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While on Titan Thanos was noticeably beaten and even almost lost, on Earth (which fight took place moments later) he got rid of anyone like flies. Captain American was the only one who actually managed to lay a blow and even that took less than 30 seconds before he was punched away.

Stone wise, the only difference was that on Earth Thanos also had the time stone. But he used it only after beating everyone.

Does it mean the group on Titan are better/stronger/smarter heroes than the group on Earth? Keep in mind the group on Earth actually had more time to prepare because Vision detected Thanos' arrival in advance.

Alternatively, since the primary stone Thanos used on Earth was the power one, does it mean each further stone enhances the power one, i.e. the time stone gave further boost to the power one?

I know Thanos had the gauntlet on all the time on Earth, but he also got a chance to wear it during the battle on Titan.

Was it something else?

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    It's worse than that. In the climactic battle in End Game, he still basically kicks everyone's asses despite not having any of the stones or the gauntlet during some parts of that fight. And "everyone" in this case includes almost everybody in both the groups in your two examples and a few more (Capt. Marvel most notably), though some of them are obviously distracted fighting the rest of his army. – Darrel Hoffman Apr 1 at 14:38
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We know he didn't almost lose on Titan.

Dr Strange checked a myriad of possible futures, and in none of them did they defeat Thanos on Titan and end the threat. If Thanos was "almost beaten" in any meaningful way, then some change in what the heroes did would have moved the result over to "beaten".

The most generous possibility is that they could have, at best, made Thanos retreat on Titan, then come back prepared and win anyhow.

This is relatively strong evidence that on Titan, Thanos was playing around with the heroes, and even if they pulled off the tricks like Mantis' sleep ability Thanos would have just taken the gloves off.

Thanos knows that these beings are competent enough to defeat one of his underlings, but not powerful enough to stop the underling from taking the stone in the first place. So he has a good idea of how tough they are. He probably also knows the Guardians of the Galaxy competence level, as they have interacted with his children and agents in the past.

Given that, it is plausible that Thanos believes that nobody here is likely to be a real threat to him. He can afford to act like a world class expert at a sport playing with people who aren't even professionals. This is backed up by Dr Strange's conclusion, that no tactic could win, and they best plan is to let him have the stones, fullfil his plan, win, then retroactively undo it after he is out of play. Finally, defeat him when he's younger, less prepared, and the heroes are better prepared, and only by not defeating him but rather by taking the complete infinity gauntlet and vetoing his existence.

By the time Thanos gets to Earth in Infinity War, he both knows that this isn't some backwater planet, but actually has people rivaling those he fought on Titan. He doesn't have time to play and enjoy himself. He has reached the end of his life goal. Finally, he could have used the Time Stone to spend as much time as he wants practicing with the stones, but we don't have proof of that other than his surprising competence with the time stone.

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    Now I have forgotten where relative to the battle scene Dr. Strange was looking into all possible futures, but my impression from my apparently poor memory was that it was far enough into the fight that it's possible it could have gone differently had he looked early (say before they reached Titan) – Michael Apr 3 at 20:42
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    In support of this answer, in the beginning of the movie Thanos is shown to specifically toy with Hulk. Maw stops the other underlings from helping Thanos, stating "let him have his fun" or something along those lines. – Flater Apr 3 at 22:40
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    I also feel that he didn't want to just beat the group on Titan; as he needed to get the location of the Time Stone out of them. – Scoots Apr 4 at 2:12
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    @Michael Just rewatched last night: Strange was already on Titan when he was examining potential futures. It seemed to be on the order of minutes prior to Thanos's arrival - just long enough for everyone to move into position for their ambush. – Tim Sparkles Apr 5 at 18:37
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I don't think it was a question of which team was the more powerful, but simply the circumstances of each fight.

The group on Titan had prepared a plan and were waiting for him to arrive to ambush him. Thanos was expecting to pick up the Time Stone from Ebony Maw. He didn't expect resistance and was surprised by what happened. Also while Thanos does almost lose the gauntlet, he ends up soundly beating them when he wakes up from Mantis's sleep effect.

When attacking the team on Earth the circumstances are very different. They were a group already tired from the main frontal attack. They were also scrambling to protect Vision from the surprise Corvus Glaive attack, and don't know what to expect. They have no clear plan and attack Thanos one at a time. Wanda is trying to protect Vision, while he is trying to persuade her to destroy the last stone. The rest of the team are not as powerful and reacting to what happens in front of them. Thanos by this point is clearly not in any mood to negotiate and simply deals with them one at a time.

I don't think its very helpful to discuss which Avengers are more powerful than others. Each team has heavy hitters, like Dr Strange, Vision, Wanda Maximoff, the difference for the team on Titan was coordination and surprise.

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  • I don't think he was "soundly beating them", definitely not like on Earth. And "The rest of the team are not as powerful" is kind of what you were trying to avoid. – LWC Apr 1 at 17:56
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    You don't think breaking up a moon and throwing it at them, fighting off Strange's magical attack and then stabbing Iron Man in the abdomen and being about to kill him while the rest of the team are scattered counts as "soundly beating them"? He would have killed Stark at that moment, and Strange could not have prevented it. – iandotkelly Apr 1 at 18:37
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    Honestly the majority of both teams are lacking in power compared to Thanos. Strange is the only seriously powerful character on Titan, and Vision & Maximoff are the only powerful ones on Earth (well excluding Thor who is strangely absent from this part of the fight). – iandotkelly Apr 1 at 18:39
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    my point is that in Earth he didn't need to throw a whole moon at anyone since he beat everyone there in seconds. – LWC Apr 1 at 20:57
  • @LWC Thanos already knew who Tony was when they met on Titan. He considered him something of a kindred spirit. Thanos subsequently took Tony's opposition and resistance personally, and he had heretofore made a point not to take anything in his quest personally (he proudly declares his default "don't take anything personally" approach in Endgame, to emphasize how he is now taking it very personally). He didn't need to throw a moon at anyone on Titan, either. – zibadawa timmy Apr 3 at 5:34
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Along with what @iandotkelly said about the element of surprise on Titan, I would argue Thanos was not actually fighting to beat them initially, he was just enjoying the fight like he did when he fought the Hulk at the start of the movie. Only after Mantis almost caused him to lose the gauntlet did he get serious and swiftly beat everyone. He didn't need to fight them one on one, he could have just used the reality stone to turn everyone inanimate in a second (perhaps with the exception of Doctor Strange), like he did to the Guardians of The Galaxy on Knowhere. Once he gets to Earth, his life's missions end goal is in his sight, all he needs to do is to get the last stone. It's an emotional moment from him and he does not care about anything or anyone else besides getting the last stone and fulfilling his mission. He uses the space stone to trap Bruce in rock, crush War Machine's suite, trap someone in a tree roots, etc. instead of using the power stone to fight them one on one.

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  • I completely agree. He assumes he will be able to win a fight against the group on Titan and is almost lazy about how he approaches the fight and they surprise him. When he gets to Earth he's not playing any more. – iandotkelly Apr 1 at 15:01
  • Are you saying he used the space stone to accomplish those 3 things? I was thinking at least for Bruce it was the reality stone, but for the others it really was the power stone, so it might not be "instead". In any case, my claim is that on Titan even after Mantis, he still didn't "swiftly beat" everyone. – LWC Apr 1 at 17:26
  • I don't remember exactly which stone was used for what, just that on Earth he used the stones more wisely to deal with people by trapping them or disabling them rather than fighting them head on, the power of the stones didn't suddenly increased, he just used them better. If the stones got more powerful the more you collected then Thor should not have been able to axe him when he had all the stones in the gauntlet. Or you can look at how Captain Marvel overpowered Thanos even though he had the full gauntlet, he had to improvise by using the power stone alone in his left arm to win. – Ghos3t Apr 1 at 18:45
  • Anyone who got all stones got Gamma rays through his body (which didn't happen if any stone was missing), but I wonder if still 3 stones mean more than 2, etc. I think Captain Marvel prevented him from wearing the glove so at least utilized the power stone. – LWC Apr 1 at 20:42

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