It’s almost been ten years since the last (and probably the best) episode of the iconic Avatar: The Last Airbender series aired, and about four years since that of its sequel - The Legend of Korra – did. That hasn’t meant the end of conversations around the sprawling and detailed Avatar universe, though, owing to dedicated fans and multiple comic books and graphic novels that now form the canon.
The first series gave us a lot of memorable characters and moments to cherish, and there’s nothing we like more than revisiting them whenever we can, especially in the form of heated debates on anonymous fan forums. The second installment kind of did, too, though it fell a bit short on the details and intricacy of world-building seen in A:TLA. Still, any fan debates about the Avatar universe aren’t complete without taking TLOK into account.
As we gear up for the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the series, some of those conversations have only recently picked up steam again, like who is the most powerful bender. With every fan holding their own opinion and parameters on how to rank the benders, we’re here to take a more objective approach to it. For one, we’ll take the technological shifts between the first and second series into account, i.e. what may have been a powerful ability in A:TLA may not have been as overpowered in TLOK, due to it being learned and honed by many by that time, though that shouldn't mean we exclude it from the list.
We’ll also take only the characters that existed in the timeline of the shows (including between the shows) and not in the universe’s history, which may blur the lines a bit. We’ll also assume that one ability is more overpowered than another taking other references to the said abilities in the show, in case the two benders have never been in a one-to-one combat. Other than that, we’ll also take composure and decision-making in battle into account, as a bender could only be as powerful as the decisions they take during battle with another, equivalently-matched bender.
With that said, here are The 20 Most Powerful Benders In Avatar: The Last Airbender And The Legend Of Korra, Officially Ranked.
20 Long Feng
Long Feng was the head of the infamous and secretive Dai Li; a shadow police force equivalent to many real-world police forces under various dictatorships in history. As we find out gradually through the second season of A:TLA, Long Feng is the one secretly controlling the government behind the scenes. Not only that, but he is also a powerful bender who rarely ever gets mentioned in that context.
While he never actually uses his powers and insteads lets his minions do the jobs, whenever we have seen him use Earthbending, he has been especially good at it.
He is innovative, quick on reflexes and knows how to weigh odds in a battle. Yes, he was beaten by Appa after he was thoroughly defeated by Team avatar, but, admittedly, Appa is a powerful bender in its own right.
P’Li was one part of the anarchist group Red Lotus; the primary threat to Korra’s safety throughout the third season of TLOK. She’s also shown to be romantically involved with Zaheer, who also appears a bit higher on this list.
As a unique type of firebender who had perfected combustion-bending - a variation of firebending where the bender could concentrate their firebending power into powerful bursts of line-of-sight explosions – P’Li would probably feature higher on this list if she was also a bit more innovative rather than relying on raw power. Still, her raw power was enough to almost single-handedly destroy the Northern Air Temple with her explosions and take down Tenzin, so she definitely deserves a spot here.
18 Suyin Beifong
Suyin is the youngest daughter of Toph Beifong, who was one of Aang’s best friends and a central character in A:TLA. With a tumultuous childhood, the relationship of Suyin and Lin – Toph’s elder daughter – forms an important part of the Beifong storyline in TLOK. She was also the founder of Zaofu, apparently the safest city in the world that was made entirely out of metal, and was influential in the propagation of metal bending around the world.
She’s also objectively the most powerful metalbender after Kuvira at the time of TLOK, as is evident from every time she has entered combat.
She comfortably overpowered Lin in the episode Old Wounds, and also held her own against Kuvira for quite some time before she was beaten.
Zuko was by no means a particularly powerful bender at the time of his character introduction back in the first episode of A:TLA, though he definitely picked up some skills through the years that earned him a place on this list. For one, Zuko was one of the the only two firebenders we know of who directly learned from the dragons in the episode The Firebending Masters, the other one being Iroh.
While he never truly learned the skill of producing lightning like the rest of his family, Zuko was able to redirect the lightning from his father at the end of the episode "The Day of Black Sun: Part 2", making him one of the only three people we know possess that ability, other than Aang and Iroh. He was also instrumental in defeating the Red Lotus before the events of TLOK, so he certainly was one of the most powerful benders in the world at that time.
Kuvira was a central character in the last season of TLOK, having formerly served as an important military leader under Suyin Beifong in Zaofu, who later usurps the throne of the Earth King. Kuvira has been compared by many to the real life militaristic nations of Nazi Germany and Italy during WW2.
Having learned from Suyin Beifong - one of the best metalbenders in the world - Kuvira was an expert metalbender.
Because of this, she could take most opponents with ease, including Suyin in the episode "Operation Beifong". Apart from being prodigal at her bending form, she was also a brilliant tactician who knew the strategic and tactical steps to turn the tide of a battle, as was shown in many of her conflicts with Team Avatar and other central characters in the fourth season of TLOK.
Yakone hasn’t been shown to exist in the timeline of the shows, but he was an important – and powerful – crime lord in the newly formed Republic City after the Hundred Years’ War. Father to Noatak (aka Amon) and Tarrlok, Yakone was, at his time, the only bloodbender we know of who could bloodbend without a full moon, on top of bloodbending being a powerful ability in its own right.
In the flashbacks seen in the first season of TLOK, Yakone was shown to have overpowered a room full of city councilors (who were also some of the most powerful benders in the world at the time) and Avatar Aang with his bloodbending, and it was only due to Aang entering Avatar state that he could chase Yakone and take away his bending for good.
We’re introduced to Pakku in the episode "The Waterbending Master", and looking at how skilled he was with his bending, it was certainly aptly named.
Even though he was a bit misogynistic in his approach towards who he was willing to teach – he outright refused Katara before eventually changing his mind – Pakku may have been the most powerful waterbender in the world at his time.
It’s not only evident from his moves in that episode, but also in the finale of the series, when he joins the other White Lotus members and successfully takes over Ba Sing Se with his skills. Provided that he had help from other powerful benders who were also some of the best in the world, Pakku certainly deserves a spot on this list.
As one of the members of the Red Lotus in TLOK – the same one that was trying to capture Korra and end the Avatar cycle – Ming Hua was a famously powerful bender, which is proven by the sheer size and security of her prison in the first episode.
One of the main points that puts her above all of the rest of the others below her on this list is that she had no arms, which is an incredibly important part of waterbending from all the moves we have seen in both the shows so far. She doesn’t just compensate for that with her skill, but is often seen overpowering other skilled benders with her makeshift arms made with any amount of water she could find around her.
The leader of the Red Lotus group that featured throughout the third season of TLOK, Zaheer was clearly one of the best airbenders in the world at the time, even though that’s not saying much, as airbenders were only recently recovering from almost being wiped out before the Hundred Years’ War. Still, Zaheer wasn’t just a skilled bender – and a new one at that, too, as he was a non bender before the events of Season 2 – he was also well-versed in airbending theory and a skilled and agile fighter before that.
He was also the only known airbender in both the series who figured out one of the most coveted airbending skills: flying.
While firebenders like Azula and Ozai and airbenders like Aang were shown to have some maneuverability in air, Zaheer was the only one who could truly fly.
11 Jeong Jeong
Jeong Jeong was one of the firebenders Aang approached in his search to find a firebending teacher, but Jeong Jeong didn’t think that Aang was ready for that kind of control. He had some control issues of his own, but as seen in the takeover of Ba Sing Se in the final episodes of A:TLA by the White Lotus, Jeong Jeong was by far one of the most powerful firebenders we had seen and could really mess things up if his head was in the right place.
Not only was he one of the few firebenders who could stay in the air by making a kind of a jetpack with his feet, but he was also able to single-handedly produce waves upon waves of massive fireballs on unsuspecting firebending soldiers defending the city like it was nothing. You could say that he was overpowered due to Sozin’s Comet, but that applied to the defending Fire Nation soldiers as well.
Amon was the main villain of the first season of TLOK, and the weird part about his inclusion on this list is that we didn’t even know that he was a bender until the final scenes of the final episode of season. His real name was Noatak, and he is the elder son of the ex-crime boss Yakone.
Not only was Amon a skilled bloodbender and an expert at the art of Chi Blocking, but he was also the only bender other than Avatar Aang we know could energybend - taking away the bending powers of another bender, even Avatar Korra.
While many fans would argue that he wasn’t using the same kind of taking-away-someone’s bending as Aang at all, and that his method involved more of blocking the chakras than true energybending (like Ty Lee), it still resulted in the same outcome for the bender on the receiving end. We’re not sure he wasn’t, as the true origins of how he learned that skill were never revealed.
Tenzin was the eldest son of Avatar Aang, and is a central character throughout TLOK. He was the most skilled airbender in his timeline, taught firsthand by his father himself. He was also well-versed with airbending theory and the way of life of the air nomads, which propagated a strictly non-violent lifestyle. However, we know he was pretty strong in battle just by the way of one fight with Zaheer at the Northern Air Temple in the final episodes of the third season.
While first taken aback by Zaheer’s airbending skills, Tenzin was easily able to counter him and go on the offensive, before he overpowered him. If it wasn’t P’Li’s explosion that incapacitated him out of the fight, he had zero problems successfully taking on Zaheer - a skilled bender on his own.
Azula features as one of the main opposing characters to Team Avatar throughout the extent of A:TLA, and from whatever we’ve seen of her in her non-crazy days, there are a few benders that could take her on one-on-one and lived to see the day. A part of the reason was her genetics; she was the grand daughter of Avatar Roku and Sozin, two of the most powerful firebenders of their time as well as of all time. While Zuko had the same grandparents, his traumatic history could never allow him to become as overpowered as Azula.
Azula is one of the only three benders who could produce lightning, and her lightning even had a different, bluer shade than the other two (Iroh and Ozai).
She also never really made much effort into her attacks, and still managed through with ease. If she didn’t lose her mind at the end of the finale, she would definitely have turned out to be equal to/more powerful than her father.
Bhumi isn’t as clear cut an addition to this particular spot on this list, in the way that we don’t know if he should absolutely be on the top or not, given our introduction to him at the final stages of his life. Even when he was 112 years old, Bhumi was verifiably one of the most powerful benders we saw in the entire course of A:TLA as well as TLOK.
Even if we don’t mention the ease with which he took on Avatar Aang in the episode in which they first met, we can estimate his power by just how easily he single-handedly took back Omashu when he felt the time was right. Unlike any other Earthbender in both the shows, he is the only one who could Earthbend without using any of his limbs. Again, this was when he was 112 years old; we can only imagine how powerful he must have been in his hayday.
While many fans would object to Katara’s inclusion this high on the list, there are several factors which put her in the top section of any most powerful benders list. For one, she was able to best Azula simply by using her environment to her tactical advantage, who we’ve already mentioned was one of the most objectively overpowered characters in both the shows, even when she was losing it.
When it comes to raw talent, Katara is arguably up there with the best.
In the episode "The Puppetmaster", we can clearly see her being introduced to bloodbending and immediately picking it up to use it back on Hama in a matter of minutes. She also held her own against multiple skilled benders in the final episode of the second season of A:TLA, and only gave up when she saw Aang collapse. She also knew healing, which is a pretty powerful ability on its own.
There is nothing about Toph that we dislike. As a blind Earthbender who taught herself Earthbending just by exploring the underground caves and making friends with badgermoles, Toph was one of the most powerful Earthbenders we have seen in the two shows. If King Bhumi wasn’t in the picture to complicate this debate and if we exclude novelty bending techniques like lavabending - which no one knew how to counter more than being powerful in itself - we’re not sure if any other Earthbender even comes close to her in raw skill.
As demonstrated by the fact that she was completely ready to take on Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai all by herself while running away from them, and having seen her in other fights, she isn’t the one to overestimate her powers. She was also one of the few benders who figured out a new way of bending, i.e. metalbending, just by concentrating on the pieces of metal in the Earth and bending them to her advantage.
While the Iroh we see in A:TLA was a severely diminished version of his former self due to his son’s untimely demise before the events of the show, we can tell just how powerful he was by references to the past as well as his prowess in the battlefield in the final episode.
Once called the Dragon of the West, Iroh is known to have breached the Outer Wall of Ba Sing Se in his siege of the city, something no one had been able to do before, except Iroh when he was taking it back in the finale.
Even if he was never the "raw power" kind – demonstrated by the single flicker of fire he used to replace the Fire Nation in the finale with that of the Earth kingdom rather than a loud bang – we can tell that Iroh was one of the most powerful firebenders in the timeline of the show by these references.
Avatar Korra has accomplished many feats in the aptly named TLOK to earn her a spot here. Even if we don’t count her extraordinary feats in the many finales of the various seasons, Korra was visibly a prodigal bender in her own right.
We can see Korra’s prowess with the various branches of bending when she was a little kid in the way of flashbacks in the first few episodes of the first season. She was also the Avatar, and always had the power to call upon the immense power of all the Avatars before her to help her in combat. In season 3, she was able to best Zaheer despite having a ton of poison designed to neutralize an Avatar and end the Avatar cycle, something that even Zaheer - with his infinite wisdom - wasn’t expecting her to do.
Ozai was the most powerful non-Avatar bender in the entirety of the two series, and there are many reasons. For one, Iroh – one of the most powerful benders we know of on his own – was doubtful about taking on Ozai and winning when he was talking about it with Aang, and that guy knew who he could take. Aang was also visibly concerned about fighting Ozai throughout the series, and realized that it won’t be an easy feat despite being the Avatar.
Ozai was completely familiar with his element, as shown by how quickly he felt the Sun coming out of the eclipse despite being underground during his confrontation with Zuko.
He could also fly, though we can’t tell if it was only during Sozin’s Comet or generally, so Zaheer remains the only bender who could do this on will and without any other magical aids. Most importantly, he almost defeated Aang - a master of all elements instead of just the one - in the final fight between them, until Aang entered Avatar state and took his bending away.
Aang was the Avatar and the last airbender, just like the name of the show suggests. He wasn’t just well-equipped to take on any threat, since he was also physically a kid and had spent most of his life frozen with Appa. Despite that, Aang accomplished feats throughout the first series, as well as in the way of flashbacks in the second, we haven’t seen anyone else even come close to.
Aang was also the only bender to have known how to energybend – a technique given to him by the oldest sea turtle – and has been known to use it at least two times for good (Ozai and Yakone). While he does get extra points for composure, he was also visibly fierce and scary in the Avatar State, which suggests that only a fool would consciously take him on. While he did come close to being defeated by an overpowered Ozai due to Sozin’s Comet, he wasn’t, and in turn ended up stripping him away off his bending and single-handedly ending the Hundred Years’ War.
How do you think is the most powerful bending in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra? Let us know in the comments!