Every fan of the Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra series has, at one point or another, considered what type of bender they would be. Do you fit all of the character traits of an Aries zodiac sign? I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably a firebender. Are you more of a go-with-the-flow kind of personality? Then you’re probably an airbender. Some of us may like to think that’d we’d be an airbender or waterbender, but everyone else would probably consider us a firebender, especially in the morning before we’ve had our coffees. Hey, that’s alright; not everyone can be totally zen all the time.
But, regardless of what Avatar element you or anyone else thinks you embody, it’s also worth wondering which of the four elements is objectively the strongest. No, the creators of the series don’t ever explicitly tell you which of the elements is the most kick-ass, but it’s still fun to speculate.
Of course, each of the four elements has its advantages in different scenarios. For instance, if you’re a fire bender that can bend lightning and you’re caught in the middle of a thunderstorm, you’re going to be pretty damn hard to beat. Likewise, the Southern Water Tribe is such a formidable force largely due to the fact that they’re surrounded by nothing but water, snow, and ice.
Circumstances aside, what is the strongest Avatar element? It’s a difficult question. Many of the strongest benders from each element that appear in Avatar and Korra never actually face each other, and so it’s tough to say which element has the most potential to be the most powerful. In this article, I’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of each element in hopes of shedding some light on which of the four elements (earth, fire, water, and air) is the strongest.
Out of the four elements, fire is probably the one that you don’t want to have. Why? It’s hard to control. As we saw with Admiral Zhao destroying his own ships in Avatar, the destructive potential of fire is something that must not be underestimated. If you use fire improperly, you run the risk of burning (or even killing) yourself or your allies.
This is something that Aang struggles with when he attempts to learn firebending from ex-Fire Nation general Jeong Jeong. He fails to successfully control fire, burns Katara, and vows to never practice firebending again. It’s only when Zuko comes into the picture and convinces Aang to learn firebending that he’s able to master the element.
When it comes to bending lightning, there is the potential for extreme power. In fact, a lightning strike may very well be the most powerful bending move in the Avatar universe. However, much like bending any other kind of fire, bending lightning has its risks as well.
First of all, if you aren’t able to properly channel the lightning through your body, the lightning can stop your heart, as Iroh informs Zuko. Also, if you’re fighting an advanced firebender, they may be able to redirect your lightning attack, as Iroh does to Azula.
With all that being said, fire has the advantage of being the only element that relies solely on the bender’s chi, which means firebenders don’t need to rely on any outside factor to do their bending. Whereas an earthbender needs to be near earth to bend it, a firebender can essentially bend in a vacuum.
Water is definitely a strong contender for the strongest element. Their abilities are so versatile and powerful that it’s hard to say that any other element is better in battle. Right off the bat, bloodbending may very well be the most potent ability in the Avatar universe (I know I said it was lighting redirection, but it’s hard to say).
The terrifying power of bloodbending is displayed by Hama in Avatar as well as Amon in Korra; however, Korra managed to prove that bloodbending could be overcome and eventually defeated Amon. Still, the potential of waterbenders to learn bloodbending, on top of all the other powerful abilities that waterbenders have, could mean that water is the most powerful of the Avatar elements.
Waterbenders also have an ability that makes them more resilient than other types of benders: the ability to heal themselves and others. While other types of benders need to take time to recover like normal human beings, all waterbenders need to heal themselves is a short amount of time and a bit of water. No, waterbenders are not immortal, but this ability to heal themselves makes them a whole lot more resilient than other benders, and having a waterbender who can heal you on your side gives you quite the advantage.
Water, however, seems to be the Avatar element with the most limited availability. Fire only requires your internal chi. There’s air pretty much everywhere. And humans spend most of their time on solid earth. On top of that, waterbending power relies on the moon, and lunar eclipses leave waterbenders very exposed.
Earthbending is almost if not just as versatile as waterbending. Included under the umbrella of earth are lavabending and metalbending, which are both very potent forms of bending. The ability to use metalbending to create a suit of armor or destroy a tank makes this form of bending very formidable. And being able to heat up earth and turn it into lava gives lavabenders a level of raw destructive power similar to that of firebenders. However, as we saw with the mecha suits in Korra, metalbending can be overcome by using pure platinum.
Fighting aside, earthbenders can do amazing things like build walls and cities in a matter of hours. And that ability also factors into the Earth Nation’s power during times of war. The ability to create supply lines and transport goods is just as important in times of war as raw fighting ability. And, as we saw with the amazing postal system in Omashu in Avatar and the way that Kuvira was able to mobilize her army in Korra, earthbenders have the greatest logistical abilities of any kind of bender.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of airbending is that there is air literally everywhere. Plus, flying isn’t too bad either. While Aang was capable of jumping extreme distances and heights and flying with his glider, Zaheer unlocked the secret to true weightlessness and thus was able to achieve true flight. This combined with the general evasive abilities of airbenders makes it incredibly difficult to land a strike when fighting an airbender.
Airbenders aren’t just evasive, though; they also have incredible offensive and defensive ability due to the fact that the other three elements are surrounded by air. An airbender can dissipate an attack by any other type of bender by shooting a gust of wind at it, and they can even use the air to move the other elements, creating an offensive attack.
There’s also no way to cut off an airbender from their bending. There have been firebenders who have been rendered powerless by being kept in a snowy fortress. There have been earthbenders kept in the middle of the ocean who were unable to use their bending. And there have been waterbenders locked up in places with no water. There is no equivalent for an airbender.
All things considered, I’d say that water is the strongest of the four elements mostly because it’s really damn hard to beat a bloodbender. When someone can manipulate the movements of your body, they can pretty much take away your bending and leave you powerless. Plus, if you hurt a waterbender, but they get a few seconds to heal themself, then they’re good as new.
Those things combined with some of the amazingly powerful strikes exhibited by Katara, Korra, and others throughout the series make water my personal top contender for the strongest Avatar element. All rebuttals are welcome.