In the world of the Avatar, many are gifted with the ability to control one of the four elements: earth, fire, water, or wind. The Avatar alone can master all four elements, allowing them to keep balance in the world. It seemed like a simple premise when Avatar: The Last Airbender first aired, but three seasons, a sister show, and a graphic novel series later and we have found the world of bending is much more layered and fluid than we ever imagined. Toph showed us subbending skills like sand and metal bending. Aang introduced us to energybending and Azula demonstrated lighting generation and redirection. And who could forget Katara learning healing and mastering bloodbending? It seems that bending possibilities not only became more diverse and powerful, but so did those who mastered them.
Bending is a gift not everyone gets and not everyone who gets it is worthy. Many heroes have had bending abilities, but there have also been a number of enemies who have walked the Avatar’s world, ready to go head-to-head with the Avatar themselves. The megalomaniac Fire Lord Ozai and the Equalist member Amon were certainly two of the most powerful and came close to snuffing out the Avatar. Alternatively, there were benders like Avatar Kyoshi for whom the end was just another means to obtain justice and peace. While fully realized Avatars and Fire Lords may appear to be at the top of the bending food chain, there is a lot to be said for the other benders, many of whom are more powerful than you remember. Here are the 20 most powerful benders in the Avatar Universe.
Ming-Hua was one of the most dangerous and formidable members of the Red Lotus in no small part because of her waterbending skills. Born without arms, Ming-Hua became a master bender who used her abilities to create replacement, tentacle-like arms of water. Using her body, she was able to control these liquid limbs using them to lift her body and reach opponents from a distance, all without losing control of the water.
Ming-Hua’s control over this element allowed her to create hand-like appendages at her tentacles’ ends. She could also freeze selected parts of the tentacles, fashioning them into ice-hard tools or weapons. It is no wonder that once this fugitive was caught, she was placed in a maximum security holding cell above a volcano.
Bumi was the only one of Avatar Aang’s friends to still be around after he thawed out from being frozen for 100 years. While Aang was frozen, Bumi became the King of Omashu and master earthbender. His methods relied heavily on waiting until the right moment to bend, which resulted in the execution of extremely powerful and effective earthbending techniques.
King Bumi’s bending was powerful enough to move large rocks, turn dirt into instant quicksand, tunnel underground with ease, and even earthbend by simply using his face. He’s also known for his horrible jokes. During his time, he was likely the strongest earthbender around. He even once claimed to be the most powerful earthbender anyone would ever see.
Avatar Aang’s son Tenzin inherited his father’s airbending abilities, making him the first airbender born in over 100 years. Under Aang’s tutelage, Tenzin became an airbending master and received his tattoo markings. After Aang’s passing Tenzin was the world’s only airbending master, a role he has used to find and train others including his children and Avatar Korra.
Tenzin is generally a pacifist, but there have been several occasions, like being the first to strike Amon, where he has used to abilities and impressed us all. As a bender, Tenzin can create powerful tornadoes, protective air shields and domes, and air blasts. He can also use his airbending to cleanse and restore areas that are points of connection to the spirit world.
Kuvira was a military leader with an eye for conquest who also a formidable bending opponent. As an earth and metalbender, she found herself rising to prominence within the Metal Clan where she was captain of the guard at Zaofu, the autonomous city-state founded by Suyin Beifong. Eventually, Kuvira sought to dissolve the Earth Kingdom and create her own Earth Empire.
As a master earthbender, Kuvira could manipulate earth and rock of various sizes to do her bidding. She is also a master metalbender who excels at manipulating metal cables and instantly fashioning a variety of metal weapons. Even Korra struggled against her. Kuvira can also sense when others around her are metalbending as well and has earned recognition for her abilities, even from Suyin.
Pro-bender turned Team Avatar member Bolin started out as a gifted earthbender but, over time, he became much more powerful. As an earthbender, he can create earth walls, lift large rocks and pieces of concrete, and direct and fire chunks of earth at opponents. His bending is further enhanced by his “light on his feet” approach and the employment of his pro-bending moves while in battle.
Later, Bolin learned he also had the rare ability to lavabend. He was able to stop an oncoming wave of lava very quickly and soon demonstrated the ability to shift the earth between states of solid and lava at will. He could also create large streams and waves of lava and proved able to lavabend with only his feet.
15 LIN BEIFONG
Republic City Chief of Police Lin Beifong is a chip right off the old earthbending block. Like her mother, Toph, Lin is a master earthbender. She has also mastered the art of seismic sense, which allows her to detect in great detail objects and environments which she otherwise couldn’t see. That’s another one of her mom’s tricks.
On the police force, Lin leads the Metalbending Force. Metalbending is perhaps Lin’s greatest strength as a bender. The scope of her metalbending power ranges from tearing apart the hull of an airship to unlocking handcuffs. Despite all this, Lin never quite measured up to Toph’s metalbending expectations, which may be part of the reason she sometimes comes off like she has a heart of stone.
14 SUYIN BEIFONG
Though she was once bested by the aforementioned Kuvira, Suyin Beifong is collectively one of the strongest benders around. As with her mother Toph and her half-sister Lin, Suyin is a master earth and metalbender. She has demonstrated the ability to shift between bending styles without missing a beat and can also use both at the sometime. She can also use seismic sense.
Suyin used her metalbending skills to construct the entire city-state of Zaofu. She could also bend liquid metal, even at levels the human eye can’t see. She once used metalbending to get mercury out of Korra’s body. She was the first master to teach an Avatar metalbending. Despite all this, Toph believed Suyin never learned all the nuances of metalbending.
13 TOPH BEIFONG
Toph Beifong is far from your average bender. A natural earthbender, she was just the teacher that Avatar Aang needed as he continued trying to master all the elements. Toph was born blind and has been able to use her bending ability to compensate for it with seismic sense. Using her feet, she can “see” any person, thing, or structure that is touching the ground.
Toph also became skilled in sandbending, manipulating sand to such a level that she could instantly create elaborate sculptures. She also became the first metalbender, using its earthly impurities to bend the metal itself. This is a skill she would later teach her daughters Lin and Suyin.
12 AVATAR WAN
Where would the world of the Avatar be if not for the mischievous peasant who eventually became the original Avatar? Several thousand years before the time of Avatars Aang or Korra, a man named Wan became the first to master the elements. Back when the world was shared by humans and spirits, Wan found his calling in helping bring balance between the two groups.
Starting with fire, Wan travelled the world visiting the lion turtles until he had control over all four elements. However, it was not until he merged with Raava that he was able to wield them all at once, thus creating the Avatar. He became able to open and close portals to the spirtworld and also enter the Avatar state.
Trained as a youth to master waterbending, Amon grew up to form an anti-bender revolutionary group, the Equalists. He was the key instrument in achieving the Equalists’ goal of a bender-free world, but not because of his skill as a waterbending prodigy. It was his mastery of bloodbending that did the trick. Amon became so powerful he could bloodbend regardless of a full moon. He became even more powerful by learning psychic bending, allowing him to bend without physical movement.
Using bloodbending, Amon achieved his goal of doing to others what Avatar Aang once did to the Fire Lord: remove their bending. Bloodbending allowed him to permanently sever the connection between a bender and their chi paths. Only Avatar Korra could undo this through energybending.
Few enemies or benders felt as scary and powerful as Zuko’s sister, Princess Azula. Unlike her brother, Azula proved early on to be a firebending prodigy. Her abilities stemmed from her deep-seated anger and jealousy over her lost mother’s favoritism towards Zuko. As a result, she is a seemingly unstoppable force that hunts down Team Avatar.
Azula can create shields of flame, propel herself by flame, and she doesn’t tire easy. She also has two unique firebending attributes. She creates blue flames, which even her father the Fire Lord cannot do. She also has the inherent ability to generate lighting, a skill that only the most powerful firebenders can wield. Azula proved strong enough to defeat Zuko, but she couldn't compete with Katara.
When we think of good old uncle Iroh, we think of words of wisdom, pai sho, and, of course, tea. It is easy to forget that this gentle and loving man was once a general in the Fire Nation’s military and a highly capable firebender. With his impressive ability to breath fire and his claim to having destroyed the world’s last dragon, it’s no surprise he is also called the Dragon of the West.
Iroh’s bending was such that, if Aang hadn’t been defeated the Fire Lord, everyone’s money was going to be on him to do it. He also invented the technique for absorbing and redirecting lightning, which he later taught Zuko. He has also been seen creating protective rings of fire and fireballs.
8 AVATAR KORRA
When the Order of the White Lotus met four-year-old Korra, the newest Avatar, she could easily bend earth, fire, and water. As an adult, she went to Republic city to learn airbending from Tenzin, Aang’s son. She not only achieved airbending but, with help from Aang’s spirit, she learned to energybend. This allowed her to restore the bending skills Amon severed.
Korra was more closely connected to the physical side of bending rather than the spiritual but eventually learned to use her energybending to connect with her inner spirit. She gained access to cosmic energy, enabling her to astral project and fire energy blasts. She eventually achieved the Avatar State, though her temporary separation from Raava cost her the connection to all past Avatars.
7 FIRE LORD OZAI
Ozai, ruler of the Fire Nation and an unrivaled firebender seemed untouchable for most of the Avatar series. There was some doubt that Aang could beat him, especially without ending him. Even Ozai’s own brother Iroh was unsure he could take him down in an Agni Kai. Ozai’s bending was fueled by hate and anger and, during Sozin’s comet, he became almost unstable in taking over the world.
Ozai has demonstrated a seemingly unparalleled mastery of firebending, which he implemented in aggressive and unorthodox ways. He has used his bending to propel himself at high speeds, create large fire plumes, generate and direct lighting, and create fire blasts. He almost beat Aang before he entered the Avatar State and stripped Ozai of his bending.
6 AVATAR ROKU
Roku, born in the Fire Nation, was the Avatar incarnation that existed between Kyoshi and Aang. By age 28, Roku mastered bending all the elements individually and simultaneously and entered the Avatar State. Beyond firebending, he could lavabend and use earthbending to reshape, move, and tunnel under the ground. He could fly with an Air Nomad glider, create tornados, and make air shields.
Roku was a master of the elements and precise in his use of them. For example, he could melt the metal chains of a person without harming them. Roku was close friends with Ozai’s grandfather, Fire Lord Sozin, who sought to conquer the world. Roku defeated Sozin in a confrontation but was unable to stop him from beginning the Hundred Year War.
Tenzin’s daughter Jinora had a habit of making airbending look easy, but we never realized what a powerful bender she’d later become. Like her grandfather, Avatar Aang, Jinora was skilled in using her airbending to glide. She could also create powerful whirlwinds and blasts of air. Jinora eventually became the youngest bender to ever achieve the level of master. She even got the blue arrow tattoos that signify her rank.
Jinora’s bending skills don’t stop with air. She exhibited a link with the spirit world early on and later found she could combine her bending and spiritual powers to astral project. This allowed her to track others by locking on to their energy. She eventually become Avatar Korra’s guide to the spirit realm.
Prince Zuko has demonstrated the strength and determination necessary to become one of the world’s greatest firebenders. As a child, he seemed lacking in his abilities but, with the help of his Uncle Iroh, Zuko advanced greatly. As a firebending master, he was able to contend with his sister, Azula, who easily bested him in the past.
Zuko can create fire walls, absorb and redirect lighting, create and deflect fireball blasts, and create fire whips. He was able to combat Aang on multiple occasions and also took down Combustion Man. After losing his firebending due to a lack of rage, Zuko learned new ways to regain and strengthen his abilities. Sozin’s comet greatly enhanced Zuko’s powers, which he retained going forward as the new Fire Lord.
It seems there is nothing Katara can’t do, except maybe make Zutara canon. Romance aside, Katara is one of the most powerful benders ever. For perspective, think back to how she took down Azula in the finale. Katara has outmatched her share of benders and, as we saw in The Legend of Korra, she was still bending strong in old age.
As a waterbender, Katara mastered the element in liquid, frozen, and gaseous form. She also demonstrated control over any water-based liquids like perspiration, ink, and mud. Later, she learns she has the unique ability to heal wounds and illness with water. She also learned the advanced technique of bloodbending, which allowed her to control the water in people’s blood, making them her puppets.
2 AVATAR KYOSHI
As far as Avatars go, Kyoshi was the most powerful and influential, second only to Aang. Born in the Earth Kingdom, Kyoshi lived for 230 years before passing the torch to Avatar Roku. She could use all of the elements and enter the Avatar State at will. Unlike her Avatar peers, Kyoshi took no issue with killing her enemies to exact justice and maintain peace.
As a bender, Kyoshi’s most famous feat was using the Avatar State to create Kyoshi Island by severing a peninsula from the rest of the Earth Kingdom. She did so by using earth and lavabending to breakthrough and separate the landmass. She then used airbending to push the island out to sea. She is the only female known to lavabend.
1 AVATAR AANG
We mostly remember Aang as the cute kid Avatar who bested the Fire Lord, but let’s take a minute to talk about how powerful of a bender he really was. Aang achieved all the standard Avatar bending feats, but since he was frozen in an iceberg until shortly before he had to take down Ozai, he actually learned water, earth, and firebending in just a year.
Since Aang was only 12 when he began training and most Avatars don’t start until 16, he became the youngest person to ever become a realized Avatar. He was also the first Avatar to learn energybending in recent history, to restore a person’s bending, redirect lighting, and use seismic sense. He never learned any of the subbending arts, however.