Today and next week, I’m going to be doing some posts on the classical Four Element system that gets used in magic a lot. Not only going through the history, but showing various ways to use it. Typically, you see these being used as attacks as you’ll see in all the Fairy Tail gifs I’ll be using. Yeah, I know many people would want me to go with Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I’m watching this anime while I write this. So, let’s get started with the element that probably has the most negative reputation: FIRE.
For some reason, fire gets put with bad guys, short-fused anti-heroes, monsters, and other destructive characters more than heroes. Well, it shouldn’t be too surprising. Unlike the other elements, the most basic visual of fire involves heat and burning. You imagine a match and the stick is being turned black. A lighter doesn’t have that, but you’re setting something aflame. Dropping dirt or some water on something won’t always destroy, but igniting it will. When we think of fire, we imagine fireballs, infernos, burns, and wide swaths of land smoking with no living thing left. At least in terms of fiction. Yet, there are ways to have fire-based characters use their abilities for more than offense and combat in general.
A fire-wielder can use their flames as a defense in various ways. Sometimes, they can create a shield that is so hot that things melt and burn when they hit. There is still an offensive component here since whatever touches the fire will get hurt. Yet, this isn’t a straight on attack like blasts, balls, and waves. It can even be used to protect a group and handle opposing magics. For example, the flaming shield can be hot enough to evaporate an approaching water attack. It may even feed off a wind attack that strikes it.
Much likes heat/flame shields, a character may use low-level fire blasts to deflect and block attacks. Since powerful spells take time, one who can create smaller blasts in less than a second can do this on the fly. It takes a lot of precision and timing, but an incoming sword can be knocked away with this strategy. The fire has to have more kinetic force than burning power, but the explosion should help with that. Doing this enough could damage enemy weapons or at least make them too hot to handle.
I should point out that the heat from this type of element tends to be overlooked. People focus on the damage caused by the flames, but the intense heat that can be created is just as useful. Aside from the damage, you can use it to create heat haze to effect the vision of others. Another tactic is to create so much fire that the heat turns anyone wearing metal armor into a steamed chicken. To shift into the other category, the heat can also keep people alive in arctic conditions.
We do see how fire is used for cooking, warmth, and light, but these don’t come up as often as you think. Especially when magic is involved because most systems have their mages/casters trying not to waste energy. Why waste a spell when you can carry a torch or heavy jacket? Makes sense, but in worlds where that isn’t a worry, those with fire should be more inclined to do this. As long as they aren’t on the evil side where they only worry about death and destruction.
One use that isn’t very common is simply cutting things. With characters that can create a controlled flame, they could easily chop wood and metal or even fuse things together. This might not be useful to a main character, but there are various trades that require fire and heat that a person with this power would be attracted to. A protagonist could even look at these paths as something to do after their adventure, so they train and practice with whatever they’re doing. Maybe it’s glass shaping or welding, but it’s more an act of creation than destruction.
Decoys and Deflection
There is the blunt way of doing this by setting something on fire to draw enemies away from your location or target. Another method is to create smaller flames that you fire into the distance. Having a fire-wielder create fireworks as a distraction is possible, especially since the explosions would still have the boom. Oddly enough, some authors forget the noise part of this trick and use it solely as a visual. Sticking with this plan, the fire powers could then be used to melt windows or doors to sneak inside. This makes it a useful ability for thieves who require stealth more than frontal assaults.
Another option here can be used by those who can mold flames into various shapes. You see this done more with earth and water magic, but it can happen with flames in a general sense. The edges won’t be stable, but imagine creating a being of fire that walks into the open. People will get scared and focus on that while you sneak away. On a grander scale, you can use a bigger spell to create a fake dragon in the sky and chase enemies away.
I’ve kind of done this with Nyx, but it’s a tough one to explain. In fact, it’s probably more of a comic book thing. The concept is that they create updrafts with their flames and direct those to allow them to fly. It’s an ability that requires a lot more suspension of disbelief than the others. Yet, it is an option along with simply having them create flaming rockets on their feet like Natsu does.