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Only Fire and Blood?

Who will win the battle of Winterfell?

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Each and every time I think about it I think Stannis will use the weather to his advantage to defeat the Frey/Manderly vanguard assuming the Manderlys don't turn on the Freys But if that happens what would he do afterwards? Unless Davos shows up with Rickon and the Northern Lords turn on the Boltons Stannis is effectively back to square one.

Any other ideas?

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I have to know who wrote the bastard letter and how much of it is the truth to have any other sensible idea. I don't think the Manderlys will fight Stannis btw. Even if Davos hasn't returned yet, Manderly could have instructed them to go somewhere else, like going back to white harbor. It's a terrible blizzard in the north, so no one will see them. Though I believe it's more likely that they'll fight the Frey from back while Stannis is fighting in the front; but they have to make sure that they'll kill every one of them so no one would go back and tell. Besides, I believe Manderly is not caring for his life so much, especially now that he has his son back at white harbor. Remember how reckless he was in Winterfell and how cautious back in white harbor?

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I'd like to say Stannis will crush the Boltons, Freys, and potentially the Manderly's. The fact that he seems to have a special defence in mind and that his enemies will strike him one by one, along with Manderly's deception are on his side. But there is the letter to contend with, I think it's really anyone's bet until TWoW is released.

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It's definitely being setup for Stannis to win, it seems pretty obvious - it will annoy me though, because given the description of his army, I think it's sort of hard to buy. I suppose he will win through several clever ploys, the defection of the Manderlys, and Theon's inside knowledge of Winterfell and the situation there. But even still.

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What I don't see is a decisive Bolton victory. One possibility: Stannis crushes the Boltons. Another one: Roose wins a Pyrrhic victory, possibly killing Stannis in the process, yet suffering huge losses on his own, including Ramsay. Big Bucket will get his wish, to die with taste of Bolton blood on his tongue.

Then, during their retreat to the Dreadfort, his remaining troops are annihilated by, let's say, lord Manderly. A while ago we wondered here, what will he do with his heavy cavalry. And maybe simultaneously Manderly's fleet would pull a Theon Greyjoy on the Dreadfort. Checkmate. Now that would be nice...

Roose winning easily and with little to moderate losses would be another cruelty from GRRM. Surely he's not capable of this? Yeah, right...

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It's definitely being setup for Stannis to win, it seems pretty obvious - it will annoy me though, because given the description of his army, I think it's sort of hard to buy. I suppose he will win through several clever ploys, the defection of the Manderlys, and Theon's inside knowledge of Winterfell and the situation there. But even still.

Stannis did take out the Greyjoy fleet which is their main asset or was in the Greyjoy rebellion and he defeated Mance Rayders army in a matter of minutes despite being heavily outnumbered so he does have a very good knack for military tactics.

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I can't see both the battle of Meereen and Winterfell ending well, and since Dany clearly has more story ahead of her I'm inclined to think Bolton will get the better of Stannis.

Roose might just be intending to rid WF of excess mouths and wait Stannis out, hoping Stannis' fragile coalition will disperse, so even if Stannis does defeat the Freys he won't have got anywhere, although Bolton's tenuous legitimacy will be further harmed by losing the fake Arya.

Lord Manderly is still in WF too, which creates problems for his forces that have been sent to oppose Stannis.

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I can't see both the battle of Meereen and Winterfell ending well, and since Dany clearly has more story ahead of her I'm inclined to think Bolton will get the better of Stannis.

Roose might just be intending to rid WF of excess mouths and wait Stannis out, hoping Stannis' fragile coalition will disperse, so even if Stannis does defeat the Freys he won't have got anywhere, although Bolton's tenuous legitimacy will be further harmed by losing the fake Arya.

Lord Manderly is still in WF too, which creates problems for his forces that have been sent to oppose Stannis.

Stannis held Storms End under extreme adversity, crushed the wildlings while vastly outnumbered, and would have taken Kings Landing if not for "Renly's Ghost". I would not bet against Stannis!

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Stannis. I think that the letter was false, largely through Ramsay demanding Theon and Jeyne be returned to him, surely if he had won he would have them, dead or alive. The setup is all there for a Stannis victory, though it may be a phyrric victory, with perhaps Stannis himself being killed. That would in turn pave the way for Jon Snow to emerge as another leader and contender for the Iron Throne.

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Stannis' forces barely even have horses - or food - at this point. He has suffered a lot more from the weather than the Boltons and Freys.

Odds are good that the decisive factor will be the cohesion of Winterfell's forces. If Manderly and others turn against the Freys and Boltons at just the right moment, that will be it. It will of course be helpful if they choose such a time when Stannis' troops are also attacking the Freys and Boltons, and even better if they manage to communicate and coordinate with Stannis.

But by himself, I don't think Stannis has much of a call on who will win. He will have a hard enough time just turning back and returning to Castle Black alive. He needs to take Winterfell just to survive.

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Stannis held Storms End under extreme adversity, crushed the wildlings while vastly outnumbered, and would have taken Kings Landing if not for "Renly's Ghost". I would not bet against Stannis!

Jon thinks Mormont could have crushed Raydar's army with 300 men if he caught them at the right place. Mance says his men cannot stand against the Westerosi in the open field and Stannis didn't really surprise Mance, if only because Mance couldn't reasonably be supposed to be on the look out for him.

We don't know the BoBW was only turned in lannister and tyrell favour because of the Ghost either, although no doubt it was important.

Basically Stannis is a loser though.

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I agree that Stannis is a great tactician, but as Luis Dantas said, his army was starved and weak even before being snowed in for several days at the little village. I can believe that they will beat the forces sent out from Winterfell through some clever trick, but taking Winterfell itself? I'm sure there will be another clever trick, but it's just a little unrealistic to me. A lot of his army shouldn't even be able to make it there at this point. GRRM has described how harrowing and awful their situation is a bit too well for me to believe they can pull off some miracle victory.

That point about Manderlay's forces is interesting. Most people have assumed they will turn, but it may be harder to do that given that Wendel is not actually with them. I'm sure it will happen anyway though.

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Stannis, please. I pray to the old Gods, the Seven, the Drowned God and the Lord of Light for him to be victorious.

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Actually, the fact that Stannis's host is starved and desperate will turn out to be an advantage. The mountain clan men are eager to fight and ready to die in battle, so I don't think they are going to break and flee. More importantly, they had the choice to declare for Bolton months ago. They did not. And the southron knights have to win or die. There is no middle ground here. They can't count on being ransomed or pardoned since they stuck to Stannis until the bitter end.

Whereas Roose on the hand may have the larger host, but he can, in my opinion, only count on a fourth of his men. His Dreadfort men, the Freys, and the Barrowton men. The Manderlys are not on his side, that much we know already, but the Hornwood men, Whoresbane's old men, the Cerwyns, even his Ryswell kin, they all will forsake him if the battle turns against him. All Stannis has to do is bloody Bolton, and the game will change completely. After all, the Northern lords do not only know about Roose's involvement in the Red Wedding, they have to suspect some kind of foul play in the Sack of Winterfell as well.

If Lord Manderly openly declares for King Stannis and leaves Winterfell, half of 'Bolton's men' or more will take his lead. Oh, and by the way: I very much doubt that Lord Wyman will pull off some kind of elaborate plot. If Stannis eventually reaches Winterfell after he has won the battle in the village, the White Harbor knights will just kill the guards and open the gates. End of story.

Even Lady Dustin might eventually reconsider her loyalties. She may hate the Starks, but she is not going to go down in the abyss with House Bolton.

And we have to keep in mind that Stannis's forces aren't as weak as we might think they are. Only the southron horses died. But what good would a cavalry have been in the snow anyway? They don't need the horses. And no northern horse died, nor any northern soldier.

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I'd love Stannis to win with the Iced-Lake trick... which means it wont happen.

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1. Stannis and Manderlay combine to slaughter the Frey force.

2. Manderlay returns, with some of Stannis' men dressed as Freys, proclaiming victory (with Stannis' sword in hand, as proof).

3. Ramsay writes his letter to Jon Snow.

4. Later that night the gates are opened to allow the remainder of Stannis' men and the remaining Northmen inside to storm the castle while most of the Bolton men are asleep.

5. As all this is going on, many of the Northerners on the Bolton's side will switch allegiance.

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Manderly won't ride into battle. He is severely injured, and even if he was healthy, he is not able to sit a horse anymore. He'll remain at Winterfell.

Stannis is not going to need to smuggle men inside the castle. Manderly is going to open the gates by force. That, or Stannis is going to learn about a secret entrance into the castle from Bran.

As to Stannis's sword:

If Stannis is not dead, then Ramsay's line 'I have his magic sword' would just be another lie (just as the 'seven days of battle'-thing - there won't be seven days of battle at the lakes, that much we can be sure of!). And Roose would never believe that Stannis is dead simply because someone showed him his Lightbringer. Roose would want to see Stannis's corpse. If he is truly dead, the Manderly men would have to show it to him...

My guess is that Stannis will continue to use the ravens as means of disinformation. He will use it to lure the first wave into a trap, and after he has won the battle (and possibly knows about Manderly's true allegiance) he'll lure even more loyal Bolton troops out of the castle which should enable Manderly to open the gates.

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Actually, the fact that Stannis's host is starved and desperate will turn out to be an advantage. The mountain clan men are eager to fight and ready to die in battle, so I don't think they are going to break and flee. More importantly, they had the choice to declare for Bolton months ago. They did not. And the southron knights have to win or die. There is no middle ground here. They can't count on being ransomed or pardoned since they stuck to Stannis until the bitter end.

I like it. "Our men must win or die. Pompey's men have... other options", said Julius Caesar (in HBO's interpretation), and the rest is, literally, history.

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