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July 13, 2017

A Game of Thrones Fantasy Draft: What if you could build a super-team to conquer Westeros?

The seventh season of Game of Thrones premieres Sunday night on HBO, and it's kind of hard to believe there are only 13 episodes left.

We already know how many parallels there are between the battle for the Iron Throne and, say, the battle for the Larry O'Brien trophy. Hell, there's even a popular web series about it, Game of Zones. And since building super-teams seems to be all the rage right now, we decided to see how that might play out in Westeros.

Welcome to our Fantasy Draft of Thrones.

The goal is simple: assemble the best seven-person team to conquer the realm and claim the Iron Throne.

The rules, well, they're slightly more complicated, but here's what you need to know before we get into it:

THE RULES

•  There are five houses, and we called in some outside help to make sure we had some different perspectives. In addition to myself, Rich Hofmann and Ryan Lawrence, there's also Eytan Shander from 97.5 The Fanatic morning show, as well as my common-law roommate and soon-to-be-wife, Sydney Slater, who found her way into the group after a four-hour argument over who I was considering drafting if I got the first pick. I was nearly common-law homeless.

•  We did a seven-round snake draft with a two-minute limit on each pick. The order was determined at random and there was no trading picks.

•  Each house had to designate a King or Queen to be their leader, as well as someone to serve as his/her Hand.

•  All characters FROM THE TV SHOW are fair game. Even dead ones (and animals).

⁃  Characters from flashbacks (i.e. Ser Arthur Dayne, who was killed by Ned Stark outside the Tower of Joy during one of Bran’s visions in Season 6) are ineligible.

•  Named animals must be drafted separately; they are considered prospects in their own right. This includes dragons, direwolves and, yes, even Ser Pounce 

⁃  The animals will only be loyal to their original owners/families (or others under special circumstances like Jon Snow being half Targaryen and potentially being able to control a dragon, or Bran warging into an animal).

•  Current family alliances have no bearing. 

For example, Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister could theoretically both be on your team – but clashing personalities could still be a problem.

Think of this like players being drafted from college to pro: Their teams may have been fierce rivals in college, but then they both get drafted to the same professional team. Their new team should take precedent over past rivalries. That being said, if one is stubborn and a selfish player, there could still be some issues. For example, even if their families were loyal to one another, Ned is far too honorable to go along with many of Tywin’s games and that would eventually lead to infighting.

•  Basically, you’re drafting the player on paper, based on his or her own abilities and how they’d help your side take the Iron Throne.

Think of this like Madden ratings. Khal Drogo, for example, would be almost maxed out (95-99 rating) in terms of strength and fighting ability, but would be much lower when it comes to diplomacy and durability (due to his early demise). Conversely, Tyrion would be ranked much higher in intelligence and strategy, but he’s about half the fighter Drogo is (no pun intended).

Believe it or not, there were actually a few more rules, but the ones above were the most important.

THE ORDER

1. House Shander
2. House Lawrence
3. House Mullin
4. House Slater
5. House Hofmann

And now, onto the picks:


• ROUND 1 •

1. Bran Stark

The kid sees all. The No. 1 overall pick is one of few people in the show who possess truly powerful magical abilities. Think of the possibilities with the King being a Warg. He can enter the mind of Dany's Dragons or any other animal used against him. He's even managed to enter the minds of humans. Plus, with the power to see into the future, he'll see any attack on him coming. A little young still, but enter the Hand.  –Eytan Shander

2. Jon Snow

I was more than pleasantly surprised Mr. Snow/Stark/Targaryen fell to No.2, although I understand Bran's underrated skill set. Still, how can you pass on the proven leader and war vet who knows the actual game better than anyone, and one who has the blood of two of the most popular and strongest families running through his blood? Jon has killed White Walkers and can control/befriend dragons and direwolves. He no longer knows nothing, not by a long shot.  –Ryan Lawrence

3. Daenerys Targaryen

This was a fairly straightforward pick. She has the longest resume in all the realm – First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons – and that last part is by far the most important.  –Matt Mullin

4. Tyrion Lannister 

Political savvy? Check. Knowledge of Westerosi families/structures/agendas? Check. Past experience preventing a psychotic infant "ruler" from destroying King's Landing? Big check. An impressive sexual appetite rivaled only by his love of wine and impeccable comedic timing? Check and check.  –Sydney Slater

5. Jamie Lannister

Just so we’re checking, I get the Kingslayer before the whole hand episode, right? OK, good. If all of the obvious potential kings and queens are off the board, I’ll take the great swordsmen and eldest son of the super powerful family. Jamie doesn’t take much seriously, but I think that lack of ambition also can be a strength.  –Rich Hofmann


• ROUND 2 •

6. Tywin Lannister

I’ll take all of those armies, thank you very much. We can argue about how much wealth Tywin has, but he was the most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms, is savvy enough politically, and has experience as Hand of the King.  –RH

7. Varys

You're going to need his vast network of little birds to know which way the wind is blowing to gain and keep the throne. Plus, I wanted to continue the Varys/Tyrion bromance. These two are the ultimate dynamic duo. And we all know it's not about who merely occupies the throne, but who actually manages and controls the throne that really counts. That's why my Hand and his BFF were my first two picks.  –SS

8. The Night King

They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. And since there’s only one real threat to my No. 1 pick and her inevitable reign on the Iron Throne, why not take him off the board as soon as possible. Oh, and the fact that those he kills fall under his control doesn’t hurt either. Welcome to Dany’s Westeros, where the dead do our fighting for us so you don’t have to.  –MM

9. Arya Stark

She's easily my favorite character on the show and I sweated until my pick came back around hoping someone wouldn't grab her before I could. Is there anyone more persistent and driven on the show? Plus, pairing her with her closest Stark sibling was perfect. Did I mention yet she has the ability to change identities/faces to sneak up and kill anyone at any time? Underrated skill set moving forward.  –RL


10. Cersei Lannister

Baddest b*tch on the block, point blank. Cold and calculated, she will take out half of the city to spite one person. As the Hand, she'd be the balance to Bran's good heart. She's like Nietzsche, Machiavelli and Angela Merkel wrapped in one advising the most powerful King on the planet.  –ES


• ROUND 3 •

11. Gregor Clegane (The Mountain)

I'm still not sure this guy can't kill 100 men at once. If used properly, he can be one of the toughest defenders of the realm. Brute force, and then add a little more. He's also psychotic and loyal to Cersei. I'm guessing those two are mutually inclusive. Good tandem here with the brains and enforcer, not to mention how difficult any close combat would be against him. –ES

12. Drogon

The physically biggest draft-eligible creature, bigger than the Mountain and the undrafted (??) Wun Wun. Oh. He also BREATHES FIRE. Sure, he's used to Dany. But Jon is Dany's nephew and, with the family blood, can win Drogon's loyalty just as he's won the loyalty of many other non-dragons despite long odds. Honestly thought about drafting Drogon with a top-5 pick. Who can beat/kill him?  –RL

13. Oberyn Martell

He might be my favorite character in the whole show, and it’s really a shame he didn’t stick around longer. He’s smart (and even has a couple links from The Citadel). He’s worldly (and more importantly understands the way the realm really works). He’d provide the finest Dornish wine (and knows the perfect poison to slip in your rival lord’s cup). But most importantly, he’s arguably the best single-combat fighter in the entire realm – he defeated The Mountain after all, only to be undone by his righteous lust for revenge (and justice).  –MM

14. Yara Greyjoy

All around badass bitch. She commands the respect of her people, a pretty impressive fleet of ships and any curious females occupying the local brothels. Yara will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and success of the people she cares about, even if that means giving up her desire to rule. We saw that with her and Dany. She's ambitious, but selfless – a rare combination.  –SS

15. Brienne of Tarth

Let’s take Jamie’s good buddy, an imposing force in battle as a second sword, and someone who shows great loyalty throughout the show. Character is a big deal on this team, which is partially why I next went with…  –RH


• ROUND 4 •

16. Davos Seaworth

Love this guy, a former smuggler who now is a loyal servant and commander of those fleets that Tywin will provide for us. Davos is a grizzled vet.  –RH

17. Jaqen H'ghar

Why chose the student when you can have the teacher? Sidenote: Arya was already drafted. He's insaely clever and honestly I still don't know the full extent of Jaqen's powers. Not only can he become literally anyone, but he's a ruthless, cunning fighter (remember Harrenhal?), always keeps his cool under pressure and his sole use of the third person would impress George Costanza.  –SS

18. Daario Naharis

He’s the Kevin Costner to Dany’s Whitney Houston. 


Basically, his only job is to protect and service his Queen.  –MM

19. Bronn

Needed a sellsword, a fighter, someone who can match up in combat with anyone in the game and hold his own. We saw Brienne vs. The Hound. We haven't seen Bronn against either, but I'd pay money to watch those matches. The sometimes dour Jon needs a loyal, skilled, proven fighter with a sense of humor by his side. Bronn is all of that.  –RL

20. Littlefinger

The master planner and manipulator. He's so damn smart yet shady, that the entire team would have an eye on him. He would act as Phil Jackson did with those Bulls teams, and just create controversy to keep people motivated. His selfishness and willingness to blackmail people in pretty fun ways, like trips to the brothel, make him a perfect fit for House Shander.  –ES


• ROUND 5 •

21. Ned Stark

I mean, at some point someone's gotta be looking out for Bran's health...right? Ned not only brings more balance to the team, but it comes in the truest form of honor we've seen in the show. It may have been short-lived, but he left such a lasting impact. Not to mention he was a pretty damn good fighter.  –ES

22. Thoros of Myr

On the list of people I absolutely needed to draft. He brings people back to life as a (failed?) priest of the Lord of Light (we saw him do this, thus fueling the hope that Melisandre could do the same for Jon). He can also be Bronn's drinking buddy. And did we mention he fights with a sword coated in wildfire?? Somehow Ned Stark got drafted before this guy.  –RL

23. Olenna Tyrell

She played an integral part in Joffrey’s assassination. If that’s not enough to get you on board with the Queen of Thorns, who unlike the rest of her family is still alive, this will surely do it.  


That also wasn’t the first time she went toe-to-toe with Cersei – and usually you only get to do that once before winding up dead.  –MM

24. Mance Rayder

His biggest flaw is refusing the kneel, which won't be an issue as the king of Westeros. He's a strong fighter and a rationale leader who is willing to listen and compromise. He's a player's coach. All the wildlings love him. And if he can unite the wildlings, he can unite anyone. Period.  –SS

25. Samwell Tarly

We have plenty of military strength on this team, so let’s add some brains to the operation. I am far from an expert, but it seems to me like Sam is the only person who will think long-term and solve the actual most important problems. That seems like a good guy to add.  –RH


• ROUND 6 •

26. Renly Baratheon

This was like picking fifth in a four running back fantasy draft, so I’ll take the guy that everybody forgets about because the way he died was dumb. This would be a legitimately good king with a legit queen!


And since neither of the Lannisters have much interest in being king, they’ll back another Baratheon.  –RH

27. Maester Aemon

He's a non-crazy Targaryen, he's brilliant and he's, well, adorable. I needed a Maester, someone learned who also has a historic perspective. Starting to see a pattern? I tried drafting players who would not only work well with others, but who were rationale and not completely self-serving so they would work well with one another. I'm also crossing my fingers the dragons won't kill him since he has Targeron blood. I know it's a stretch but I'm already two glasses of wine in at this point in the draft.  –SS

28. Three-Eyed Raven

Sure, he’s stuck in a tree, but ol’ three eyes can see into the past and can warg. He’s basically running my version of the CIA. He’s also a Targaryen, a former Hand of the King, and was once Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Also, think of all the “That’s so Raven” jokes we can make.  –MM

29. Melisandre

OK, definitely got greedy here, especially after taking the only other proven Lord of Light resurrector in the previous round. But how were 28 others taken before her? Doesn't anyone want to resurrect their fallen leaders? Important skill set! Yes she's kind of evil, but we needed a bit of that, someone always with the eyes on the prize no matter the sacrifice. Jon will use her powers for good.  –RL

30. Ghost

This was really about Bran, and not just because the kid needs a pup. Ghost is a great vessel for Bran to enter ... and rip out someone's jugular. He's a back-end pick but could pay off down the line.  –ES


• ROUND 7 •

31. Sandor Clegane (The Hound)

The initial meeting between the Hound and Mountain might be a little awkward, but it's worth the tandem defending the crown. Clegane is great here because of his growth as a character, but still not losing sight of the need to sometimes sever an enemy's head.  –ES

32. Greywind

Maester Aemon went in the previous round and was where we hoped to go at some point in the last two rounds, adding another Targaryen and one with the smarts of a grand maester. But it's cool. With Jon and Arya, we needed a proper direwolf, and while tempted to reunite Arya with the M.I.A. Nymeria, we went with Greywind, the dire to the eldest Stark child. Greywind is a proven war vet - probably saw more action than Ghost (where was he during the Battle of the Bastards??). Greywind will have better, smarter owners this time around in Jon and Arya.  –RL

33. Rhaegal

If you’re going to have the Mother of Dragons, you better have a dragon…  –MM

34. Nymeria

This was more sentiment than stratgey. I seriously thought about drafting all direwolves, but decided against it at the last minute. Nymeria has been on her own for the majority of her life and in that sense she is a lone wolf. A lone wolf who needs a best friend...like me.  –SS

35. Jorah Mormont

Mr. Irrelevant! Dany isn’t around here, but he’s a loyal, decent veteran guy to have around.  –RH


• FREE AGENTS •

Just for fun, each of us also offered up some undrafted free agents who we'd invite to a tryout. Basically, these are our honorable mentions... 

HOFMANNLAWRENCEMULLINSLATERSHANDER
Margaery Tyrell
She was married to Renly and is great at playing the game.
Viserion 
There was an undrafted dragon? How?
Syrio Forel
No explanation necessary.
Tormund GiantsbaneBrynden Tully
(The Blackfish)
Tormund Giantsbane
If you wanted some Wildling representation...
Euron Greyjoy
He's a king, and a dangerous, power-hungry one at that.
Euron Greyjoy
He sucks as a person, but if you need a navy... 
Syrio ForelLyanna Mormont
Hodor.
Hodor.
Lyanna Mormont
Could step right in and become the youngest Hand of the King in Westeros history
Tormund Giantsbane
He gets a tryout, but I'd rather he sign with Rich's team so he can be with Brienne.
Ellaria SandTormund Giantsbane


• THE BIG PICTURE •

Here's a look at how our houses came together. 

None

Now tell us who you think would be most likely to conquer Westeros... 



Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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