No way Sokka should be so low on your list. He may not be the best fighter, but his role as "idea guy" warrants a higher place on the list. Some of Sokka's accomplishments: Helped invent the War Balloon/Airship, Invented the Submarine, Fake Firebending, Fake Earthbending, Figured out how to take down The Drill, planned the Day of Black Sun invasion, only known successful breakout of Boiling Rock prison, and AIRSHIP SLICE!!!
I feel pretty much the same way myself as Tinymouse. Looking over the OP list, there are a large number of characters who are high on there that shouldn't be, largely because they are characters that we know next to nothing about. I also personally would not include large groups as "characters" myself either, but that is only my opinion. Anyway, here's my list
My top 7 most skilled nonbenders list ('which also includes benders with considerable nonbending combat skills):
1) Sokka - Piandao himself admitted that Sokka had the potential to one day surpass him. Is most likelly the one to have defeated fellow nonbender Zaheer the first time around.
2) Swordmaster Piandao - the most skilled swordman in Fire Nation history, never known to have lost any of the battles that he participated in, and once he even single-handedly defeated 100 skilled Fire Nation soldiers, and did it so descisively, that the Fire Lord never dared to trouble Piandao again.
3) Zaheer - even before obtaining bending, Zaheer (much like his fellow Red Lotus members) was deemed one of the most dangerous combatants in the world, with his skills putting even some of the most powerful of benders to shame.
4) Amon/Noatak - extremely skilled combatant, with his agility and chii-blocking making him a worthy opponent for some of the most powerful of benders.
3) Zuko - extremely skilled swordsman (having been trained by Piandao himself), a fact even Ozai admitted. Defeated several fire- and earthbending soldiers with his swords and combat skills only.
4) Jet - extremely skilled swordsman, due to him successfully having held his own against Zuko in a prolongued fight.
5) Equalist Lieutenant - extremely skilled combatant, with him successfully taking down the very skilled champion pro-benders Mako and Bolin, and holding his own against Avatar Korra herself for a prolonged time.
7) Ty Lee - extremely skilled chii-blocker, able to take down formidable waterbending prodigy Katara (who's gained the upper hand against Azula herself).
To be blunt? Some of those rankings...really don't make much sense.
For one? Not to repeat what everyone else has already said, but: no way does Sokka belong at the bottom of the list. For one, we've only seen one other character outmaneuvering a combustionbender into fatally backblasting themself...and that other character was Suyin. (Sure, the only reason Sokka was able to manage that is because Sparky was either too dense or too cocky to refrain from shooting that soon after getting poked in the third eye. But keep in mind that Su had to get the drop on P'Li. And it remains that Sokka was just a non-bending teenager with good aim, who nonetheless managed to pull off something that we've only seen a seasoned earthbending master do since.)
And seriously? Rating the Mechanist ahead of Asami, Mai ahead of Ty Lee, and Jet ahead of all of them? Yeah, no.
But for the people saying Zaheer belongs on the list: yes, we know that he was scary even before Harmonic Convergence. We still only ever saw him fight, or really do much of anything at all, as an airbender. Give me canon Red Lotus backstory comics, and we'll talk about where an empowered badass-normal fits in on a list of badass-normals.
DrachenRitter42 wrote: Could very well be the case. I don't think we ever found out for certain how Sparky lost two limbs, but experiments with combustionbending gone wrong makes sense.
I thought it was canon that Sparky blew his own limbs off (either because he didn't have much control at first, or—considering how much dude did not learn—by dint of sheer carelessness)? That's what it says on his page.
(Seriously. I think his outsize ājňā chakra crowded out whatever he might have had for common sense. Which, considering how chakras are supposed to work, shouldn't happen.)
I think Sparky gets a lot of flack. From his perspective, the 1st backfire must've seemed pretty random & was fairly harmless. At the time, the principles of Combustionbending didn't seem to be very common knowledge.
He already lost two limbs with combustionbending, he lost control of his ability after being hit in the forehead. He should be more careful, he knows better than anyone how dangerous it can be to him o lose control of it.
He lost 2 limbs before he had control over the ability. It's highly presumptive that, without the benefit of narrative framing, someone would connect being hit in the head with losing control of the power. For all he knew, it could've been a fluke, or poor concentration, or accidentally blowing up dust in the air.
Yeah, if we're including the fortuneteller, we might as well include that girl who had a crush on Zuko in Book 2, or the kid he gave his knife to in Zuko Alone. Heck, you might as well even include the other Wu, just because he can get giant ferocious beasts to do stuff by singing(very badly).
For my part, I excluded Zaheer because all his feats on-screen for the most part involve or relate to airbending - arguably the only ones that don't are his trips into the Spirit World, which don't amount to anything in terms of his actual strength. We know he was supposedly pretty strong even before, but that's an Informed Ability at best, so I don't count it. Ditto anyone else who got bending during Harmonic Convergence. The only ones I counted were non-benders with on-screen feats of awesome.
Another note: As awesome as he is, Amon doesn't count either because he is not a non-bender. Obviously. And it's been stated IIRC that he uses his bloodbending to subtly influence the outcome of every fight he's in.
This sounds like it includes a little bit of Sokka hate. But I agree that some do not belong on here. The cabbage merchant is an example and "poor guy" is the only explanation. I do agree that the Yu-Yan archers are awesome though. They managed to capture Aang even when a bunch of firebenders couldn't.
I didn't really comment on the list because, not to pile on, but yeah it doesn't make any sense at all.
I would actually argue that Sokka is underrated, though maybe that's changed since I last argued this. He's admittedly not as skilled as Suki, Mai, or Ty Lee, but he's definitely a capable fighter, he can handle trained Fire Nation soldiers pretty easily, considering he's "just a guy with a boomerang."
And saying his main strength is "as idea guy" even kind of undersells that. His plans are pivotal to several major battles. That I recall; the Siege of the Northern Air Temple, the Day of Black Sun, the Destruction of the Drill, & the Sabotage of the Air Fleet. Day of Black Sun didn't end well, but you can't win 'em all.
Neo Bahamut wrote: He lost 2 limbs before he had control over the ability. It's highly presumptive that, without the benefit of narrative framing, someone would connect being hit in the head with losing control of the power. For all he knew, it could've been a fluke, or poor concentration, or accidentally blowing up dust in the air.
That even kinda implies that he had a dubious grasp of his own vulnerabilities, to be quite honest.
Neo Bahamut wrote: Hard to know what a guy who never talks thinks, but he seemed pretty cunning.
What I meant was that, considering the two prosthetic limbs, he'd have to have known how dangerous his ability was to begin with. He'd have to have known that if he ever backblasted himself, it'd have a good chance of killing him. Backblasting himself once after getting dazed by a whack to the ājňā, whether or not it was a fluke, should have been a pretty big hint that trying to shoot while incapacitated was a bad idea.
But instead, he again tried to shoot immediately after getting whacked in the ājňā...which was a fatal error. If that, as you suggested, implies that he dismissed the initial backblast as a fluke or the result of some external factor? He really didn't have the best grasp of his own vulnerabilities.
By contrast, look at how P'Li had Ming-Hua running interference for her. Sure, it's likely that P'Li had more opportunity to do her homework (although, considering that combustionbending is not only an incredibly rare ability, but is implied to have been unknown before Sparky, it's up in the air how much of a matter of "anything is more than nothing" that was); it remains that she seemed a lot more aware of being a glass cannon.
Well, yeah, he was apparently unaware of the "strike the 3rd eye" weakness, but so was everyone else. It doesn't seem like Sokka had even figured it out by the time of the attack on the Western Air Temple.
The thing is, Sparky-Sparky-Boom Man always operated solo in all instances I have seen that he's turned up - which wasn't a good idea, in my opinion. But I do agree with both of you that it is not only probable that he was not initially aware of this particular vulnerability, but also to me the fact that after it happened the first time he failed to account for that possibility to me speaks of dangerous overconfidence, stupidity, or both.
But of course this is tangential at best to the original question of the topic, which had to do with non-bender characters in the franchise. As has been said, the OP's list to me has several characters that don't belong on their, either because in the case of Zaheer all of his known on-screen feats for the most part involve bending, which automatically disqualifies him in by opinion, or because their actual known feats are insufficient to justify their ranking as high as they are. Much as I like her, that includes June, whose personal feats in the series are nonexistent outside of using Nyla to track her targets and the couple of bar scenes we see her in, which don't amount to much.
Going back to my own list, I have revised is slightly, so here is how it stands now:
1. Ty Lee
7. The Lieutenant
10. Varrick/Zhu Li
I rank Ty Lee, Suki, and Asami as high as I did because they are to me the most highly skilled non-bender fighters by a long way. Sokka I also ranked very highly because apart from being, in his own words, the "meat and sarcasm" guy, he's also skilled with at least two different types of weapons, as well as coming up with some truly brilliant ideas.
June is ranked as low as she is in this list despite being one of my favorite non-bender characters because, as I mentioned, her own personal feats are insignificant by comparison. Varrick and Zhu Li I included on the list because while I feel they pale in comparison to the others in terms of physical strength and combat skill, their intelligence and engineering abilities make them a potential force to be reckoned with as well.
Neo Bahamut wrote: Well, yeah, he was apparently unaware of the "strike the 3rd eye" weakness, but so was everyone else. It doesn't seem like Sokka had even figured it out by the time of the attack on the Western Air Temple.
Sokka couldn't even see SSBM when he trew the boomerang, he just mad some fiction math thing and was luck enough to hit the forehead.
- If that list had one kind of measurement, the list would be easier to make. It's quite difficult to rate them on the same scale when measuring strength with combat and weapons skills. While I agree with the list's intention to distinguish Sokka as a bit scrawny, he was better than the rest of the list with that boomerang. If I were rating most impressive/entertaining non-bending fighters:
1. Ty Lee
2. Yuyan Archers
3. The Blue Spirit
Honorable mention: June, Avatar Aang Fan Club Yu Dao Chapter, Piandao