There are a lot of powerful Sith Lords in the storyline of Star Wars, and some of them appeared during the Skywalker Saga, which allowed us to witness the rise of the Empire under the rule of a Sith Lord. The Sith Lord Imperial enforcer who struck fear into the hearts of the people of the galaxy was Darth Vader. His master, Darth Sidious, served as Emperor Palpatine. But who was stronger between Vader and Palpatine, and who would win in a fight?
Emperor Palpatine was more powerful than Darth Vader. That’s because Vader’s body was weakened after he lost to Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar at the end of the Clone Wars. The fact that Darth Sidious was stronger than Vader was also the reason why Vader was never able to overthrow the emperor and become the new ruler.
It has always been the case that the Sith apprentices were meant to overthrow their masters so that they would become the new masters. That wasn’t what happened between Vader and Palpatine, as the apprentice never became stronger than the master. As such, Palpatine was always stronger than Vader. So, with that said, let’s look at this battle in greater detail.
Before becoming a cyborg-like being, Darth Vader’s human body allowed him to become one of the most physically gifted Jedi/Sith as he was quick, mobile, and coordinated. However, after losing his limbs and being confined to a mechanical suit, Vader became physically stronger due to his cybernetic limbs. He was no longer as fast and as mobile as he once was, but his strikes carried more weight behind them. Vader’s strength was so great that he could crush metal with his hands.
Despite his old age, Emperor Palpatine was actually very nimble and mobile as a fighter. In his duel with Yoda during the ‘Revenge of the Sith events,’ he showcased just how quick he was as he could keep up with the quick and acrobatic movements of the Jedi Grand Master. Of course, during the latter portion of his life, he was no longer as quick and fast as he once was, but he was still capable of dueling.
While Darth Vader may not have been as quick as Palpatine, he was stronger. Of course, Palpatine was also quite old during the latter portion of his life, and that means that Vader had the advantage as far as his physical abilities were concerned, as that was what we saw when he lifted him with ease before killing him.
Vader 1, Palpatine 0
Darth Vader was a master of Form V: Djem So, which is the lightsaber combat form that relies on quick switching between defense and offense to provide a good balance between the two. He used a modified version of Djem So, as he often relied on his superior strength to launch powerful flurries of strikes that were meant to break the defenses of the other duelist. While he was no longer as mobile and as nimble as he once was, Vader’s overwhelming strength and ferocity were almost unmatched.
Emperor Palpatine was trained in all seven forms of lightsaber combat and was a master of all of them. But he preferred to use the ferocity and aggressiveness of Form VII: Juyo, which was the specialty of the Sith Lords as it relied on negative emotions for power and strength. As such, Palpatine was an incredibly aggressive lightsaber combatant who could match the dueling prowess of the likes of Yoda and Mace Windu, who were both two of the best duelists of all time.
It might be true that Vader was a strong lightsaber duelist, but he still had limitations that we never saw in Palpatine. Vader lost to Obi-Wan a couple of times, whereas the only loss that Palpatine ever suffered was at the hands of Windu, who was a more notable duelist than Kenobi.
Vader 1, Palpatine 1
Born the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker was supposed to be the strongest Force user of all time because he had the highest concentration of Midi-chlorians in history. However, after losing his limbs, getting burned to a near-death state, and getting a large portion of his body replaced by cybernetic parts, Vader’s potential in the Force was now weaker as he lost Midi-chlorians.
Nevertheless, his anger allowed him to become stronger as he now relied on the dark side of the Force for his power. As such, Vader could use the Force to pull down entire shuttles and choke people from a great distance. He could even use the Force to block blaster bolts.
Palpatine was born with an innate connection to the dark side of the Force, as he had an incredibly high potential. In that regard, Darth Plagueis quickly took him in as an apprentice as he sensed his potential. Palpatine’s power in the dark side was so great that he could hide his power and malice in plain sight from the most powerful Jedi in the world. On top of that, Palpatine could use Force Lightning at the highest level possible, as he could easily kill people with a short blast of this power.
There’s no doubt that Palpatine was a lot more skilled in using the Force. While it might be true that Vader’s power in the Force was incredibly strong, he could not reach his full potential in that regard and was limited by his cybernetic body.
Vader 1, Palpatine 2
Trained by the Jedi Order before he became a Sith Lord, Darth Vader was an expert in military tactics and strategy, as he showcased these talents when he worked as a general during the Clone Wars.
He was considered reckless yet very courageous in the use of different tactics. As such, his means and methods were quite unconventional compared to others. And he applied the same strategies as Darth Vader, which was one reason why Tarkin and Thrawn were able to conclude that Vader was Anakin.
While he was powerful, Palpatine’s most dangerous asset was his mind because he understood how important it was to scheme and manipulate people. Throughout his entire life, he schemed and manipulated people to become the most powerful man in the galaxy.
As such, he was always an expert in long-term planning and strategy, as he could use whatever pieces he could control to develop the best possible plan for success. And he always had a backup plan for everything, as that was how he and the Empire survived after Vader killed him.
Vader may have been skilled in military tactics, but Palpatine’s cunning and manipulative mind was always something else.
Vader 1, Palpatine 3
Darth Vader was a frontline warrior his entire life as he was always sent into battle both when he was a Jedi and when he became a Sith Lord. Before he fell to the dark side, Vader defeated and killed Count Dooku, who was often considered one of the best duelists ever. Then, as Vader, he spent two decades fighting and killing Jedi and even the spirits of Sith Lords. In that regard, his accomplishments speak for themselves, as there was a reason why the entire galaxy feared him.
While Palpatine didn’t fight a lot, he still had some of the most impressive feats in the storyline of Star Wars. In ‘The Clone Wars,’ he easily toyed with Darth Maul and Savage Opress with little to no effort at all. Then, after revealing himself to the Jedi, he took on four Jedi Masters and killed three of them in a span of a few seconds before fighting Mace Windu on par. He also fought Yoda to a standstill, proving that he was just as strong or even stronger than the strongest Jedi at that time.
Vader may have accomplished more during his time, but Palpatine fought and killed fighters and warriors who were stronger than some of the characters whom Vader killed.
Vader 1, Palpatine 4
Darth Vader vs. Palpatine: Who wins?
The simple truth here is that Darth Vader would have already tried to overthrow Palpatine if he knew that he was stronger than his master. But he never tried to do so and even wanted to turn Luke over to the dark side to overthrow Palpatine, which was proof that he was never stronger than the emperor. Of course, his potential dropped astronomically after he lost to Kenobi on Mustafar, which was why he was never able to become stronger than Palpatine. Palpatine had the ultimate trump card, which was Force Lighting, as he could easily mess up Vader’s electronics with a single blast of this attack.
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