronger than an Admiral, but considering Aokiji was nominated as well as Akainu, that’s not a given, since Akainu is the stronger of the two (at the very least marginally).
Admirals are stronger than Vice-Admirals and we’ll go ahead and take all the evidence provided to us in the series that this is true by a wide margin. Doflamingo made mincemeat of Smoker but fled from Aokiji. Though Smoker had just fought Vergo and suffered a bit through the arc, Doflamingo went through him much too quickly for Smoker to be near Admiral level, but as a Vice-Admiral we can use him to base the strength of others (even though I personally think he’s a bit stronger than other VA’s just due to his significance in the story and I’m a fan of his).
I’ll cut off the Marine power rankings at Vice Admirals. Rear Admirals might have the Admiral title, but we’ve seen and heard so little about any notable Rear Admirals (aside from the former rear admiral X Drake) that we don’t really know their capabilities. They cannot use Haki (or at least, it isn’t a requirement for one to use Haki to be a Rear Admiral) and the only basis we have of their strength is X Drake pre-timeskip, which wouldn’t put them very high on the overall world tier list. So we’ll leave it at Vice Admirals and above, but again, this isn’t set in stone. Tashigi is a Marine Captain who can use Haki (albeit not terribly well, apparently?) so this shows that the power tiers/ability feats of Marines aren’t the most stable/rigid. Yet I feel confident that our parameters are a fair observation of what we’ve been shown.
So it’s easy to say Emperors are stronger than their Commanders, the difficulty comes in determining by how much. Are Commanders just a hair weaker, or are they vastly weaker? The difficulty comes not only from a feats/evidence perspective, but an in-world lore and rationality perspective. If the Commanders were significantly weaker than Emperors, then that would severely impact the balance of power between Marines and Emperors.
We can state that Admirals, on average, are stronger than Commanders. None of the Admirals seemed terribly phased or hurt by any of the Commanders’ attacks during the War of the Best. Kizaru took a kick from Marco and bounced right back, and Marco and Vista failed to injure Akainu when intercepting him. So from this, the best assumption we can make is that Commanders are between Vice-Admirals and Admirals, putting them a fair distance below Yonkou. We can support this stance by comparing Luffy’s fight with a Commander and with an Emperor; he managed to best Katakuri, but was bested by Kaido.
The Supernovas are varied in strengths; Urouge managed to defeat one Sweet Commander and fled before another whereas Luffy took out two, with one of them being the strongest of the lot. Law has some impressive feats attributed to him as do Zoro and Kid, but even between them (and Killer) we know there’s an unspecified discrepancy in strengths.
Apoo was able to injure both Monkey D. Luffy and Roronoa Zoro in succession, leaving the former temporarily unconscious from a single attack, by capitalizing on their lack of understanding of his powers.
For the sake of argument, let’s place the Supernovas between Vice Admirals and Commanders as an average; there is undoubtedly some variation (I feel Bege is weaker than Luffy, Zoro, Law or Kid but that’s just a hunch rather than any observation, since his tank man did take some hits from an enraged Big Mom but he never did any specific fighting that I recall) to their strengths. I would place Luffy, Law and Kid above all the rest, as it feels as if they’ve been built up as a trio amongst the Supernovas and thus I can see them as being rivals.
Again, this is not based on observation but merely thought and conjecture; it would make sense if they are built up as rivals to be similar in strength. Placing Luffy is particularly difficult as he beat two Yonkou Commanders, but he was injured horribly after each, so we could possibly make the argument he is Commander level and thus a step below Admirals and Emperors.
I am not discussing them at great length due to the monstrous discrepancies displayed of their strengths. Crocodile was beaten by a very young Luffy (despite the fact that he would’ve won all 3 fights if not for Luffy’s luck) and Moria was also beaten by Luffy without ever truly beating him. And yet, Mihawk is said to have gone toe-to-toe with Shanks (which should put him at Emperor level?) but was blocked and stalled by Whitebeard Commanders, and Hancock has yet to receive any injuries in the series but also hasn’t fought major enemies yet (having only fought Smoker pre-TS as a testament to her power).
Now, here’s where we come to the end. My conclusions are not drawn just from observation but logical rationalization of the in-world lore of One Piece. That being said, my tier list is as follows.
S+ = Emperors, Fleet Admiral/Commander-in-Chief
S = Admirals
S- = Emperor Commanders
A+ = Supernovas
A- = Vice Admirals
Now, lemme explain my conclusion. In terms of the world lore, the balance of power is maintained between Marines, Warlords and Emperors, with Marines and Warlords equalling the Emperors in strength. However, this is only in the case of a single Emperor’s crew, as the thought of any of the Emperors working together is not only unthinkable, but a threat to the world balance, as we’ve heard. Thus, the War of the Best can be construed as two equal forces coming together to fight.
The Admiral-Emperor strength is the biggest point of contention, understandably so. However, logic dictates that if Emperors and Admirals were the exact strength, why would the Marines not just rush into the New World and take out Emperors one at a time? Three Admirals and a Fleet Admiral, if all equal to an Emperor, would theoretically be able to defeat them. From this I can only conclude that Admirals are just a notch weaker than Emperors. In a one-on-one fight it would be a close call, and I’d daresay an Admiral could defeat an Emperor if pushed, but it’d favor the Emperor in the fight. Two-on-one is a win for the Admirals, and three-on-one is a probable wipe. Seeing as this is the biggest point of discourse, I think it will be the only one I explain in greater depth here, though I am open to explaining my analysis in more depth if asked.
That being said, there are a few things I think make these kinds of tier lists impossible to truly make.
- Devil Fruit interactions; Crocodile points out we never know how well two Devil Fruits will clash. Luffy’s rather simple Devil Fruit perfectly countered Enel’s, and yet I feel Enel would be a very powerful foe with his natural usage of Haki that’s amplified by his fruit.
- Setting/Background of a fight: No matter what, the setting and background of a fight (emotional stakes, previous fights, endurance etc.) can make a huge difference in strength. Coming into his fights, Luffy had more at stake than the Sweet Commanders on an emotional level, and that could have provided him with the extra boost he needed to beat them.
- Oda himself doesn’t have a tier list: The story is written for drama, suspense and enjoyment. This is why a Warlord went down very early in the series but Doflamingo was also shown to be exceptionally powerful: dramatic tension. If tiers were strictly divided it would be a very bland story of “Welp I’m on this rung now so I can beat anyone below me.” Power and strength in One Piece is a mixture of raw strength, will and determination and luck. When it comes to these fights, anything can happen at any moment.
*Theory by LaVojeto