Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra introduced bending masters who could inspire awe and crush their opponents with a single move. Half the fun of watching either series came from the excitement of incredible benders going toe-to-toe over the fate of the world. Aang and Korra were advanced benders in their own right, but they fought alongside a number of allies with matchless bending abilities. From the Avatars to their elemental masters to the grandmasters who would occasionally appear to amaze less experienced benders, the Avatar universe had no shortage of powerful benders. These masters would often find their equals in the villains who threatened the balance of the world with their own powerful bending.
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Still, not every bender who appeared in the Avatar universe was ready to duel with the best. Avatar had its share of weak benders who could only stand against mediocre foes, if even that. When faced with a real bending master, these weaker benders usually did not stand a chance. Which of Aang and Korra’s friends and foes were truly the most powerful benders, and which struggled to best their opponents? It’s time to find out.
Updated by November 8th, 2022 by Amanda Bruce: With Netflix bringing The Last Airbender into live action in a new series, fans of the original animated series, and its sequel The Legend of Korra, have their interests returning to the now-classic series. Some fans are still on the fence about whether they want to even see the live action series after the previous attempt to adapt it to a movie didn’t go over well. Others are simply reminiscing about their favorite aspects of the series – or debating about the most powerful characters in the series.
The Most Powerful Benders In The Avatar Franchise
Amon was the most powerful bloodbender the Avatar had ever encountered, easily giving Hama, Katara, and his father Yakone a run for their money in this rare and dangerous bending subset. He was a natural prodigy with bloodbending, as he could bend without the full moon and break his brother’s bloodbending hold with hardly any effort.
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He wielded his bending with advanced skill, and he was able to subdue multiple powerful benders at once. His bloodbending could remove another person’s bending, an ability that only the Avatar has previously been able to use. Amon leveraged his specific skills to their full advantage to keep Republic City under his hold.
Jinora, as one of the youngest airbenders seen in The Legend Of Korra, didn’t have a lot of experience using her abilities when the series first started. Despite that, she became one of the characters most connected to the Spirit Realm, something a lot of other benders were unable to do.
Jinora also had the honor of becoming one of the youngest airbending masters ever. The audience shouldn’t count her out just because she’s a kid.
Pakku was the leading waterbending master in his tribe when he’s introduced in The Last Airbender. He’s responsible for training all the other waterbenders – they just all happened to be male as he refused to teach women.
Despite Pakku’s misogynistic tendencies, he’s clearly an accomplished and strong waterbender. He put Katara through her paces. Katara eventually proved to Pakku that his more traditional approach to only including men in his lessons was wrong, and the two learned a lot from one another.
In Legend Of Korra, Tenzin had a fairly rigid lifestyle. He believed in structure and rules and maintained a non-violent and vegetarian lifestyle in accordance with ancient air nomad traditions. That tended to put him at odds with Korra quite a bit, and it also meant that he wasn’t as able to freely let go to interact with the Spirit World.
Despite that, he’s an impressive fighter. He nearly took out Zaheer on his own, but their battle was interrupted by Zaheer’s allies. He’s also able, despite their difference, to train his children and Korra to achieve impressive airbending feats.
Suyin Beifong was her mother’s daughter. Though Toph did not think either of her daughters mastered the finer points of metalbending, Suyin could metalbend with nearly unmatched fluidity. She was proficient enough with metalbending to build the entire city of Zaofu.
When her much younger protégé Kuvira went rogue, Suyin was able to hold her own in a lengthy duel against Kuvira, fashioning a variety of improvised weapons and armor from the metal machinery around her. When Korra was exposed to a metallic poison, only Suyin was capable of saving Korra’s life by extracting most of the poison. If anyone could carry on Toph’s metalbending legacy, it would be Suyin.
As a master bender, Jeong Jeong is vastly underrated. His firebending is characterized by restraint and self-control, yet he displays incredible power every time he chooses to use it.
During Sozin’s Comet, he single-handedly took out dozens of firebender tanks with a few careful sweeps of fire that left everything else untouched. Even without drawing on the comet, he was able to create a massive wall of fire to delay Admiral Zhao, then he disappeared in a blaze. It’s no wonder that he showed up as a member of the Order of the White Lotus.
Like Toph, Ming-Hua relied on her bending in everyday life and fostered a deep connection to waterbending. She was not only able to create spectacles like multiple tentacles of water, but also show fine control like grabbing an opponent by the throat with a water tentacle.
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She could perform amazing feats of waterbending that required precision, such as freezing only part of the tendril she used as an arm. Her water tendrils could function with the versatility of an arm. She grabbed, fought, and even drove a car with them. Her focus and control was always top-notch, making her one of the most fearsome waterbender opponents.
King Bumi lulled everyone into a false sense of security as an eccentric old man, right up to the point that he revealed he was one of the most powerful earthbenders they had ever seen. He got the drop on Aang during their duel and easily could have defeated him. He waited out his time as Azula’s prisoner until the Day of Black Sun, when he managed to earthbend away from his captors using only his face.
King Bumi took part in the liberation of Ba Sing Se with the Order of the White Lotus. During the battle, he sent Fire Nation tanks flying like ragdolls. Few earthbenders could begin to challenge him.
Kuvira was the first true earthbender threat, and she showed just how much havoc a rogue metalbender could wreak. Kuvira showed much of Toph’s proficiency with metalbending, subduing opponents and creating improvised weapons with remarkable speed and skill.
She was able to defeat Suyin, her own teacher and Toph’s daughter. She brought down Korra in a duel, though Korra was in a weakened state at the time. Kuvira only lost the upper hand when Korra entered the Avatar State. She fought as an equal to Korra in their second duel before it was interrupted. Kuvira might have become a world conqueror if not for Korra and her allies.
Zuko was always a proficient firebender, but he grew into a true master on his journey with Aang. From the beginning, he was advanced enough to defeat Admiral Zhao and hold his own against Aang and Katara. After he went through his redemption, however, he became a firebender in the same class as his father and sister.
He redirected his father’s attack with minimal training in lightning redirection, and he nearly defeated an unstable Azula in their Agni Kai. He trained with the last dragons, just as his uncle had, and discovered the secrets of firebending. Team Avatar was fortunate he was on their side at the end.
Fire Lord Ozai held the fate of the world in his hands, and he intended to use his considerable bending power to tear the world apart. He was considered one of the most powerful firebenders in the world, as he trained from birth to carry on a legacy of firebending conquerors.
However, he rarely used his firebending to personally take on an opponent. His only true bending battle was his final showdown against Aang, when he was augmented by Sozin’s Comet. He did fight Aang with an incredible show of strength and skill that nearly destroyed the Avatar, though, cementing his place as one of the premier firebenders.
Avatar Kyoshi was an earthbender best known for protecting the group of warriors that Suki would eventually lead in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Her abilities were so powerful she could separate the earth to create an island.
Not only did she become accomplished in bending all the elements, but she also became accomplished at communing with the spirits of past Avatars and mending her own body to help slow the aging process. Kyoshi ended up living to be 230 years old, older than any other known human in the Avatar franchise.
It’s impossible to examine the strongest benders in the Avatar franchise without taking a look at Wan. Wan was the first Avatar. He’s the one to bring fire to humans, and the one to slowly master all kinds of bending before any other humans have access to it.
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Wan was also the first of his kind to walk among the spirits, to understand the spirits, and was partially responsible for the human and spirit worlds being separated. Wan wasn’t just the first Avatar to bend the elements, but also to contain the spirit Vaatu. His choices influenced his world and timeline for thousands of years.
Toph was the ultimate earthbender. She used her bending in ways even earthbending masters could not. Her seismic sense gave her constant vigilance and tracking abilities, as well as a deep understanding of the ways she could move the earth to undermine her opponents.
She invented metalbending as a child merely out of necessity and soon became proficient enough to battle in a metal airship. When she was in her element, no one could stand against her. Even as an old woman, she was able to knock Kuvira and her underlings off their guard by rolling the earth. Toph in her prime would have been a sight to behold, and truly one of the strongest characters in the Avatar franchise.
Zaheer was the most insurmountable foe Korra ever faced. With minimal self-teaching, he became an airbender skilled enough to match with Korra and Tenzin. He was the first airbender since the legendary Guru Laghima to master unaided airbender flight, an ability Tenzin did not think was possible.
Zaheer gave Korra the fight of her life, causing her trauma from which she did not recover for years. He held his own against multiple opponents, including multiple bending masters and the Avatar herself. Besides the Avatar, Zaheer was easily the most powerful airbender that the world had seen in a long time.
No one came as far in their journey as Katara did. She started out as a girl who was barely able to turn water into ice and ended as a waterbending master of the highest order. Even before she had much experience, she gave Master Pakku a difficult enough duel that he was impressed with her abilities.
Katara was able to perform bloodbending and break Hama’s bloodbending grip without any direct instruction from the only other bloodbender at the time. She also took down fearsome opponents like Zuko and Azula with a speed and skill that much older masters would have found hard to match.
Ozai may have been the big bad of the series, but Azula was the one everyone had to fear. She was a flawless bender, never amatuer enough to make simple mistakes or lose sight of her ultimate goal. On top of that, she was also ruthless with her bending. She saw a chance to attack, and she took it on full-force.
In a fight, the best most of her opponents could do was get away from her to fight another day. Zuko and Katara had to work together to finally take her down, and she was only defeated when she descended into a mental derangement that made it impossible to bend with her usual fatal precision.
Did anyone really doubt that Iroh was secretly the best firebender who ever lived? Iroh trained with the last dragons, and he displayed firebending prowess and technique that earned him international acclaim and fear. He hardly fought after the loss of Lu Ten, but on the few occasions he showed aggression, he proved he could match with the best.
He fought against Azula long enough for Aang to escape and then peacefully surrendered. Zuko knew only Iroh could defeat Ozai, who was often considered the most powerful firebender in the world. Fans will never know how much Iroh could do if he were pushed to fight, but there’s no doubt he ranks among the most powerful benders.
Korra struggled with a number of powerful foes during her early tenure as the Avatar, but she always came out on top. While she was still a teenager, she became a master of three elements, advanced enough to conclude her training in everything but airbending. She proved a natural at a few skills that even Aang had trouble picking up, such as metalbending and breaking a bloodbending grip.
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Korra was highly adaptable with her bending, varying her tactics and skill to face everything from an ancient spirit bent on destruction to an anarchist airbender who wanted to shake up the world. Korra was an extremely powerful Avatar who could bend an opponent to her will.
Aang went into his role as the Avatar with several disadvantages. His own people had been wiped out, waterbending and earthbending had been suppressed, and most firebenders were his enemies. With most true masters on the run from the Fire Nation, he trained with children who became masters on their own journey with him.
Even with the world stacked against him, Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai, one of the most powerful firebenders in the world, when he was only 12 years old. If he had the advantages Korra later had, he would have been an even more terrifyingly powerful bender.
The Weakest Benders In The Avatar Franchise
Combustion Man’s rare combustion ability made a formidable showing of brute force, but he failed to back it up with any skill. He had one trick, which he applied over and over again, never varying his attack. He often gave Team Avatar far too much warning before his attacks, allowing them to evade him.
His consistent tactics made it too easy to find and exploit the glaring weakness of blocking his third eye. He was taken out on two occasions by a pebble and a boomerang. Combustion Man may be a successful assassin for the average bender, but he has nothing to stack up against skilled benders.
Long Feng must have been an earthbending master to become the head of the Dai Li, but he certainly never showed it. He preferred to let his Dai Li underlings to the hard work for him as he stood in the shadows. Long Feng did manage to fatally wound Jet, but only in a long-range earthbending attack against a non-bender wielding short-range weapons.
He abducted Appa using his earthbending, but he was also defeated by Appa in a different fight. Long Feng’s true strength was in his political scheming and brainwashing, and even then he got out-schemed by Azula. It’s no surprise that he’s one of the most hated characters in the Avatar franchise.
Kya may be Katara’s daughter in many ways, but she was disappointingly weak in waterbending skill. Granted, she could manage to slow down Ming-Hua, but she was not the same class of bender that Ming-Hua was. Her duels with powerful benders never seemed a match between equals, as Kya could never do more than delay them for a little while.
She was a renowned healer, a skill that required its own specific mastery of waterbending. However, her combat skills left something to be desired. While Kya is a proficient bender, fans really expected more from the daughter of Katara.
Haru gets points for nerve and leadership, but he was at best an average earthbender. The Fire Nation suppressed earthbending and arrested his father, leaving Haru at a disadvantage. He had no one to continue his training and had to practice his bending in secret.
His one early attempt at earthbending landed him in prison. Haru and the other earthbenders in the prison did manage to stage a breakout using coal, but it took the entire group to mount a decent offense against the Fire Nation. His tactics were usually basic, such as shields and thrown rocks, showing none of the finesse of better earthbenders like Toph.
Admiral Zhao did not deserve to be considered among the most feared firebenders. While he showed some raw strength, he was out of control, making it easy to turn that strength against him. Aang got him to destroy his own fleet of ships without a single offensive attack, simply letting Zhao’s destructive tendencies spiral into self-destruction.
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He could not even manage to beat the 16-year-old Zuko in an Agni Kai because he ignored basic form. He had a talent for showing up at the right time to cause trouble, but he was never a true threat to Team Avatar or Zuko.
Triple Threat Triad
The Triple Threat Triad may have been able to terrorize shopkeepers with their bending, but any decently proficient bender had no problem picking them off. The triad was one of the first opponents Korra faced. Even in her earliest fight, she easily subdued them one by one and handed them over to the police.
When Amon set his sights on Lightning Bolt Zolt and his cronies, they had no chance. Amon abducted them and kept them in his clutches until the opportune moment, when he publicly removed their bending. The Triple Threat Triad was less than nothing to a bender like Amon.
Although he was Aang’s son, Bumi did not excel much as an airbender. He became an airbender late in life and had a steep learning curve in training. He became an average talent with airbending among all of the new airbenders over the course of his training, though he did manage to utilize his bending to outmaneuver Ghazan, a talented earthbender.
In tactics, he was very much Aang’s son, as he was always ready with an off-the-wall plan that worked most of the time. Bumi had several strong points, but none of those strong points were airbending.
Yon Rha was a high-ranking commander in the Fire Nation who was tasked with wiping out the last of the waterbenders in the Southern Water Tribe. Unfortunately for him, he took out the wrong person, allowing Katara to seek out her vengeance against him years later.
When he faced Katara, he made a few measly attempts at firebending to protect himself, but Katara was able to subdue him and have him completely at her mercy without any real effort. He may have been an advanced bender compared to his Fire Nation foot soldiers, but he was putty in the hands of a real bender like Katara.
The Boulder was a strong professional bender and an amazing background character, without a doubt. He wiped the floor with the other earthbending champions, except for Toph. Toph finished him off in two small, precise moves. Even with a rudimentary understanding of earthbending and a little advice from King Bumi, Aang could tell the Boulder only relied on strength and not an understanding of his element.
The Boulder still gets some credit for showing up for the invasion of the Fire Nation in the redemption arc no one thought they wanted until they had it.
The New Airbenders in Legend of Korra were thrust into a difficult situation. After the Harmonic Convergence, people from every other nation gained airbending. The New Airbenders came from a background where they knew nothing of airbending, and they were expected to adapt to a new form of bending and the culture that went with it.
Besides a few exceptions like Kai and Opal, most of them seemed to be weak and ineffectual benders even after training. By the time they received the extensive training Tenzin did, they might be able to put on a good show, but that would likely be a long way off.
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