The probable results of the below (in my imagination) would be a toss-up between asphyxiation, blindness, and/or molten magnesium in uncomfortable places but I'm not entirely sure. So given this scenario what would be the outcome:

An angry fire mage is fighting a crafty metal mage: how much of a bad day will the fire mage have when hit with a face full of magnesium dust that has passed through a fireball?

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    $\begingroup$ I love this scenario but you need to ask one question, then ask the next one in a separate post referring back to the original post if necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on the particle size, quantity, and how well it's aerosolized. People have done magnesium dust fireballs for fun: youtube.com/watch?v=ZdRs99l9pS0 It does give off a nice flash and would probably cause burns at point blank range but it's unclear if it would do much more than that. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ If your fire mage is named Chandra, then, judging form her official art, not much would happen. Fire-resistant suit and safety googles are a standard equipment of any self-respecting pyromancer. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ This question could be improved by explaining the actual powers of fire mages and metal mages (I assume it's "the ability to summon fire at will" and "the ability to throw metal dust in someone's face") and with an example of such encounter with a little bit more detail than what is said in the title. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ this entirely depends on what a fire mage can do, you are going to need to define what they can an cannot do before this can be answered. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 21:12

5 Answers 5


Good Morning Apprentices,

Today's subject in Combat Magic 201 is important, so please pay attention. As fire mages, you will encounter this technique quite often on the battle field. The enemy's metal mages love their particle attacks. Almost every time you let your combatant get upwind of you, expect that they will conjure particles into the wind. Those particles might be arsenic, chlorine, or if they know that you are a fire mage, then expect magnesium.

Our standard response to Particle attacks are the same regardless of the nature of the particles, but to pull it off, you need some working space and some knowledge of the current battle field layout. You need to know where your friends aren't with bonuses if you know where your enemies are. If you know that, you can turn the enemy's weapon against them. If not, then you are probably going to ruin everyone's day, friend or foe alike.

Here is what you do...

Hold your breath, close your eyes and create a massive fire behind your enemy. This isn't a moment for delicacy or grace. Let it all out. Incinerate the air behind where you want the enemy's cloud to go. You're not trying to kill a combatant while sparing his armor, weapons and relics. Your trying to cook the empty air into non-existence, to superheat the air behind your enemy so that it rises into the sky like a geyser. Then just keep your lungs still and your eyes closed until the screaming stops.

How this works is that the rising superheated air leaves a vacuum behind, and nature hates a vacuum. So air from all directions will rush in to fill the space which your fire just emptied. Some of that air will come from the place where your enemy is standing, between you and the vacuum. And then your combatant's air will have to be replaced from somewhere as well. If you've arranged things properly, much of your combatant's new air will come from the particle filled air around you. You'll know it is working when you feel a strong cold breeze blowing from behind you towards your fire.

You will know that it is done when the breeze-blown particles reach your enemy and his guards and they start choking and dying. Only then should you risk opening your eyes and taking a new breath.

As fire mages, we are the most powerful of the magic wielders. All the other elements serve our energy. We can boil the seas, turn metal and earth into lava, and yes, we scald the air itself, creating wind. Never underestimate the power of your gift, for we are the mightiest mages to walk in this land.

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    $\begingroup$ I could see this in a video game, one of those "That is why you check your damn targets!" conversations you overhear between NPCs as you pass through an area. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ Chlorine? Are we using the astronomer’s definition of “metal”? ;-) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ @TimPederick, I claim poetic license. I needed a third particle for the cadence of the sentence and was so overjoyed when I remembered chlorine gas was a battlefield weapon, that I forgot to check the periodic table. Mea Culpa. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor Perhaps “iron”? Cold iron often has effects on the magical. (Or lead.) $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor Possibly osmium as a third item. Osmium dust is horrendously pyrophoric (on the same level as magnesium dust), and oxidizes almost instantly at room temperature in air into osmium tetroxide, which is super toxic (safe exposure limits per OSHA and similar are measured in micrograms per cubic meter or parts per billion). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 23:23

On the behalf of all fire mages in your setting, allow me to say two simple words.

Oh Poop.

So, you don’t want any metallic dust in your face ever for any reason ever, no thank you, I’m fine. Normally we’re talking eye damage, possible blindness, lung damage (could be fatal), not to mention possible abrasion of the skin, later illnesses developed by exposure to various metallic dusts, and of course metal poisoning. All of which would suck.

And none of which matter at all in this case.

Magnesium burns very hot. As in 2,500 K, 2,200 C, or 4,000 F kind of hot, and those are rather lowball estimates. If a cloud of magnesium dust is ignited, everything in the cloud is dead, everything close to the cloud is dead, and if something in the cloud is completely immune to heat, it doesn’t matter because all the oxygen in the area, and probably in said heat immune creature’s lungs, is going to be gone. No oxygen is normally kind of a downer because things tend to die very quickly when deprived of said element. But wait, it gets worse. Within the cloud, death will likely be nearly instant because any living thing will probably inhale superheated air and ignited magnesium dust burning at 2,500 K. Not exactly healthy for your insides.

If you are outside the instant death range but still relatively close, you’re still dead because of severe burns causing dehydration and infection, and that’s if you don’t die from shock first. Outside of that range you are still burnt and blind, possibly permanently, from the intense heat and light. Finally, you will also ignite anything that is even remotely flammable, and depending on where the fight is taking place, that could be very very bad as well.

Also, in modern terms this would be considered a very serious war crime.

Your metal mages would need to remember, however, that the fire mage could ignite the magnesium before it reaches them, which could very well flash fry your metal mage and all of his friends.

Now, I’ll probably regret informing you of this next part, but here goes anyway. Your metal mages could actually do much, much, much worse.

Enter aluminum and iron oxide. Mix it together just so and give it a little ignition source like, oh I dunno, a fire mage, and you get thermite. Now, many sources say thermite also burns around 2,500 K, but it has one tiny, little, easily overlooked property that might be kind of important in this scenario.

It brings its own oxygen.

Not sure what this means, WELL allow me to be the person who haunts your nightmares forever because it means you can’t extinguish thermite once it starts burning.

  • Water? Nope, we use it for welding underwater.
  • Vacuum? Nope, it has its own fuel and oxidizer and will burn until one of them is gone.
  • Cold? You would have to instantly chill the entire 2,500 K fireball so low that it stops oxidizing, so good luck.

Congratulations, you’ve just created one man terror weapons that can be scaled up to, basically arbitrary size that are nearly impossible to survive. For added horror, if you do this inside any enclosed space, you get a low tech thermobaric bomb that kills from heat, the pressure wave, and the following lack of air that can last for minutes depending on the size of the bomb.

Happy hunting you demented war criminal.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that throwing a cloud of powdered thermite at your foes would work, because the aluminum and iron oxide particles need to be in contact with each other to ignite in a thermite reaction. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, yeah it might need to be more of a spray of thermite pellets, which is probably much worse. $\endgroup$
    – Nick
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, thermite reactions work with many combinations of metal and metal oxide, not just aluminum and iron (III) oxide. Aluminum and iron (III) oxide just happen to be the easiest combination to mix up ‘at home’. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 0:59

First question: Does chemistry work the same in the magical world? If not, that might not work. However, for the sake of the question, we'll assume it works enough for magnesium to work as you say.

Is the fire mage resistant to fire? In magical worlds they often are but not always.

Can they control existing fires? If so, you just gave the fire mage a really fun toy if they are resistant or can react fast enough (maybe it is instinctive control).

If they aren't resistant and can't automatically push the fire away, the rest doesn't matter. They are crispy.

Asphyxiation is only an issue in an enclosed space. People can hold their breath for 1 to 5 minutes. Any building with an open window will replenish the O2 in plenty of time.

Blindness may be an issue if they don't have a resistance to that.


The fire mage would die, but the side with the fire mages would still win.

It takes a talented, prepared and somewhat lucky metal mage to create exotic metal fragments, anticipate the attack and be able to place them at a distance and in the right spot. There aren't many of those, but there are plenty of young fire mages. There are also old fire mages who know to watch and wait to use the big fireballs when opposing mages are tired and distracted.

I'm stealing this from the Recluse series by L.E. Modesitt. In that series White/Chaos mages mostly shoot fire -- older ones gain more powers, but young headstrong kids with firebolts think they're invincible hot stuff (which they mostly are). Black/Order mages are good with stone, healing, and metal-working. A few know combat, but most work in a shop. For the very few with the experience, skill and aptitude to beat fire-mages, it's easier to just keep track of where they are and avoid them. In those books they actually waited for the fire mage to cast, reacting with a tight force shield around them, trapping them with a fireball. That's basically the same as the mageneese -- the best metal mage using the worst fire-mage's weapon against them.


That depends on two questions:

How much magnesium did you create?

See, if you're using an angle grinder and you accidently shower your arm with sparks, you don't instantly lose that arm from 1,100+ Celsius metal touching you. You need more than just a few sparks to start a fire because of total energy. There's just not enough metal hitting you and it doesn't have enough total energy to do much more than crisp some of your already-dead skin cells.

Same principle applies here. A few grams of magnesium dust are not going to hoist the fire mage with their own petard. Yes, it would be distracting and maybe a bit painful depending on where the flaming dust was, but it wouldn't be lethal, not by a long shot.

How fine is the dust?

Let's say you have a metal mage and a fire mage in a fight, about a block apart. They both launch an attack at the same time - a cloud of magnesium dust and a fireball, respectively. These attacks travel at baseball speeds and cross each other at the midway point.

If the dust is too fine, it burns through very quickly and has stopped burning by the time it reaches the fire mage. Because it has a lot of surface area attached to very little volume, it loses heat very quickly. A log in a fireplace will stay hot longer than a piece of paper, even after the fire goes out. In addition, losing all that heat means the fire will definitely go out, as fires need heat to survive.

Metal mages would want to make their return fire into loose pellets or similar. This gives enough volume and depth to keep burning for long enough, and enough heat to keep the fire going until it hits that annoying fire mage. On impact, the loose powder will spread all over the fire mage, burning them all over.


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