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Top 10 Fighters, 281 AC Edition

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Posted (edited)

So I was thinking about most extraordinary fighters of previous era, 281-283 AC roughly, the period encompassing Tourney at Harrenhal and Robert's Rebellion. Since those events happened some ~15 years before AGOT kicks off, memories of these fights are vivid, even more so than with us comparing Evanders and Tysons of 1990s. What helps in comparison is the fact that main ASOIAF characters fought with (or against) top warriors of the yesteryear, so their opinions certainly matter - even if they're biased.

What matters:
- effectiveness and melee skills vital in both single combat and battlefield;
- jousting is helpful as far as it translates to real battle;
- all weapons, armors and preparation allowed, but versatility is valuable;
- strength, stamina, agility, ambidexterity, hand-eye coordination and other physical tools;
- *Battle IQ*, age, experience, valor and reputation should also be considered.

To kick this off, I'll present my TOP 10 at the moment, but it is subject to change if you convince me!

1) Arthur Dayne (with Dawn)
Can't really argue this one because GRRM said so, apparently. Arthur was in his twenties at the time, most likely in physical prime. Track record on the battlefield is limited, but he slew the Smiling Knight and enjoyed great reputation. Jousting? Not as good as Rhaegar, but also up there, top 3 easily. I believe he was a marvelous swordsman and really capable rider, although wielding the greatest sword in the Seven Kingdoms helped a lot.

2) Barristan Selmy
He was in mid-to-late forties at the time, but still in prime I believe. Definitely the best track record in the realm, he has it all: 30 years of tourneys (started at age of 10), Defiance of Duskendale, defeated Smiling Knight, killed Simon Toyne, Maelys Blackfyre and a dozen of distinguished warriors at Trident. I believe he's the perfect mix of skill, versatility and experience with at least 90% of athleticism intact (he aged very well). He would be my number 1, but well, GRRM and Dawn. Without the meteorite holy sword, swap no. 1 and 2.

3) Robert Baratheon
I wouldn't be surprised if his kill count climbed to 100+ during Rebellion. Hard to argue against a guy who won numerous battles and always led the charge. Defeating prime Targaryen ON HORSEBACK is Robert's crowning achievement. Armor-crushing warhammer, 6'6" frame and enormous strength certainly made him a beast.

4) Gerold Hightower
Guy had 20+ years as a Lord Commander of the Kingsguard under his belt. After Ormund Baratheon's death he led royal forces in War of the 9p Kings. Gerold had all the experience in the world, much like Barristan fifteen years later, but advanced age prevents him from claiming the top.

5) Yohn Royce
Another killing machine. Even older Bronze Yohn was a force (won melee in 298 AC against Thoros of Myr, fighting with a common mace), imagine him in Rebellion times. Famous tourney knight for decades, he has a great size and legendary runic armor. What's not to like.

6) Smiling Knight
I think Jaime painted a picture of a hellish, savage fighter, highly skilled and much feared throughout the realm. I think his fearlesness is the most dangerous trait, very hard to account for. I'm putting much stock in "his generation's Gregor Clegane" claim - even if it's a bit self-serving.

7) Jason Mallister
Another decorated tourney knight, he took down three of Rhaegar's bannermen at Trident. Consistent performance across the decades (Greyjoy's Rebellion made him even more famous) convinces me he was elite back in the day.

8) Brynden Tully
Blackfish enjoyed considerable fame in Westeros for his deeds in War of the Ninepenny Kings and he's got even more recognition in Rebellion days. Although in his forties, I believe he was still a very cunning, agile swordsman with great fundamentals, archery skills and balls of steel. Much like Odysseus.

9) Brandon Stark
They say Eddard is a skilled swordsman, but Brandon owned him and was a terrific jouster on top of that. With his height, training and audacity, I see a great potential in this 20 year old fellow. What a shame his "career" ended prematurely.

10) Rhaegar Targaryen
Not much to say: legendary jouster and likely a very capable fighter. They say he took the prophecy to his heart and became motivated to increase his martial skills. Not sure if he belongs this high, but being the best mounted warrior in the Seven Kingdoms accounts for something.

Honorable mentions: Gregor Clegane, Jon Connington, Lyn Corbray, Jonothor Darry, Jaime Lannister, Tygett Lannister, Lewyn Martell, Oberyn Martell, Oswell Whent

Edited by thi4f

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I think Robert's got to be over Selmy. The age difference and the fact that Robert was apparently such a fierce and formidable warrior in his prime.

Gerold Hightower was a very respected leader, but do we know much of his prowess as a fighter?

I think you are perhaps underrating Rhaegar. If he went toe to toe with Robert on the Trident, that along with his tourney successes ought to push him higher.

And I think Jaime belongs on this list. He didn't do anything during the rebellion until the very end, but even at such a young age, it seems like he was quite the swordsman. 

 

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44 minutes ago, Syl of Syl said:

 

And I think Jaime belongs on this list. He didn't do anything during the rebellion until the very end, but even at such a young age, it seems like he was quite the swordsman. 

 

My thoughts exactly.

Should Randyll Tarly be on the list? Not sure about his warrior skills, although the man is a great tactician.

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Robert -> Selmy:

I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with this one. Granted it's just speculation on my part, but I think Ser Barristan was still a top notch fighter in AGOT. It says a lot: not only he preserved his body exceptionally well, but also could use experience/ability to outmaneuver younger, more athletic opponents in his sixties. Perhaps his style wasn't as "acrobatic", maybe he relied more on fundamentals, foot technique etc. When it comes to fighter's performance, I believe martial artists don't lose as much as sprinters/running backs/shooting guards once they hit 40. In my "head canon", healthy and well-trained swordsmen at 40 are almost the same as their younger counterparts, and battle experience makes up for agility gap. Now 50 year olds is a different thing...

On the other hand, Robert Baratheon smashed through everything on his path back then and I'm not sure Barristan could fend him off with sword and shield in 281-283 period.

Gerold issue:

I'm not really sure. Barristan's and Jaime's opinions on White Bull are splendid, but who knows how much of a fighter he was at the tail end of his life. I'll give him a benefit of the doubt because Rhaegar left him at Tower of Joy, and who knew better than the young prince?

Rhaegar higher than no. 10:

In order to get him higher, I'd need to knock some other warrior down a peg. Maybe Brandon Stark deserves to lose one spot, but I'm hesitant. I imagine he was "Robert Baratheon Lite" and undoubtedly a better fighter than his brothers: a man who survived Tower of Joy and the First Ranger of the Night's Watch. But it all happens some time after Brandon's death, to be frank. We don't have that much information on Wild Wolf.

When it comes to Rhaegar himself, I think he was a better jouster than Loras Tyrell in AGOT, but definitely not as good of a swordsman as Sandor Clegane, prime Jaime or even Garlan. I could see him in Brynden Tully's range, tops; definitely below Bronze Yohn.

Jaime Lannister not making top 10:

He was 15 at the onset of RR, 17 when he backstabbed Aerys and 18 when he started to win tourneys. I believe he was definitely a top 3 fighter between Greyjoy's Rebellion and Whispering Wood, a good decade of dominance. In other words, my opinion on his skills is VERY high, but I see no reason to put him ahead of seasoned fighters on the list. It's just a matter of his age... Obviously I have other young bucks in top 10 (Brandon was twenty, Rhaegar 24, Arthur Dayne in mid 20s as well), but there has to be a gulf between 16 and 20 year olds. The curve is flat later on.

Gun to my head, I'd have teen Jaime Lannister in top 20, which is astonishingly high : )

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5 hours ago, thi4f said:

1) Arthur Dayne (with Dawn)

2) Barristan Selmy

3) Robert Baratheon

4) Gerold Hightower

5) Yohn Royce

6) Brynden Tully

7) Rhaegar Targaryen

8) Brandon Stark

9) Oswell Whent

10) Jamie Lannister
 

Honorable mentions: Gregor Clegane, Jon Connington, Lyn Corbray, Jonothor Darry, , Tygett Lannister, Lewyn Martell, Oberyn Martell, Jason Mallister, the Smiling Knight, Eddard Stark

See bold.

 

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That's fair about Selmy versus Robert. I think it says something of Selmy's skills that he was the only one of the Kingsguard (other than Jaime who didn't see action) to survive the rebellion.

2 hours ago, thi4f said:

Gerold issue:

I'm not really sure. Barristan's and Jaime's opinions on White Bull are splendid, but who knows how much of a fighter he was at the tail end of his life. I'll give him a benefit of the doubt because Rhaegar left him at Tower of Joy, and who knew better than the young prince?

Yes, Rhaegar left him at the Tower of Joy, but initially it was just Dayne and Whent there, so I assume he wasn't the first choice as guard but was enlisted once he arrived. Anyway, we see Kingsguard do some incredible things, so even tho they are outnumbered seven to three it feels like those are even odds. I know his seven are seasoned fighters, but Howland Reed and Ethan Glover weakened from his stint in the dungeons of the Red Keep aren't anybodies idea of legendary fighters. They are going up against three legends. Maybe I am expecting too much, but if the White Bull was next to Robert Baratheon as a fighter I feel like that should have swung the fight it in their favor but it didn't.

I know there is something to be said for experience, but I think once a fighter enters his thirties, he starts to slow down and speed often trumps strength in a duel.

Also, I feel like I should give some more argument for Rhaegar. I personally would put him fourth. He was the best jouster of the time and I think that counts for something even though tourney jousting is not the same as fighting in a battle. However, there are plenty of transferrable skills and the duel between Rhaegar and Robert was supposed to be legendary with Robert coming out of it wounded enough that he left the pursuit to Eddard. Robert was supposed to be unstoppable during the rebellion and in many ways he was, but Rhaegar nearly did it. That's major points in his favor and to me signifies that he deserves to be high on the list. Compare that with the description of the duel with the Smiling Knight. Jaime describes him as a formidable fighter, but in his duel with Arthur Dayne, it seems like Dayne didn't break much of a sweat. As a fifteen year old squire Jaime Lannister held his own against him too. I've got to put the guy who wounded Robert Baratheon in single combat ahead of the guy who broke a sword fighting Arthur Dayne.

And lastly, if we're going on what we see from a forty year old Oberyn Martell handling the Mountain, then Oberyn in his mid-twenties was probably an even scarier fighter. He should have been able to handle his generation's Gregor Clegane at that time, putting him ahead of the Smiling Knight as well.

I think my list would look like this:

1. Arthur Dayne

2. Robert Baratheon

3. Barristan Selmy

4. Rhaegar Targaryen

5. Oberyn Martell

6. Brandon Stark

7. Brynden Tully

8. Yohn Royce

9. Lyn Corbray

10. Thoros of Myr

I feel like I am short on Kingsguard members here, but it's difficult to know how great they were. Maybe Lewyn Martell and Jonothor Darry and Oswell Whent belong on this list, but all we know of them during this period is that they didn't make it.

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More on Rhaegar:

There are at least two interpretations of Ruby Ford duel between Bob and Prince. Pro-Rhaegar view takes notice of Robert's wounds and that the fight allegedly took a while, which probably translates to some 2 minutes. Pro-Robert view lessens the impact of injuries (he inspected the bodies in Red Keep days/weeks later while being almost fine) and claims that Robert owned the Targaryen.

I think it wasn't exactly an even fight because it played out to Rhaegar's sole advantage: he was a terrific rider and probably spent more hours on "mounted combat" training than anything else. But I respect him for holding his own for a short while and fighting till the end.

All in all, most of my Top 10 fighters were busy that year and fought in couple of battles, while Rhaegar spent his time with Lyanna. Thanks to his legendary jousting I could see him above Brandon Stark, perhaps; but defnitely not ahead of seasoned warriors (Royce, Brynden, Mallister).

Oberyn Martell in times of Rebellion:

I'd like specialists on House Martell to chime in because it all depends on the exact timeline of events... Oberyn spent some of his youth in Citadel (likely a couple of years), then in Free Cities (learning about posions and, possibly, dark arts) and further east, fighting with Second Sons mercenaries. If he's done it all before Robert's Rebellion there is a good reason to put him somewhere in top 20, maybe top 10. But I always assumed he only became obssessed with warfare after Elia perished.

It's hard to judge Oberyn solely on his fight vs Gregor in 300 AC. I wouldn't be surprised if he was preparing to fight the Mountain specifically for years. There is a place for him among the great warriors (definitely a tier above Bronns), but where exactly? Hard to tell. I don't even know if he had drawn a sword in times of Rebellion. As usual with House Martell - they are all BADASS if you give them benefit of the doubt... the evidence is a bit lacking.

I like your lists, post some more : )

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I can't argue too much with @thi4fs top 10, especially with a top that's pretty set in stone. but I sure can nit-pick.

I think Victarion Greyjoy deserves a spot in the Top 10, and maybe an honorable mention for Balon. Victarion to me always read as Robert Baratheon raised as a second-son Ironborn. Huge, broad, ovewhelming and deadly. We don't know much about if he was any good at tourneys, or if he even participated (I've seen artwork of Victarion mounted in tourney regalia, but that doesn't really mean anything). He's also competent enough to battle ship-to-ship in full plate. He should also get commander points for torching the Lannister fleet. Outside Dayne, Selmy and Robert Baratheon, I can't think of anyone who I would say for-sure could beat Victarion 1-on-1. 

I don't think Balon was quite the force of nature Victarion is, but from what we know about their contributions to Robert's Rebellion, he seems to have made an impression on the Ironborn. I never got the impression Euron was as good a conventional warrior and the Damphair doesn't seem interested in combat. 

I don't think Eddard belongs on this list. The impression I got is that Eddard is pretty average for a castle-trained fighter. Sure he could cut though commoners, but he seems decidedly average among his peers. Desire goes a long way, and the Lonely Wolf never seemed to enjoy combat. 

I'd also like to see where ya'll think Stannis would fall. Of course, Stannis is best known as a general, but I always got the impression he could handle himself well one-on-one. He also presumably has some of Stannis's physical ability. Maybe an honorable mention. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
40 minutes ago, Lord Vance II said:

 We don't know much about if he was any good at tourneys, or if he even participated (I've seen artwork of Victarion mounted in tourney regalia, but that doesn't really mean anything).

 

I doubt if he was knight at all. Correct me if I am wrong but knighthood is somehow connected with the faith of 7. Moreover, knight on the Iron Islands seems to be rare phenomenon - there was a guy called "the knight" among the Ironborn as far as I remember. They have no good horses on the Islands and it is said they make lousy riders :P

I think his bravery and strenght plus battle axe make him dangerous on ship's deck, but not necessarily in even top 20 fighters

Edited by broken one

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, thi4f said:

9) Brandon Stark
They say Eddard is a skilled swordsman, but Brandon owned him and was a terrific jouster on top of that. With his height, training and audacity, I see a great potential in this 20 year old fellow. What a shame his "career" ended prematurely.

I would not put Brandon here. We know close to nothing about his abilities, he lost to Rhaegar on a just and beat a pretty young Littlefinger. not worthy of the top 10. Lyn Cobray or Oberyn should take his place here.

Oberyn at 16 already was capable of holding his own against Lord Yronwood and served as sellsword for a while. And Cobray killed a kingguard and had a valyrian stell weapn.

Gregor Cleagane should be present in the top 10. Even young age he was massive and brutal. I would replace Hightower with him.

So probably something like this.

1-Arthur Dayne

2-Robert Baratheon

3-Barristan Selmy

4-Gregor Clegane

5-Jason Mallister

6-Brynden Tully

7-Smilling Knight

8-Oberyn Martell

9-Lyn Cobray

10- Rhaegar Targeryan.

Honorable Mentions :

Kevan Lannister(acording to Jaime "Kevan Lannister had once been a stout man with a sword")

Rickard Stark (war veteran and was confident or desperate enough to request trial by combat himself against Aerys Kingsguard)

Yohn Royce

Jorah Mormont

Jaime Lannister

Balon Greyjoy

 

 

Edited by Arthur Peres
forgot about Balon

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5 minutes ago, broken one said:

I doubt if he was knight at all. Correct me if I am wrong but knighthood is somehow connected with the faith of 7. Moreover, knight on the Iron Islands seems to be rare phenomenon - there was a guy called "the knight" among the Ironborn as far as I remember.

He 100% is not a knight and yes, it is related to the Faith. But none of the Starks, nor any of the Northmen except for the Manderlys. Cregan Stark gave Aemon the Dragonknight his best challenge and he wasn't a knight. Sandor Clegane is famously not a knight, and no one is lining up to square up with him. Thoros of Myr isn't a knight. 

Knighthood doesn't make you a better warrior. It just means you said some words and were anointed with some oil. Victarion may not be a jouster, but I don't think many tourney knights would stand a chance against the Iron Captain on land or sea. 

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Posted (edited)
52 minutes ago, Lord Vance II said:

@thi4f

I think Victarion Greyjoy deserves a spot in the Top 10, and maybe an honorable mention for Balon. Victarion to me always read as Robert Baratheon raised as a second-son Ironborn. Huge, broad, ovewhelming and deadly.

I have no gripes with Victarion listed somewhere. He surely is an intimidating, strong and battle-worn leader of the Ironborn which earns my respect. But there is a couple of things that need to be mentioned:

1. Victarion's age. Wiki states that he was born anywhere between 257 and 269 AC, which makes him as young as 13 years old during discussed period (on the other hand he could've been as old as 25, which is right in most people's prime).

2. Training. I don't know too much of Ironborn culture, they are always outsiders to other Great Houses, so I have no idea how they are taught to fight. Greyjoys are a leading House in a very martial, brutal culture, so they must know how to use an axe from a young age. But are they trained extensively to use a bow, sword or spears properly, the way most southern knights/Lords are? Do they know how to fight men-at-arms in plate armor, crossbowmen behind a stockade, charging knights in the rear? How are they trained to besiege castles or protect supply chains for inland armies?

Now I don't want to mock the Ironborn, no. I'm sure they are formidable warriors in their own habitat, with their own rules. But how do they fare against the best competition, and thousands of them? What separates Greyjoy fighters from clansmen brutes, swinging their axes and maces mindlessly?

3. Experience. This is connected to the previous point. I was always wondering if the Ironborn aren't just misogynist, brutal bullies who specialize in chopping down fishermen, harrassing elders and taking seawives. They've done a great job in Stony Shore when faced poor commoners, they terrorized weakly protected Shield Islands, but what about more even matchups? We don't see them in Kingsguard, tourneys or fighting outlaws. At least I don't remember any of it.

Look, I think Victarion is definitely one of the greatest and most fearsome Ironborn warriors, but there are questions that need an answer. Maybe I'm nitpicking them too much, but for me, Iron Islands look much more like barbaric tribes then skilled and trained knights of High Middle Ages.

Not that barbarians couldn't kick their asses!

 

52 minutes ago, Lord Vance II said:

I'd also like to see where ya'll think Stannis would fall. Of course, Stannis is best known as a general, but I always got the impression he could handle himself well one-on-one. He also presumably has some of Stannis's physical ability. Maybe an honorable mention.

He is a tall, quite strong second son of Steffon Baratheon, raised by likes of Donal Noye and coming from martial oriented Stormlands culture. I'm sure he is a respectable swordsman, but there are no mentions of Stannis taking part of tourneys. He is a bit of enigma: while others feast and have fun, he's building fleets, serves in Small Council, launches assaults on Iron Fleet, Dragonstone and Great Wyk. Sure it's a simplistic description :) but I just wanted to point out that his fighting skills are not really highlighted. The main source of memoirs is Stannis himself because nobody else seems to give a damn... and he only reminisces battles from commander's perspective.

But as a man raised by castellans of Storm's End and Robert's blood, he must've been above average, at least.

On a sidenote: funny how many soldier-types come from Stormlands. Barristan Selmy, Beric Dondarrion, Balon Swann, Jon Connington, Bryce Caron, Brienne of Tarth (!), Simon Toyne, Cortnay Penrose, Donal Noye, Guyard Morrigen, Rolland Storm, Meryn F. Trant, Richard Lonmouth, Myles Toyne, not to mention Baratheons. They're like Georgia/Florida/Alabama when it comes to fierce talent!

 

Edited by thi4f

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Lord Vance II said:

He 100% is not a knight and yes, it is related to the Faith. But none of the Starks, nor any of the Northmen except for the Manderlys. Cregan Stark gave Aemon the Dragonknight his best challenge and he wasn't a knight. Sandor Clegane is famously not a knight, and no one is lining up to square up with him. Thoros of Myr isn't a knight. 

Knighthood doesn't make you a better warrior. It just means you said some words and were anointed with some oil. Victarion may not be a jouster, but I don't think many tourney knights would stand a chance against the Iron Captain on land or sea. 

In the part you quoted I was only referring to the picture you mentioned - Victarion on horse, taking part in tourney perhaps. Not very probable.

He is very strong, so he dangles heavy axe and wears heavy armour, it does not take to be very skilled at melee for such a guy to wipe men from deck, where there's no space to dance. Somehow he reminds me of Dunk btw.

Edited by broken one

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19 hours ago, thi4f said:

What matters:
- effectiveness and melee skills vital in both single combat and battlefield;
- jousting is helpful as far as it translates to real battle;
- all weapons, armors and preparation allowed, but versatility is valuable;
- strength, stamina, agility, ambidexterity, hand-eye coordination and other physical tools;
- *Battle IQ*, age, experience, valor and reputation should also be considered.

With the glaring exception of jousting, I think Victarion checks all the boxes.

Theon is portrayed as a skilled archer, so that leads me to believe the Ironborn at least respect archery. I can't see how a group of warriors like the Ironborn would shun archery. However, I do think Vic said something about not liking ranged combat. 

Melee skills? Check. Arms and Armor? He uses what everyone else does minus the horse. Strength? Big ol check. Experience? Check. Valor? Check. Battle IQ? He lost to Stannis, but there's no shame in that. 

I'm just saying it's a list of fighters, not knights. One-on-one, Vic is a terror. 

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Issues with Brandon Stark

I agree, we know next to nothing about his actual skills in relation to best warriors. I could leave him off from Top 10, perhaps, but still not sold if Oberyn is the one to take his place. As I mentioned before, I have my reservations towards young Red Viper and I prefer more seasoned warriors. Thus I include types of Jason Mallister and Blackfish. Following this path, I might relegate Brandon from top 10 so another veteran gets a spot.

Gregor Clegane revisited

I had him in top 10 when I was writing the draft of OP. I'm not sold on his melee skills at the time (he was ~17 at times of Rebellion), especially that might've been the first time he killed someone (anyone can shed a light on this one?)...

... BUT he still was a TOTAL OUTLIER when it comes to size, strength, arm's reach and coordination. I wouldn't approach the Mountain without a crossbow (or bolt thrower, for that matter)... so it has to account for something. It's almost like a different species and for that he deserves to be taken seriously.

Curious case of Jorah Mormont

To be blunt: I'm not buying him as a great swordsman at all, at least in 281 AC. His victory at Lannisport Tourney is suspect, although it's just my "head-canon". He's more of a Bronn/Alliser Thorne peer, a Tier 2 player (still respectable though).

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2 minutes ago, thi4f said:

I agree, we know next to nothing about his actual skills in relation to best warriors. I could leave him off from Top 10, perhaps, but still not sold if Oberyn is the one to take his place. As I mentioned before, I have my reservations towards young Red Viper and I prefer more seasoned warriors. Thus I include types of Jason Mallister and Blackfish. Following this path, I might relegate Brandon from top 10 so another veteran gets a spot.

 

So I would sugest Randyl Tarly for you. He did kill one of Robert's bannerman in single combat at Ashford, is regarded as a very capable comander and had a valyrian steel sword.

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1 minute ago, Arthur Peres said:

So I would sugest Randyl Tarly for you. He did kill one of Robert's bannerman in single combat at Ashford, is regarded as a very capable comander and had a valyrian steel sword.

Randyll is a good pick, +3 for Valyrian Steel Blade, I need to check his wiki. Definitely an outside chance for Top 10, but who knows if he's more worthy than Whent or Tygett Lannister. The latter had quite fearsome reputation, I'd rather have him than Kevan on my side, but I don't think he's got any experience during Robert's Rebellion.

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5 hours ago, thi4f said:

Oberyn Martell in times of Rebellion:

I'd like specialists on House Martell to chime in because it all depends on the exact timeline of events... Oberyn spent some of his youth in Citadel (likely a couple of years), then in Free Cities (learning about posions and, possibly, dark arts) and further east, fighting with Second Sons mercenaries. If he's done it all before Robert's Rebellion there is a good reason to put him somewhere in top 20, maybe top 10. But I always assumed he only became obssessed with warfare after Elia perished.

 It's hard to judge Oberyn solely on his fight vs Gregor in 300 AC. I wouldn't be surprised if he was preparing to fight the Mountain specifically for years. There is a place for him among the great warriors (definitely a tier above Bronns), but where exactly? Hard to tell. I don't even know if he had drawn a sword in times of Rebellion. As usual with House Martell - they are all BADASS if you give them benefit of the doubt... the evidence is a bit lacking.

Interesting view. I suppose I may be overrating Oberyn based on one fight. However, I will point out in his favor that he didn't necessarily know that Gregor was the guy who killed Elia until Tyrion told him. And on his early experiences, Oberyn danced with Ashara Dayne at Harrenhal so he was back in Westeros by then. He was 16 years old when he gained the Red Viper moniker and was sent into his exile, and 281 is six or seven years later so I assume he's had at least some of those experiences you mentioned.

On Rhaegar's prowess:

In Fire & Blood we get a kind of similar description of a Targaryen who did not take naturally to martial arts but became quite the fighter through determination and access to excellent instruction. Rhaegar seems to have the same kind of determination and obviously had access to excellent teachers along with the time available to spend honing his skills. Clearly the wound he gave Robert wasn't mortal and likely not overly serious, but it did slow him down so it wasn't a scratch either. Other than this instance, Robert had been unstoppable. I guess your opinion on Rhaegar partially depends on your opinion of Robert tho.

 

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Posted (edited)

Third place should be Rhaegar's.

In 276 he participated in tournament at Lannisport, where he defeated 15 opponents in a row, among them Barristan Selmy, and only in the last melee was defeated by Arthur Dayne.

In 278 or 279 at Storm's End Rhaegar defeated Jason Mallister, Oberyn Martell, Simon Toyne (leader of Kingswood Brotherwood), and Arthur Dayne (broke 12 lances in 13 tilts), and in the end was defeated by Barristan Selmy (who had defeated Robert Baratheon, Jon Connington, Oberyn Martell, Jason Mallister, and Kingsguard Leyton Hightower).

In 281 at Harrenhall Rhaegar defeated Arthur Dayne, Barristan Selmy, Brandon Stark, and Yohn Royce.

Barristan defeated Robert, and killed Simon Toyne, Maelys Blackfyre (who had killed Daemon Blackfyre's destrier, and then twisted Daemon's head until he tore it from his shoulders), Symon Hollard (master-at-arms at Duskendale, who had killed Kingsguard Gwayne Gaunt), and a pit-fighter Khrazz (who was much younger and heavier than Barristan).

Rhaegar was only once defeated by Barristan and once by Arthur, while he had defeated both of them twice. So Rhaegar is approximately as strong as Barristan, only significantly less experienced, and he's about as strong as Arthur Dayne without Dawn.

It's fairly possible, that Arthur Dayne was a dragonseed. Dyanna Dayne, mother of Aegon V, had two daughters, Daella and Rhae. One of those princesses could have married back into Dayne family, with one of her cousins. In this case, Rhaegar was third cousin to Arthur and Ashara. Which could be an explanation, why Rhaegar and Arthur were close friends (like King Aerys and his cousin Steffon Baratheon), and why Ashara became Princess Elia's lady-in-waiting -> because they were bloodrelated to Targaryens. Could be that Barristan Selmy is also a dragonseed. I could be totally wrong about this, but I think, that he is a Blackfyre on his mother's side (who possibly was daughter of Aenys Blackfyre).

So, because of their dragonblood, Rhaegar Targaryen, Arthur Dayne, Barristan Selmy and Robert Baratheon (whose paternal grandmother was a Targaryen) should be in first quad of Top fighters. Arthur should be on first place with Dawn (or without Dawn on third place before Robert). Barristan gets second place, but only because he has more fighting experience than Rhaegar. If Rhaegar lived longer, and fought in more battles, then I'm sure, that he would have eventually surpassed Barristan. And Rhaegar third, while Robert is fourth.

Just because Robert managed to kill Rhaegar in a combat, doesn't mean, that Robert was a better fighter. I think, that we should take into consideration circumstances of that battle - they were highly unfavourable for Rhaegar. His wife and children were kept as hostages by Rhaegar's crazy father. He had to leave pregnant Lyanna back at Starfall. By the time of his return to King's Landing, Targaryen troops had suffered great losses, and were severely demoralized. Troops of The North, The Vale, Riverlands and Stormlands were fighting on Robert's side. Troops of Westerlands were staying away from battlefield. Troops of The Reach were stalling time at Storm's End (in my opinion Tyrells didn't went into battle to support Aerys' troops, because Tyrells and Redwynes were secretly supporting Blackfyres, and were working in tandem with Varys, who is an agent of Blackfyres). So on Targaryens' side there was only meager army of Crownlands, and 10.000 soldiers, that arrived all the way from Dorne, so they were not in a best condition, because they (same as Rhaegar) barely had any time to rest, after their arrival from south, and were immediately sent to fight at the Trident. Under all of those unfavourable conditions, it was nearly impossible for Rhaegar to win in that battle. So we shouldn't judge Rhaegar's fighting capabilities solely based on his death by Robert.

Also Robert's weapon was heavier (Robert himself was also heavier than Rhaegar, so it wasn't hard for him to wield that warhammer), more deadly, and had further reach than Rhaegar's sword. Rhaegar's sword wasn't Valyrian steel, so even several dozens of hits of that sword on Robert's armor, were not deadly. While even one well-aimed hit of Robert's spiked warhammer was an end-game for Rhaegar. They were armed unfairly.

Under more fair fighting conditions, Rhaegar would have definitely won. Robert was physically stronger, but Rhaegar was more skilled, more agile, faster, and smarter. If they both were armed with swords, Rhaegar would have won.

2 hours ago, thi4f said:

Randyll is a good pick, +3 for Valyrian Steel Blade, I need to check his wiki. Definitely an outside chance for Top 10, but who knows if he's more worthy than Whent or Tygett Lannister. The latter had quite fearsome reputation, I'd rather have him than Kevan on my side, but I don't think he's got any experience during Robert's Rebellion.

Rhaegar defeated both Tygett and Gerion Lannister in 276.

Edited by Megorova

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33 minutes ago, Megorova said:

In 276 he participated in tournament at Lannisport, where he defeated 15 opponents in a row, among them Barristan Selmy, and only in the last melee was defeated by Arthur Dayne.

 

It wasn't a melee, it was a joust. 

Seventeen and new to knighthood, Rhaegar Targaryen had worn black plate over golden ringmail when he cantered onto the lists. Long streamers of red and gold and orange silk had floated behind his helm, like flames. Two of her uncles fell before his lance, along with a dozen of her father’s finest jousters, the flower of the west.

 

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