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Fanfic / Mastermind: Strategist for Hire

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Art by peacey7. Used with permission.

Izuku Midoriya never got the chance to save Bakugo from the sludge villain and impress All Might. With his dream crushed, Izuku becomes bitter and angry. It also doesn't help that he faces discrimination at every turn. All he ever wanted was to be appreciated, so when the villains are the ones to recognize his talents rather than the heroes, well, Izuku just can't resist. He might as well help those who actually want him around.

Mistakes were made, and now society must face a villain of their own making: Mastermind.

Mastermind: Strategist for Hire is a My Hero Academia fanfic by myheadinthecloudsnotcomingdown. It can be read on Archive of Our Own here.

A sequel, Mastermind: Rise of Anarchy, was released on New Year's Eve 2020, and can also be read on Archive of Our Own here.


Mastermind: Strategist for Hire contains examples of the following:

  • Acting Unnatural: Dragon's men are so bad at pretending they're just normal civilians that Izuku wonders how they became so successful when their plans are so blatantly transparent.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance:
    • Giran is introduced following Izuku in Chapter 3, long before his canonical appearance.
    • Giran introduces Izuku to Himiko Toga in Chapter 5, before her canonical introduction among several other new recruits of the League.
    • Izuku first learns of La Brava after Giran recommends her to him in Chapter 10, whilst in canon, she isn't introduced until the Culture Festival Arc.
    • Giran introduces Izuku to the League of Villains as they are planning their attack on the USJ, whilst in canon, they make their first appearance at said attack.
    • Chitose Kizuki aka Curious of the Meta Liberation Army is introduced just before the UA sports festival working on the Mastermind story while she wasn't introduced until the League of Villains arc.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • The entire premise of the fanfic has Izuku go from being a hero-worshipping cinnamon roll to a Villain Protagonist desired by Japan's criminal underworld and dreaded by its hero community and law enforcement.
    • Neito Monoma is the traitor, having been feeding information to the League.
    • Hisashi Midoriya is revealed to be the leader of a gang called The Dragon's Horde.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Himiko Toga calls Izuku/Mastermind "Mind-chan".
  • All According to Plan: In the final chapter, Izuku notes that he already planned for being arrested and thrown into Tartarus.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Giran loses his hand to the Meta Liberation Army and has to have it replaced with a robotic prosthetic.
  • Anti-Hero Team: The League actually abides by Stain's principles and behaves like this in the story, going after corrupt individuals such as Endeavor and the Hero Commission and other villains such as The Meta Liberation Army.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Nedzu theorizes that Mastermind is nothing more than an intellectually-gifted Quirkless boy pushed to the edge in Chapter 29, he makes a troubling point:
  • Ascended Extra: In canon, Tsukauchi is little more than a Recurring Extra. Here, he's the Hero Antagonist.
  • Atrocious Alias: Izuku and Dabi jokingly suggest several to Shouto Todoroki such as Daddy Issues, Ice Princess, Peppermint Boy, and Icythot.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Izuku, as Mastermind, is so dangerous due to his ability to make plans based on observations made over television and the internet to find weaknesses in heroes.
      • During the attack on the USJ, Izuku quickly determines Shinso has some form of brainwashing that is likely triggered by talking to him.
      • As the League of Villains are plotting an attack on a UA training camp, Izuku works out Dabi's true identity as Touya Todoroki, brother of Shouto Todoroki from only his teal eyes, his Quirk and his hatred of Heroes, particularly of Endeavor, to Dabi's shock.
    • Nedzu deduces that Mastermind either has a very weak Quirk, an undesirable Quirk, or no Quirk due to Aizawa's Power Nullifier not working on him and Eri's rescue indicating that he may have been abused or bullied before becoming a villain. He also deduces that Mastermind is most likely a teenager between his short height and the fact that the majority of Quirkless people (if Mastermind is Quirkless) commit suicide before they reach adulthood.
  • Batman Gambit: Izuku's first plan, used to kill Mt. Lady, exploited her media gluttony to lure her to a crowded area where she can't use her Quirk and to distract her long enough to let her attacker fatally stab her.
  • Becoming the Mask: Hawks infiltrates the League of Villains to spy on them. Due to them convincing him of the corruption of the Hero Commission, he joins them for real.
  • Beneath Notice: Izuku ponders that even if someone were to suspect him, the fact he's a shy, introverted teenager without a Quirk would quickly ease said suspicion. That he's never lashed out against his bullies would only further "prove" his innocence. When Giran first found him, he actually spent a week second-guessing if he had the right person before Izuku got him to reach out.
  • Berserk Button: Quirkism in general for Izuku. When Re-Destro insists that he must have a powerful Quirk because the Quirkless are "worse than worthless", Izuku vows to destroy the Meta Liberation Army.
    • Trying to cheat Izuku out of his fee is not a wise decision. The last someone did that, he sold plans on how to kill them to their enemies, leading to them all "mysteriously" dying less than a week later.
    • Harming or threatening Inko is a massive one, as Overhaul and Hisashi soon found out.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
  • Blinded by the Light: Glimmer, a sidekick working for Uwabami, has the power to produce bright glimmering lights around her.
  • Blood Is the New Black: After killing Overhaul's entire gang, Izuku is pretty much covered in blood.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: Eri ends up covered in blood after hugging Izuku, who had just killed all of Overhaul's gang.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • Izuku delivers one to his former idol All Might shortly after fatally stabbing him:
      "So much for the symbol of peace. I guess even people with strong Quirks like you can't be heroes."
    • He later gives one to Overhaul in their fight after hitting Overhaul with a knife coated with the quirk erasure drug:
      “Nice quirk eraser you’ve developed, isn’t it? Too bad you haven’t practiced being...perfect? Wasn’t that the word you used to describe people like me?”
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Izuku is partially so dangerous because his lack of a Quirk means he can conceive plans without a single power coloring his bias or becoming a crutch. He also gets away from an ambush headed by Eraserhead because he doesn't lock up or become lost by having his Quirk erased like most villains would.
    • Izuku kills All Might by waiting for his time limit to run out and stabbing him harshly in his old injury.
    • Due to Mastermind's actions, hero training is becoming more geared towards working effectively underground rather than popularity. Similarly, support gear is changing to focus more on function than form.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Downplayed. Izuku does not outright hate All Might and wish revenge like many other villain!Izuku fics, but he clearly loses his respect for the man.
    • When it comes out that Endeavor abused his children, many start questioning how such a man could've become the Number One Hero.
  • Brutal Honesty: After rescuing Eri, Izuku makes a point of explaining that he'd been there specifically to kill Overhaul and her rescue was just a fortunate coincidence.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • The Blue Dogs gang threaten Mastermind at gunpoint despite knowing his reputation, which includes being responsible for the number eight hero's death. Izuku promptly sends plans on how to kill them to their enemies.
    • Overhaul similarly knows Mastermind's abilities and reputation but still attacks Inko as a threat towards Izuku.
    • Dragon and his men try to force Mastermind to work with them even after Mastermind points out that he's The Dreaded because he earned said reputation.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Shouto is one. His biggest theory is that an officer named Sansa is a cat god. He's actually thrilled that his theory about a conspiracy involving the Meta Liberation Army is true.
  • Content Warnings: Originally featured just one warning for 'Major Character Death' - another for 'Graphic Depictions of Violence' was added by the author after releasing the particularly bloody Chapter 23:
    "So, you might have noticed I added a violence warning to this fic. I realized that a lot of people die in this story in sometimes very violent ways, so hopefully, this will help so no one gets surprised. Speaking of warnings, there is blood in this chapter. A lot of blood."
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: According to Mastermind, they're so common that finding a bank to rob that isn't run by one would be considerably harder than one that is.
  • Create Your Own Villain:
    • While there were several factors, society's rude treatment towards the Quirkless in general note , as well as Villains actually liking Izuku for how good he is at coming up with plans all drives him to become Mastermind. Lampshaded by Nedzu when he determines it's likely that Mastermind is a Quirkless teenager, citing how bullying and abuse of the Quirkless go unreported and that most commit suicide before reaching adulthood. Nedzu states that if his analysis is correct, society itself created one of the worst villains Japan has ever seen.
    • The actions of the Hero Commission (emotional abuse and forcing other children into the same program) are the main reason that Hawks defects to the League of Villains.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Izuku kills Overhaul by torturing him to death, with his signature M carved into him more than a hundred times.
  • Cry into Chest: Eri cries into Izuku's chest after he confirms that he killed Overhaul.
  • Dead Man's Switch: Izuku has two set up to release plans to kill the top fifty Pro Heroes if he's killed or captured. One is a program written by La Brava and the other is that Giran has a copy of said plans with instructions to release them if anything happens to Izuku.
  • Deadly Dodging: While fighting Overhaul's gang, Izuku dodges Rappa's attacks at the last second so the gangster instead hits one of his allies.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • The very first plan Izuku creates leads to Mt. Lady's offscreen death in Chapter 1.
    • Wash is killed whilst in protective custody after Izuku releases murder plans for him.
    • Izuku murders All-Might during the USJ attack.
    • Native bleeds to death during Izuku's fight with Stain.
    • Izuku ends up murdering Stain in order to save himself from being killed by the villain since Stain hates him for being the one who murdered All-Might.
    • Without Izuku coming to save him, Kota is killed by Muscular during the Vanguard Action Squad's attack on the training camp.
    • Izuku murders Overhaul and his entire gang as retaliation for Inko being attacked.
    • After joining the League of Villains, Shouto, with Dabi's help, kills Endeavor at a press conference.
    • Izuku fatally poisons Giran after his torture by the MLA, suspecting he would give him up to the police.
    • Re-Destro and the rest of the MLA are murdered by Mastermind and the League after they mistreat Izuku.
    • After choosing to defect to the League of Villains, Hawks fatally stabs Mera.
  • Delinquent Hair: When making his villain debut, Shoto's hair is styled into a pompadour.
  • Demoted to Extra: All of the students and faculty at U.A. except Nedzu and Shouto are demoted to little more than occasional cameos.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • A mild example. Giran rips off his prosthetic hand in irritation and a few minutes later tries to rub his eyes while on the phone, only to remember he currently lacks the fingers to do so.
    • Mastermind leaves his symbol on the bottom of the coffee cup used to poison Giran — which almost ends up being his undoing. If the poison kicked a moment later or Giran didn't panic, he would have given the police Mastermind's full name instead of only two syllables.
  • Disappeared Dad: Izuku makes an offhand comment that his father abandoned him and his mother the moment Izuku was diagnosed as Quirkless.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: The League of Villains uses Himiko and Twice to takeover all the news stations and broadcast their destruction of the MLA.
  • The Dog Bites Back: When Giran realizes that Mastermind has decided to poison him, he tries to tell the police their identity. Unfortunately, they succumb before they can finish Masterminds family name.
  • Don't Tell Mama: Izuku does everything he can to hide his villainous lifestyle from his mother.
  • Dramatic Drop:
    • Inko drops a pan after learning of Mt. Lady's murder.
    • Bubble Girl drops her coffee after seeing a blood-covered Eri outside her front door.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • The police think that Mastermind may have some kind of analysis quirk that allows him to create and sell crime plans to villains, but they couldn't be farther from the truth.
    • Izuku bumps into a hero when fleeing a sting, and the hero has no idea Izuku is the villain they are trying to capture.
    • All Might dies without realizing Mastermind is a child whose dreams he crushed less than a year ago.
  • The Dreaded: In less than a year, Mastermind becomes such a big name that Class 1A recognizes (and fears) him on sight. In a later chapter, Giran refuses to consider going against Mastermind, telling the man who suggests it that he values both their lives too much to do so.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: After being press-ganged into joining Overhaul's group, Izuku is treated like a mook instead of the genius strategist he is, with the only work he's given being busy work anyone can do.
  • End of an Age: While it starts with Toshinori's death, the true end comes when Hawks defects and helps dismantle the Hero Commission.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: In Chapter 41 Inko accidentally comes across one of Izuku's notebook on how to kill heroes, but instead of figuring out he's Mastermind, she thinks that Izuku had joined a violent gang. Tsukauchi and Nedzu play along with this assumption so they can protect her, not break her heart, and so Izuku doesn't suspect that they figured out his identity.
  • Entitled to Have You: Hisashi tries to order Izuku into working for him, claiming that he has every right to force him into his employ because he is his father. Izuku is having none of it, Hisashi having left the moment he was diagnosed as Quirkless and Izuku having become a villain specifically for the freedom it allows him.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil:
    • Unlike the rest of society, most villains don't care that Mastermind is Quirkless, which is one of the reasons why Izuku became him in the first place.
    • Subverted with the Meta Liberation Army, which value Quirks to the point they refuse to believe that Izuku is Quirkless, and find the idea that he is ridiculous.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Despite being one of the most infamous villains in Japan, Izuku still loves his mother deeply.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Touya (aka Dabi) and Shouto care deeply for each other, being brothers.
    • Subverted for Dragon. Despite admitting to still being fond of his wife Inko, he's fully prepared to kill her to make Izuku fall in line.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Izuku is disgusted with Overhaul for torturing a five-year-old girl as part of his plans, and he drops her off at Nighteye's agency (where he knows she will be safe and protected) because he knows that his villain friends would also use her for their own gains.
  • Evil Genius: Izuku Midoriya, as the titular Mastermind. Whilst he has some fighting skills, he learned it mostly so he isn't helpless if he is confronted by a Hero or betrayed.
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: Downplayed. While there's still plenty of rival factions, the League of Villains are good friends with each other and Izuku. When the Meta Liberation Army deeply offends Izuku with their Quirkist attitude, they reassure Izuku that they'd help him destroy them even if he didn't have a way to steal the MLA's resources for their own use.
  • Evil Laugh: After killing Endeavor, Shouto breaks out laughing hysterically.
  • Evil Pays Better: Izuku turns to villainy due to his non-existent job prospects as a Quirkless person, taking advantage of the anonymity of selling his plans online or while wearing his villain disguise.
  • Evil vs. Evil:
    • Hero-Killer Stain winds up hating Izuku/Mastermind for being the one who killed All Might (in his eyes the only true hero in all of Japan) and immediately puts him on his hit-list. Izuku returns the favor by being the one who murders him.
    • Mastermind vs Overhaul, due to the latter threatening the former's mother.
  • Exact Words:
    • When Nemoto tries to find out who Izuku will attack next, Izuku responds that it doesn't matter because he'll beat them all easily.
    • While being questioned about his father's death, Izuku makes a point of saying things that are technically true but paint a very different picture than what actually happened.
    • After learning Izuku is Mastermind, Tsukauchi and Nedzu tell Inko that her son has connections to powerful villains and a lot of people could get hurt if they're not careful, leaving out that her son is the most powerful villain of all.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: While being followed by Tsukauchi, Izuku reassures himself that even if the man knows he's Mastermind, he still has his Dead Man's Switch set up on his laptop, which he left at home. That last bit causes Izuku to send a text to his boyfriend, saying he loves him and to grab a box hidden under his couch.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • Shouto Todoroki joins the League of Villains after bonding with his long-lost brother Touya (now Dabi) after the League kidnaps him.
    • Hawks also eventually joins the League of Villains after realizing they're more his family than anyone else.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The intolerance of Quirkless people is the reason Izuku cannot find a legitimate job and leads him to selling his plans.
    • Re-Destro and the Meta Liberation Army outright refuses to believe Izuku could possibly be Quirkless, declaring that the Quirkless are worse than useless and no one could become as powerful as Mastermind has without a powerful Quirk.
  • Fights Like a Normal: Nedzu remarks that Mastermind's ability to fight with his Quirk erased suggests he might have a very weak Quirk or even none at all.
  • For Want of a Nail: Death Arms stops Izuku from running to save Bakugou, meaning All-Might is never impressed by the boy and Izuku never gains One For All.
  • From Bad to Worse: What the League of Villains did to the Number One heroes and what impact it had on society starts with horrible and ends with a complete nightmare for authorities and civilians alike:
    • The murder of All Might resulted in Japan losing their security blanket, and for those in the know, the loss of the quirk One for All as a counter to All for One, leaving Eraserhead as the only hope left against him.
    • The murder of Endeavor involved exposing his domestic abuse, shattering faith in him and destroying his legacy. That two of his children went villain as a result of his abuse and joined the League of Villains, being the ones to personally deal the lethal blow, was just icing on the cake.
    • They didn't kill Hawks. They turned him to their side after his interactions with them, the Todorokis specifically, helped him realize that he was also abused. Together, they took down his abusers, the Hero Commission. Exposing their crimes led to a complete restructure of Hero Society.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Izuku went from a Quirkless crybaby to The Dreaded in mere months.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: Izuku stabs Glimmer, one of Uwabami's Sidekicks to death to prove to himself that he has the will to carry out his plans himself, rather than rely on others.
  • Hate Sink: Dragon is a racist, Quirkist, misogynistic narcissist who abandoned his son for being Quirkless and has no problems having his son beaten or his wife murdered if it gets him what he wants. Suffice to say, the man has zero redeeming qualities.
  • Heel Realization: After someone uses his plan to kill Mt. Lady, Izuku acknowledges that his satisfaction over the plan's success makes him a bad person, though he's not too bothered by it.
  • Hero Killer: Izuku's plans are responsible for the deaths of over a dozen different heroes. He's also made kills personally (such as Glimmer and All Might) on rare occasions.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Izuku stabs Overhaul with a knife coated in his own quirk eraser, causing him to lose his Quirk and ultimately leading to his death.
  • Hope Spot: Twice during the USJ attack:
    • All Might effortlessly defeats the Nomu sent to kill him, but his time limit runs out shortly afterwards, letting Izuku kill him with two stabs to his old injury.
    • Immediately after that, Shinso tries to use his Brainwashing on Shigaraki, immediately raising hope among the other students... And seeing the sudden hope sets Izuku's paranoia off and makes him stop Shigaraki from answering, foiling that plan.
  • Hostage Situation: Izuku sets up two Dead Mans Switches in order to release plans to kill the top fifty Pro Heroes if he winds up captured or killed.
  • I Have Your Wife: Overhaul threatens Inko in an attempt to force Izuku to join him.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Izuku explains to Overhaul that he doesn't care what happens to society; he's only interested in having the freedom to do whatever he wants. In the final chapter, Izuku reaffirms this statement to Tsukauchi.
    Izuku: I'm saying that All Might may have been the symbol of peace, but I am the symbol of freedom.
  • I Surrender, Suckers:
    • When bound by Kamui Woods' Quirk, Izuku goes limp like he's giving up, only to immolate the man with a miniature flamethrower.
    • After Overhaul attacks Inko, Izuku pretends to be cowed and meekly joins the man, only to murder his entire organization later.
  • Improbably High I.Q.: An IQ test performed on Izuku after he is sent to Tartarus is stated to be on par with Nedzu's, at 205.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • Izuku Midoriya still ends up cleaning up Dagobah Beach like in canon, though his motivation is out of guilt for his crimes, instead of the purpose of training up his body (though that is also a factor).
    • The Sports Festival still continues as planned in spite of All Might's murder at Mastermind's hands during the USJ attack.
    • Izuku still saves Iida Tenya from being killed by Stain, though Izuku had no intention to.
    • The Training Camp attack still happens, except thanks to Izuku's advice, Shouto Todoroki is kidnapped instead of Bakugou. Alongside Kota being killed.
    • Despite All-Might's murder, All For One is still captured.
    • Kurogiri is still captured by the heroes.
    • The League of Villains vs. the Meta Liberation Army arc still occurs just with Shouto added to the mix.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • The MLA refuses to believe that Izuku is Quirkless because they view the Quirkless as worthless and incapable of becoming anything, despite Mastermind's claim to fame being a strategic mind that any baseline human could develop. This is also despite how terrible life is for the Quirkless and how no sane person would pretend to be one.
    • Upon learning that Mastermind is his son, Dragon decides that the reason Mastermind refuses to work with him, despite never having met him before is because Izuku doesn't recognize him as his father, rather than because he knows full well who Dragon is and absolutely hates him for it.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • Izuku reveals Dabi to be Touya Todoroki, Shouto's older brother to the League of Villains whilst they are planning their attack on the UA Training Camp; later on, after Shouto is kidnapped, Dabi reveals this information to him.
    • In chapter 22, Izuku is revealed to be Mastermind to Shouto.
    • In chapter 26 and 27, Endeavor, Class 1-A and all of Japan learns of Dabi being Toya and of a Face-Heel Turned Shouto.
  • It Gets Easier: Izuku is initially disgusted that he was responsible for the death of a Pro Hero. In only a few months, Izuku takes to planning more murders without any regard for the victims.
  • It's All My Fault: Tsukauchi blames himself for All Might's death at Izuku's hands during his breakdown:
    Tsukauchi: I could have caught him! I could have ignored the stupid hostage situation and put the bastard in Tartarus so he couldn’t fucking hurt anyone else! I could have...
  • It's Personal: Izuku's reason for joining the League of Villains in their attack on the USJ is because he wanted to deal with All-Might personally.
  • Killed Off for Real: Besides original characters, Mt. Lady, Wash, All Might, Stain, Overhaul and Endeavor have all been killed either by Izuku or by somebody using one of his plans.
  • Logical Weakness:
    • All For One has dozens, if not hundreds, of Quirks, but he's just as vulnerable as anyone else to Aizawa's Quirk.
    • Endeavor risks overheating/heat exhaustion if he overuses his Quirk.
    • Tsukauchi mentions that his Quirk only works if someone knows they're lying. Someone who's delusional or misinformed won't set off his Quirk.
  • Mathematician's Answer: One of the big clues towards Mastermind's identity is that someone close to him had been threatened by Overhaul. But since Overhaul was an up and coming yakuza boss with an attitude problem, Tsukauchi notes this barely narrows things down at all.
  • Meaningful Funeral: A funeral is held for All Might after Izuku kills him during the USJ attack.
  • The Mole: Monoma Neito is one for the League of Villains.
  • Moral Myopia: As Izuku explains, it doesn't matter how villainous Bakugou acts, he'll never willingly become a villain because he doesn't see himself as one.
  • Motive Rant: Izuku gives one in the final chapter, after having been incarcerated in Tartarus.
    Izuku: I just wanted people to see me for who I was and give me a fair chance, was that too much to ask? Villains don’t care too much if you've got a great quirk as long as you've got the skills to back it up. You want to know why I became a villain? It's because it was the villains who gave me the chance to shine while the heroes were too busy making sure I knew my place.
    Nedzu: I'm sure not everyone was so bad. Surely there must have been someone willing to give you a chance.
    Izuku: You'd think so, wouldn't you. But no. My best friend became my bully and even after he told me to jump off a roof, he was welcomed into UA with open arms. I was abused by my peers for years while the teachers watched, so it should come as no surprise that I bear more scars from my childhood than I do from my villainy. I didn't want to become a villain at first, you know, but the world didn't really care about what I wanted. If you think I'm lying, why don’t you look up the stats on Quirkless unemployment. The world doesn't give kids like me a chance. ... I was just a little kid who dreamed about being a hero. My life was hell. Bullied at school, beaten down at every turn for the crime of dreaming too big. All Might was the only thing keeping me going most days. The symbol of peace. What a joke, but even his existence gave me hope that things would get better. He used to say in interviews that anyone could be a hero, which meant that my dream wasn’t so impossible after all. It all came crashing down when I actually met him though. He saved me from a villain, just like he was supposed to do. But then, then I asked him if I could be a hero. He didn't even care about what other skills I had to offer. Just said it was too dangerous for a Quirkless kid. Your system, Detective, creates people like me. You put people into these little cages based on their quirk. You did it to me. You did it to Shouto. You did it to Hawks. So what else are we supposed to do when this is the only way for us to be free?
  • Mundanger: Mastermind is one of the biggest threats to Pro Heroes in all of Japan. He has no powers at all and is dangerous due to his talent for reading people even through television or secondhand accounts and exploiting their physical and mental weaknesses. Despite his absurd talent, he's just a totally mundane human being, and Izuku takes full advantage of that to remain Beneath Notice.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Part of the reason why Stain hates Mastermind is because of him believing that Mastermind killing All Might just lead to Hero Society uniting more strongly and causing it to undertake the "wrong changes" now that its "crown jewel" is gone.
  • "No. Just... No" Reaction: When Kaminari thoughtlessly mentions he thought Dabi was Shoto's boyfriend, the latter is immensely grossed out due to Dabi being his older brother.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Whenever Mastermind kills someone himself, he makes a point of doing so in the quickest and easiest way possible without monologuing or dragging things out. And the few times that Mastermind does drag things out he makes sure to cripple his opponents first so they can't fight back or escape.
  • Not So Above It All: When Shoto calls Toga to ask advice for his date with Izuku, Shigaraki, out of all people, joins in and gives his own terrible suggestion.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Hawks starts having such thoughts after comments by Dabi and Shoto make him realize that he also grew up in an abusive home (albeit emotionally rather than physically) and was raised solely to become a hero without regards for what he wanted.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • A gang member finds his younger brother bullying Mastermind in his civilian identity and smacks him over the head before apologizing profusely to Izuku then dragging his little brother off and telling him to never bully that kid again.
    • Giran has one after spotting Mastermind's sigil at the bottom of their cup, realizing they'd just been poisoned.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: When Dabi claims to be Shoto's older brother, the latter asks what they got up to when their father went to work on the weekends. That he not only knows the correct answer but seems genuinely happy remembering it is what proves his claim.
  • Only Sane Man: When Shoto asks advice for his date with Izuku, the League, even Shigaraki comes up with all kinds of horrible romantic advices, which prompts Spinner to step up and tell Shoto to Be Yourself.
  • Patricide:
    • Touya and Shouto Todoroki (otherwise known as Dabi and Freezerburn, respectively) kill their abusive father, Endeavor, at a press conference to get revenge on him.
    • Izuku kills his father when the latter tries to force Izuku to work for him.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: When funding becomes a problem, the League of Villains takes to robbing banks run by corrupt CEOs so they don't lose their moral high ground.
  • Pet the Dog: When Izuku discovers how Overhaul has been making his quirk erasing drugs by using the five-year-old Eri, he comforts her once he kills off Overhaul and his group and anonymously drops her off at Nighteye's agency so no other villain can hurt her.
  • The Perils of Being the Best:
    • When Hawks becomes the number one ranked hero, rather than be happy or envious, most instead feel sorry for him as the deaths of the previous two makes the position more of a target on one's back. The fact he got the position by elimination rather than surpassing the previous two means that he's even more vulnerable than the previous two were.
    • "Daylight Heroes" will stop being a thing thanks to Mastermind. Being a well-known hero means Mastermind can easily find info on them, and any villains the hero stopped know exactly who they want to target.
  • Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Society at large is very prejudiced and rude to Izuku for his lack of a quirk, with Bakugo being the epitome of everything that can go wrong with a person and them still being a prospective hero. The villains, on the other hand, praise and thank Izuku for his plans, pay him what he asks for his plansnote , and while Giran was very surprised to learn Izuku is Quirkless he never unfairly judges him for it. Shigaraki also becomes genial with Izuku when he starts using gaming jargon, even allowing Izuku to stay independent.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • While Izuku does like to take the time to mock Bakugo whenever he encounters him as his villain persona, Izuku never uses his underworld influences and will to kill to have any of his bullies (and there are plenty of them) threatened or whacked because not only would having his bullies turn up dead pin him as a suspect (and thus narrowing down the authority's list of suspects) but having bullies that he is too "afraid" to fight back acts as the perfect deterrent for suspicion.
    • During his attack on Endeavor with Shouto, Dabi makes a point to make sure his attack on the crowd doesn't kill anyone, citing that the approaching Pro Heroes won't be distracted saving a bunch of corpses.
    • The MLA wants to make a deal with the League as Mastermind is a brilliant strategist and is only useful if willingly cooperating.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Izuku delivers one to Stain shortly before fighting him:
    "Did you know that the girl who taught me how to fight loves you? When I told her I was killing you tonight, she was so excited. Told me to bring her a vial of your blood. I don’t intend to break my promise."
  • Precision F-Strike: Tsukauchi's reaction to Eraserhead informing him of Mastermind's face-to-face meetings:
    Eraserhead: According to my contact, over the past week, Mastermind has met with the leaders of several minor gangs. In person.
    Tsukauchi: Fuck.
  • Protagonist Title: Izuku is the titular Mastermind.
  • Put on a Bus: Kamui Woods survives being burned alive by Mastermind during a raid to capture him, but is required to go through a lengthy recovery process before he can return to Hero work. He returns after Shouto Todoroki is kidnapped by the League of Villains.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Played for Laughs. When the League of Villains vows to help Izuku destroy the Meta Liberation Army, he asks what he ever did to deserve friends like them.
    Dabi: You helped us kill people.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • Some of Dragon's men flee when it becomes apparent they severely underestimated Mastermind.
    • A considerable number of hero students withdraw from their various schools due to the success of Mastermind.
  • Ship Tease: Izuku and Shouto end up going on a date together in Chapter 28. Between chapters 28 and 30, Izuku and Shouto become a couple.
  • Shipper on Deck: The whole League ships Izuku and Shoto.
  • Slashed Throat: Izuku kills Skeptic by slashing his throat open.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Deku? I think he's some pro..., another For Want of a Nail fanfic by the same author. In both fics, Izuku Midoriya doesn’t become All Might’s successor and remains Quirkless, so he subsequently decides to use his analysis abilities to make a living via contacting people online. While his co-workers are surprised to learn that he’s Quirkless, they consider him a valuable ally and friend in spite of this, being impressed with his skills. There are also several people who are Locked Out of the Loop that automatically assume that Izuku has some kind of analysis quirk. The difference? In Deku, Izuku decides that if he’s not able to become a Pro-Hero without a quirk, he might as well use his analysis skills to help out the current ones, so he reaches out to Underground Heroes with his observations on how they can improve their skills. When they finally meet Izuku in person and he proves he’s the real deal, they’re all so impressed that a Quirkless middle-school student has this kind of insight that they all take him underneath their wings as an inter-agency intern and recommend him for UA's Hero Course, putting Izuku on track to become the first Quirkless Pro-Hero. In Mastermind, meanwhile, Izuku becomes the titular villain, selling plans for murders and thefts to other Villains partially to lash out at a society who never gave him a chance due to being Quirkless and partially because the villains he befriends are the only people besides Inko, his mother, who treat him with any iota of respect.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Detective Tsukauchi, the detective tasked with tracking down and capturing Mastermind. Gains another sympathetic trait after Mastermind kills All Might, his best friend.
  • The Strategist: Izuku makes a living, as the fic's title suggests, selling strategies and plans to Villains (mainly for murders and thefts) as Mastermind.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Giran is killed by a poisoned cup of coffee.
  • Taught by Experience: Izuku's fighting lessons from Himiko largely amount to her attacking him with a (dull) knife and Izuku trying to defend himself.
  • Teens Are Short: Discussed by Nedzu when he deduces that Mastermind is most likely a Quirkless teenager. Since Aizawa's Power Nullifier Quirk didn't work on Mastermind, he either has a very weak Quirk or has no Quirk so his stature wouldn't be influenced by it. Between his height and the fact that the majority of Quirkless people don't make it to adulthood, it's very likely Mastermind is a teen.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Izuku is a non-descript teenager with no physical signs of his villainy, he literally crashes into a hero when fleeing a raid and the hero thinks he's a civilian thanks to shedding his villain costume earlier. This is also integral to his everyday life, as he can walk around normally with no suspicion.
  • This Means War!: Izuku's reaction to learning Overhaul attacked his mother is to declare that Overhaul just made a big mistake.
  • True Companions: The League of Villains agree to fight against the Meta Liberation Army because they deeply hurt and offended Izuku.
  • Un-Sorcerer: Izuku remains Quirkless in this fanfic, as he never inherited One For All.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Izuku becomes a villain due the actions of All Might, Kamui Woods, the one good action of one of his middle school teachers, and an unnamed McDonald's director:
      • As in canon, All Might tells Izuku he can't be a hero due being Quirkless, as it would just be too dangerous, unwittingly putting him into a heavy depression.
      • When the Sludge Villain attacked Bakugou, Kamui Woods spotted Izuku trying to save him, and seeing an untrained civilian recklessly jumping into a fight stopped him. This kept Izuku from impressing All Might, keeping him in his depression and eventually resulting in him finding a post where someone asked how "hypotetically" one would go to kill Mt. Lady... And providing the plan that resulted in her assassination.
      • After the above, Izuku tried his hardest to not become a villain. Then at school one of his teachers suggested him and everyone else to keep in mind their Quirks and talents when choosing their career path, at which point Izuku found out of the high unemployment rate among Quirkless people. To try and prove to himself he had a choice other than becoming a villain or homeless, Izuku started looking for a job, applying, among other places, at a McDonald's... Whose director instead hired one of Izuku's bullies in spite of his poor permanent record. It's at this point that Izuku goes and actually starts selling plans to villains.
    • Masaru becomes this when during a Bakugou-Midoriya family dinner he mentions how worse the failed Mastermind capture raid could have been if the villain took hostages. Masaru comments inspired Izuku to hold the top fifty heroes hostage and set up his Dead Man's Switch.
  • Villain Protagonist: Izuku Midoriya, the titular Mastermind.
  • Villainous Friendship: Izuku is on friendly terms with Giran and Himiko each, though the former is largely due to Izuku being good business. By chapter 31, he is explicitly friends with the rest of the league.
  • Villainous Rescue:
    • An incidental variation. Iida is saved from Stain by Izuku arriving to murder Stain himself.
    • Another incidental occurrence happens when Izuku discovers Eri locked in a room after he kills off Overhaul and his organization. While he didn't even know about Eri before then, he's glad that Overhaul can't use Eri anymore and anonymously drops her off at Nighteye's agency because he knows that's the best place for her at the moment..
  • Villains Out Shopping: Deconstructed in Chapter 35 - Izuku and Shouto go out to a date in a theatre to see a movie, but end up attacked by Class 1-A, who were also there, and have to leave without seeing it.
  • Weak, but Skilled: What Izuku lacks in Quirk, he more than makes up for with brains and skill.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Glimmer is introduced along with her Quirk in Chapter 8, immediately before Izuku stabs her to death.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The attack on the USJ in chapter 13 concludes with Izuku killing All-Might.
    • Chapter 14 reveals All Might did not pass on One For All.
    • In Chapter 41, Inko accidentally finds one of Izuku's Mastermind notebooks while cleaning his room for him while he's at school. Reading a bit of it and realizing it's a plan for a criminal plot, she worries that her son has joined a gang and she goes to the police station to talk to Tsukauchi about it. The notebook creates enough proof for Tsukauchi and Nedzu to realize that Izuku is Mastermind, but they don't want to arrest him until they get rid of his Dead Man's Switch. As a result they tell Inko to return the notebook to Izuku's desk so he won't suspect anything and tells her that if Izuku ever leaves his laptop at home to notify them right away.
    • In Chapter 42, Nedzu manages to disable Izuku's Dead Man's Switch and Tsukauichi arrests Izuku.
    • In Chapter 43, Izuku already planned for being arrested and thrown into Tartarus.
  • Wrong Assumption: Overhaul assumes Mastermind hates Quirks due to being Quirkless himself. Izuku corrects him that he sees Quirks as tools and really doesn't care about them otherwise, nor does he hate others for having Quirks.
  • You Are Too Late:
    • By the time Nedzu and the teachers arrive at the USJ, the League of Villains, with Izuku's help, have already murdered All Might and escaped.
    • When the hero team comes to Shoto's rescue, the League of Villains, thanks to Mastermind's warning, had already left the bar to a secondary location.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!: Principal Nedzu briefly laments in Chapter 29 that it's a shame that Mastermind's skills and smarts are being used for villainy instead of heroism.
    Nedzu: I only wish that I could have met him before he turned to villainy. Such a brilliant mind deserves to be nurtured and I would have loved to teach him. (Sighs) But unfortunately, I have to catch him instead.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Giran is killed after Mastermind decides they've gone soft and he no longer needs them.