Sir Crocodile, AKA Mr. 0. This guy manipulated an entire kingdom into a civil war between the king and his people while still presenting himself as a hero to the country. His entire slogan for his plan was, "The love for this kingdom will destroy it." He also added even more insult to the heroes about telling them about a bomb that would blow up the town square that was nearly impossible to stop because he had a backup in case his lackeys failed to set off the bomb. His plan was nearly flawless and would had succeeded if it was not for certain events.
In a side-story that took place after his defeat, Crocodile took over his jail block and, when given a perfect chance to escape, chose to light up a cigar and stay put. He would later agree to an Enemy Mine to break out of The Alcatraz that is Impel Down solely for the chance to kill an old enemy (who, incidentally, everyone else wanted to help save).
His successor in the Seven Warlords of the Sea, Blackbeard, is perhaps even moreso. The current part of his Gambit Roulette slash Batman Gambit resulted the biggest battle/war in the history of it's world, and manipulated all sides involved effortlessly, and got exactly what he wanted from it: Whitebeard's extremly powerful Devil's Fruit, and 4 of the strongest prisoners of Level Six of Impel Down, which holds the worst criminals in history + the Head Jailer, a man equal to the Badass Warden. And he got away scot free, and because of the WG's pride, won't even be hunted down by them. All for his plan to become Pirate King.
Dracule "Hawk Eyes" Mihawk is the World's Greatest Swordsman, a laidback yet lethal Warlord of the Sea who serves as Roronoa Zoro's greatest challenge. His sword skills practically unmatched and capable of decimating any opponent he faces, Mihawk introduces himself to the Straw Hats having annihilated Don Krieg's entire fleet singlehandedly before easily beating Zoro and regarding Luffy's attempts to attack him as mere annoyance. Later taking part in the Marineford conflict, Mihawk casually destroys waves of enemies with ease and puts Luffy on the run, with Mihawk barely breaking a sweat even as he swiftly defeats Buggy and faces Crocodile in combat. Mihawk personally trains Zoro over the course of two years out of respect for the man's tenacity, and Mihawk takes the news that he's been declared wanted by the government with a mere chuckle and an invitation to an army of terrified Marines to face him in combat.
Rob Lucci is the leader of Cipher Pol's CP9 division. A brilliant fighter who infiltrated a hostage situation and killed every hostage to remove the pirates' leverage before killing the pirates themselves as a teenager, Lucci later goes undercover in Water 7 with his disguised team to recover the Blueprints of Pluton. Fooling all there by faking their deaths, Lucci later delivers a brutal beating to Luffy and escapes with Nico Robin in tow, later giving Luffy one of the most brutal and difficult fights he has had to that point.
Vice Admiral Jonathan of the G-8 "Navarone" facility is a rare semi-heroic example. The Straw Hat pirates just happen to fall directly into the impenetrable fortress at the same time that an inspector with an ulterior motive to have the place shut down pulls in. Rather than trying to deny the event, he takes time and makes observations about the crew, even when they show in front of his very face, turning their quirks to support a morale boost of the base's personnel and discredit the obstructive inspector. It's important to remember that His primary goal is to maintain the Marines' support of the facility, not the capture of the pirate crew, and even when things don't follow his voiced plan, he still comes out ahead.
Donquixote Doflamingo also made a gambit of taking over a country, and succeeded in a day and a night. He managed to keep power for a decade. His grip of the country was only shaken because of a single blunder by one of his subordinates, whose powers made everyone else forget about the very existence of the person who eventually led the resistance. Before that, he managed to position himself so well even his enemies (the World Government) were forced to cooperate. He also set himself up with one of the Yonko, Kaido, ensuring that anyone who went after him also risked the intervention of the Yonko. Even though he isn't as powerful as the admirals or the Yonko, he expertly maneuvered his way to the top. Only Luffy and Law are crazy enough/ have enough knowledge to hit him where it hurts.
Trafalgar Law, after the Time Skip. He become one of the Shichibukai in order to get in close on Caesar Clown in order to stop his production of the SAD, a chemical crucial in the production of artificial devil fruits, but he also used this attempt to press Donquixote Doflamingo into quitting the Shichibukai. He is smart enough to befriend the protagonist, forming an alliance with him to take down Kaidou of the Yonkou (who wanted the SAD chemical). And last, but not least: he tricked Caesar Clown into stabbing what Clown thought was Smoker's heart, while it in reality was the heart of his own second in command, Monet seconds before she would have released an attack that would have killed everyone except for Clown, which he would have been perfectly fine with. It Makes Sense in Context.
Buggy the Clown also qualifies, oddly enough. While not as personally powerful as the above examples, he made it across The Grand Line just fine prior to Impel Down. Once he got captured, he managed to conceal his Devil Fruit abilities while getting locked up in a supermax prison and thus avoided receiving Seastone restraints (and also managed to sneak in powerful explosives), used carefully worded lies and half-truths to talk a bunch of incredibly powerful and dangerous convicts into working for him, thereby gaining one of the strongest crews in the series, and post-Time Skip, it's shown he managed to talk his way into a cushy position as one of the Shichibukai, all while operating under the guise of Obfuscating Stupidity. He's essentially John Constantine in the form of a pirate clown!
Sengoku the Buddha is the most brilliant of the Marine Admirals. The top Fleet Admiral of Marineford, Sengoku leads the execution of Portgas D. Ace, revealing to the world that Ace is the son of Gol D. Roger, the former Pirate King. With the arrival of Ace's captain, Whitebeard, Sengoku reveals a major trap for Whitebeard, sapping the morale of his forces with a carefully planned lie, trapping the pirates and closing in Marine forces, turning a near loss into a total rout for the strongest man alive with his own cunning.
Eustass Kid is the Captain of the Kid pirates and a far more brutal counterpart to Luffy who has killed anyone who ever mocked his dream to be Pirate King. Allying with Luffy against the Pacifista, Kid later hits the Grand Line and begins to clash with the Four Emperors, even sinking Big Mom's ships and eluding their forces until he is bested by Kaido. Escaping with Luffy and allying with him and Trafalgar Law, Kid eventually clashes with Big Mom herself, working in tandem with Trafalgar Law to topple Big Mom from her throne and claim victory.
Charlotte Katakuri is the second son and strongest soldier of Charlotte "Big Mom" Linlin, one of the Four Emperors of Grand Line. A keen, analytical fighter, Katakuri is the strongest of his mother's Sweet Commanders who dedicates himself to protecting his family and ruthlessly dispatching threats. Going with the plan to catch and slaughter the Vinsmoke family, Katakuri proves a deadly threat to the Straw Hats, planning an ambush with his family before engaging Luffy himself. When his true nature and unsightly features are revealed, it is shown Katakuri adopted his stoic persona as a way to protect his siblings before he embraces Luffy as a truly Worthy Opponent, even wounding himself after one sister's treachery so their fight will be an even one.
Gold: Carina is a brilliant thief and Nami's former partner in crime. Prior to the series, Carina manipulated a pirate crew that captured the two of them into making a deal for their lives, only to simultaneously steal all of Nami's treasure stash and providing Nami an opportunity to escape. Working on the luxurious cruise liner, the Grand Tesoro, Carina organizes a plan to take down Gild Tesoro with the Straw Hats. Faking a heist plan, Carina deceives Gild into thinking she betrayed the Straw Hats before having sea water rain on the ship, severely weakening Gild's powers. After Gild's defeat, Carina successfully manipulates all sides of the conflict to evacuate so that she can obtain her true goal, stealing the Grand Tesoro and all of its riches.
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