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 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 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.