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The Game of Game of Thrones: season 7 preview and a dwindling draft pool

Only Lannisters left alive

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Photo: HBO

The Game of Game of Thrones is back, and you can play along! Once again, we’re partnering with fantasy sports site Fantasizr, and using the rules written back in season 5 by the original Thronesmaster Emily Yoshida. Please catch up! We’ve already drafted teams here at The Verge and we’re ready to serve as council while you draw up your own plans for destroying your friends in an internet game.

The reigning champs

When we left Westeros, the Starks were winning for the first time in several years, as Jon and Sansa (but mostly Sansa) had taken back Winterfell from the Boltons, Arya made it back to Westeros and did some forced cannibalism stuff to the Freys, and Bran Stark finally became relevant to the plot, thanks to some salacious visions of the past.

Will he manage to put two and two together and tell Jon Snow about his real parentage? How will that affect Jon’s chances of sitting on the Iron Throne and / or marrying his aunt Daenerys? Why would Jon end up leading the Seven Kingdoms when Sansa would be so much better at it? Jon is literally so bad at communicating his political philosophies that some guys murdered him one time out of general confusion.

The State of Westeros

Setting that aside for a moment, we should acknowledge that the Starks are pretty much the only house in Westeros who are in a good place right now. It’s a total mess, and as such, there are unlikely alliances coming together all over the place. Olenna Tyrell is in Dorne plotting against Cersei; Daenerys, Tyrion, and the Greyjoys are sailing to Westeros to plot against Cersei; Cersei and Jaime are making out and plotting against everyone; Littlefinger is rolling up in Winterfell to convince Sansa to plot against Jon (please don’t); and the other, scary Greyjoy is sailing to Mereen to be late to the party and expand his carbon footprint.

we’ve been told “winter is here,” so prepare to go full zombie show

Most importantly, the White Walkers were forging “alliances” with all the people they’d killed, adding them to their rapidly growing zombie army. We’ve been told, by ruthless and ceaseless HBO promotional materials, that “winter is here” and it’s a safe bet that the primary showdowns of the season will be around or beyond the Wall. Going into the draft, and into Game of Thrones’ endgame, the biggest question is “which characters will make it up there to play a crucial part?” and also “who is even left alive at this point?” I don’t know if you recall, but Cersei did just blow up one of Westeros’ primary landmarks with almost every named character in her city inside of it.

The departed

The High Sparrow and his Faith Militant are history, and we’re short on Tyrells. The loss of Margaery Tyrell is especially poignant because the showrunners had the queen of the deep-V and shoulder cutouts die in a turtleneck. We’re short on Boltons, the majority of them eaten by dogs at one time or another throughout season 6. I can’t say that I’ll miss Ramsay, and if you can then I’m worried about you, but someone will certainly miss the 265 points he scored last season. We’re also short on Martells and the Martell-adjacent, following a coup in Dorne that does very little to course-correct that careening plot, but did give us this great one-liner:

We’ve also lost characters in Mereen and Braavos simply by moving all the action to Westeros. Sorry Ja’qen, you creepy freak! To help, we’ve added some new Ironborn to the official Game of Game of Thrones roster, as well as Winterfell’s Maester Wolkan, and the Iron Bank’s Tycho Nestoris, but there’s no way around it: too many people died and there’s not enough to go around. This year, each team has been cut down from six players to five, and that’s just how it’s going to be (until the teams are inevitably cut down even more by the cruelties of fate and HBO). I would caution you not to get emotional about it, but I see I don’t need to do that for my co-workers as they’ve already hardened their hearts to the point where the beloved, dedicated, ruggedly handsome, walking corpse Jorah Mormont was a last-round draft pick.

it’s slim pickings and we’re flying blind

Some housekeeping

While Fantasizr’s Game of Game of Thrones scoring system could not accommodate special teams this year, we here at The Verge are not afraid of doing a little “simple addition by hand.” We’ll be tracking points for special teams manually for this column, so if you want to add them into your personal leagues with a little extra labor, go for it.

On that note, we have some new special teams draft options, replacing the Faith Militant (RIP), the Faceless Men (left behind in Braavos as Arya makes her way home), the Sons of the Harpy (barbecued back in Mereen), and the Children of the Forest (finally blown off by Bran, who is finally not boring). Please give a silent internet welcome to the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Night’s Watch, the Dothraki, the Royal Army, and the Wights (differentiated from White Walkers this year to avoid giving a ridiculous advantage for one team). Unfortunately the Lord of Light was not drafted this season. I guess we lost our faith in him somewhere around season 5, episode 10.

An added complication for this year’s draft: nobody has any idea what the hell is going to happen. We’re totally off book this year, and flying blind, which has leveled the playing field in some ways but also makes for an utter crapshoot of a draft.

Without further ado, here are the official rosters of the 2017 The Game of Game of Thrones.

Hot Pie-O-My

Andy Hawkins, transportation reporter
  1. Jon Snow
  2. Euron Greyjoy
  3. Melisandre
  4. Podrick Payne
  5. Tycho Nestoris
  6. The Unsullied

Andy’s game plan:

Last year, my team Hot Pie-O-My was a ragtag bunch of losers like Loras, Hodor, and Missandei. This year, I’m fairly confident that I’m going to sweep the whole thing. Not only was I lucky enough to get the first pick — I went with Jon Snow for his talents in stabbing and not-staying-dead — but I also got my second pick, Euron Greyjoy, who is reportedly this season’s Ramsay Bolton. That gives me strong balance on either side of the moral spectrum. Bring it on.

I don’t know about this — Jon Snow had a huge season 6, but he also spent the bulk of it talking about being physically tired, and at this point he’s the de facto Al Gore of Westeros, dragging himself around and trying to convince people they’re all about to die. He doesn’t even have the benefit of science, photography, or any rhetorical skills whatsoever, so it’s truly been an uphill battle. Winter is here, but there are no points for being right, and no points for naps, no matter how well-earned. I’d say Andy’s best bet here is actually The Unsullied, who seem to be facing off against a Lannister force in the season’s first trailer. Euron Greyjoy is also an interesting place to put some money (please don’t actually gamble) — we need a new bad guy this season, and Reddit is full of wonky, terrifying theories as to how Euron might take that on. Do not read them before bed.

Small Hands of the King

Michael Zelenko, features editor
  1. Arya Stark
  2. Bronn
  3. Gendry
  4. Missandei
  5. Obara Sand
  6. The Royal Army

Michael’s game plan:

Some people tell me that this is the best team ever put together, and I think they’re right. That’s because this is a team of big league winners. We have the best people. These are people who know how to win. Some other teams, they’re not so good — there are teams here that are behaving very, very badly. I’m not going to name names but I think it’s very obvious, and they know who they are. Not serious teams, furry teams. I think you’ll find out very soon who I’m talking about.

Okay! I don’t understand any of these picks, in particular Gendry, who was last seen on a boat in the middle of an ocean several years ago. Bronn might kill some people or, as with season 6, he might barely be in the show at all. Missandei rarely nets points, but she will be getting a wardrobe upgrade at some point, according to this promotional image.

Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO

Good luck, Michael! Hopefully Cersei has the Royal Army bash a few thousand heads in and you get points bigly.

Ser Pounce’s Furry Convention

T.C. Sottek, managing editor
  1. Grey Worm
  2. Ghost
  3. Nymeria
  4. Robin Arryn
  5. Nymeria Sand
  6. Wildlings

T.C.’s game plan:

Pretends to lick self. Oh, hello there. My name is Ser Pounce, and I am gathering an army -- an army so cute and so powerful pretends to cough up furball... excuse me... that we will smother the entire world to death. Now I must go, as I have battle plans to draw. Knocks pencil off table.

T.C. spent the entire drafting process asking why Ser Pounce is no longer a draftable character. It’s because Tommen Baratheon, his owner, is dead now — I can’t believe I forgot to mention in the introduction that the king died. That’s on me, and I’m sorry! I don’t know if T.C.’s “theme” is the best, strategy-wise, but I respect that he has more faith in animals than in people and in people with animal names than in people with demonstrable skills. I sort of suspect that Robin Arryn could become an unexpected tornado of bad decisions, collateral damage, and accidental points. And I’m still among the hopeful, faithful few who believe Nymeria (dubbed “Chekhov’s direwolf” by our former Thronesmaster) will emerge from the woods this season.

A Song of Wire and Mice

Liz Lopatto, science editor
  1. Sansa Stark
  2. Davos Seaworth
  3. Yara Greyjoy
  4. Kinvara
  5. Daario Naharis
  6. The Old Gods

Liz’s game plan:

I'm betting big on Sansa as Queen in the North. (Shut up, Jon Snow!) As usual, I'm expecting a lot out of the women: Yara Greyjoy, Sansa, and the relatively unknown Kinvara, who's Up To Something, clearly. I rounded out my picks with two dudes-with-swords, Daario and Davos Seaworth. Do I know what I am doing or what will happen? No. Am I ready for Queen Sansa? Hell yes.

Back when I was a participant in Game of Game of Thrones, rather than an impartial score-keeper with a crick in my neck and a twitch in my eye, Sansa was my first-round draft pick. She won the Battle of the Bastards, she brutally murdered her torturer, she got a bunch of really cool outfits at some point while preparing for war. She deserves to sit on the Iron Throne. That’s all I have to say about the matter, and if you think that impairs my ability to score the game fairly I’m sorry to tell you that you have absolutely no options for recourse. Am I worried about how Littlefinger plays into all this? Not really. Should Liz be? Yeah.

Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO

Chaos, Inc.

Bryan Bishop, senior reporter
  1. Lyanna Mormont
  2. Beric Dondarrion
  3. Ellaria Sand
  4. Eddison Tollett
  5. Gilly
  6. The Night’s Watch

Bryan had an “important meeting” to attend while the draft was happening so he asked me to pick his players for him at random, writing:

There’s so much twisting, turning, and double-crossing in Game of Thrones that it seems impossible at this point to deduce who will be left standing at the end of a given season — much less ascend to the Iron Throne. A butterfly flapping its wings in Peking can probably do a better job of predicting it that any of us can, and that’s what Chaos, Inc. is all about. For my draft, my only strategy was random chance. It may seem like a crazy way to win — and that’s exactly why it’s going to work.

Honestly, I think I did a good job and I’m embarrassed that we let Ellaria get all the way to the third round of the draft. She’s the acting Queen of Dorne! Bryan’s team is stacked with a bunch of randos, but it’s also the team with the most heart — Lyanna Mormont is an incredible orator for a 10-year-old and Beric Dondarrion is a pretty good fighter for a guy who was dead a few different times. In case you’d forgotten, Edd is just starting out as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (he’ll get promotion points right out of the gate), and last we saw Gilly (in a season 7 promotional image), she was reading up on Azor Ahai. Hmm, could be important.

You are welcome, Bryan. As they say: chaos is a ladder.

Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO

The Brotherhood Without Broadband

Kwame Opam, news editor
  1. Daenerys Targaryen
  2. Olenna Tyrell
  3. Tormund Giantsbane
  4. Thoros of Myr
  5. Tyene Sand
  6. The Dothraki

Kwame’s game plan:

Cersei Lannister may sit the Iron Throne, but Daenerys Stormborn has returned to Westeros to claim what's hers with Fire and Blood. This team is ready for war and will body all comers. Dany's the Mother of Dragons. Lady Olenna will slice your jugular open with a word. Tormund will stomp you into the ground. Even Tyene is a trained Dornish killer, and will murder you with poison or a blade. And let's not forget the Dothraki horde. They crossed the Narrow Sea to win the Unburnt her throne, and won't rest until the realm bleeds for her and her alone.

As you can see, Kwame is really worked up! He has definitely chosen a team that lives up to this marketing campaign, though. Tormund and the Dothraki should net consistent red shirt kills on opposite ends of Westeros, while Daenerys and Olenna are plotting and making major moves also in so-far-unrelated theaters. A clever, perhaps accidental choice by Kwame to pick out power players who are unlikely to end up taking each other out, and I wish him the best of luck with whichever Sand Snake that is. I have no idea how Daenerys made it all the way down to the seventh pick in the draft, so this team truly must be blessed by the Seven and destined for greatness.

The Wight Stuff

Chaim Gartenberg, reporter
  1. Cersei Lannister
  2. The Night King
  3. The Mountain
  4. Qyburn
  5. Randyll Tarly
  6. Wights

Chaim’s game plan:

Cersei and The Night King might be the two biggest outright villains that Game of Thrones has going into this season. In any other show, betting it all on the bad guys might be a bad idea, but with George R.R. Martin at the helm of this story, goodness and honor are as useless as a wooden sword. Rounding out the team? The Mountain, perhaps the awful, murderous undead dude around, Qyburn, who helped blow up half a city last season, and Randyll Tarly, who's kind of a dick to Sam. Special teams? An army of undead Wights. Winter is here, and it's good to be bad. 

Chaim is freaking me out, but this strategy is pretty sound. I can’t imagine Cersei or The Night King triumphing when all this is done, but I also can’t imagine either one will be taken out before the final season. They can easily wreak some havoc while everyone’s figuring out the whole “winter commute time” and “whose responsibility is this sidewalk?” thing. The Mountain should be good for some needless violence, and though Chaim won’t get points for general jerkiness, he could see the lord of House Tarly called into action by his new liege lady: Olenna Tyrell.

strike while everyone is still super confused by all the snow

Keep Calm and Drogon

Loren Grush, science reporter
  1. Tyrion Lannister
  2. Bran Stark
  3. Theon Greyjoy
  4. Samwell Tarly
  5. Jorah Mormont
  6. Brotherhood Without Banners

Loren’s game plan:

I have filled my roster with men who have suffered from painful physical abuse and torment. Bran was pushed out a tower, Samwell’s dad used to lock him up in chains, Jorah is about to turn to stone, and Theon… well you know. Of course, my star is Tyrion who is now back in Westeros, ready to exact some revenge on a particular sister. Never underestimate a gang of cripples, bastards, and broken things. (Sorry, Theon.)

Loren, our season 6 champion, has maybe the oddest strategy of any team captain in this year’s league. But Tyrion’s coming to Westeros as one of the few people in the world who Daenerys’ dragons actually like, so that’s got to count for something. I’m sorry to say that I think Loren will be relying on a lot of “memorable death” points for the remainder of her roster, but I don’t think we should ignore her special team pick: The Brotherhood without Banners have been lingering in side plots for a while now, but Beric Dondarrion couldn’t possibly have lit his sword on fire in the trailer just for kicks, right?

Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO

Arya Ready To Rumble

Tasha Robinson, TV and film editor
  1. Jaime Lannister
  2. Brienne of Tarth
  3. Harrag
  4. Koner
  5. Yohn Royce
  6. White Walkers

Tasha’s game plan:

At first glance, this team may look a little heavy on the "Who now?" But that's pure strategy, y'all. Game of Thrones is running a little short on specific individual villains these days, what with Ramsay going to the dogs, the High Sparrow going up in smoke, and the more-or-less good-ish Lannisters outnumbering the bad ones. Game of Thrones is all about its villains, though, so this year I'm betting on the White Walkers to make their move, and for some new Ironborn characters to step up and establish themselves. We need someone new to hate. Failing that, though, I have Team OTP, and I'm hoping banding together to skunk everyone else's GOGOT teams will finally push Jamie and Brienne into each other's arms, where they obviously belong.

Tasha has the White Walkers, who I’m a little afraid are going to render this entire game unplayable. If there is a Game of Game of Thrones at all, she’ll have to hope Jaime and Brienne finally smooch (can I award bonus points for fan service?) and that these random Ironborn picks are actually good for something.

I really hope the white walkers don’t break the game completely

A Team Has No Name

Ross Miller, managing editor
Sarah Smithers, editorial coordinator
  1. Petyr Baelish
  2. The Hound
  3. Varys
  4. Meera Reed
  5. Wolkan
  6. Dragons

Ross’ game plan:

Sometimes the best thing to do is admit your weaknesses. I did not win Game of Game of Thrones last year, and I didn't exactly prepare in the off season. So I decided to do what managers do best and delegate my team to someone much smarter than me in every way. She's also going to finish this strategy blurb. Take it away, Sarah.

Sarah’s game plan:

I wouldn't say that I'm smarter than Ross, but I am infinitely crueler. And when you have last pick, you have to be ruthless (and sometimes steal The Hound away from your co-worker who is attempting to compile an all-animal team). This may not be my Dream Team, and yes, I am actively hoping that a few of them get killed off this season (and net me some sweet, sweet “memorable death” points). But hey, at least I've got dragons!

I appreciate the fact that Ross and Sarah have given us our first big plot twist of season 7. It’s a good reminder that in the Game of Game of Thrones, it’s all fair. There are no penalties for behaving terribly, no point deductions for proxy wars, traps, or lies, and no consolation prizes. You win or you die! Metaphorically speaking. (Along with gambling, The Verge Dot Com does not endorse death.)