1. Robert Baratheon
It can be difficult eradicating the image of the overweight, drunken, whore-loving King Robert of Game of Thrones first season from our minds.
Before the events of the show, the stag was once one of the most feared warriors in all of Westeros, inspiring terror in the hearts of his enemies with the sight of his crushing warhammer. It must be remembered that to create his comfortable existence where he could drink jug-after-jug of King’s Landing wine and scoff banquet-upon-banquet, he first had to seize power through conquest (though this conquest would prove far more satisfying to Robert then actually ruling).
It was during Robert’s Rebellion that he was able to cement his legend as one of the greatest warriors ever, vanquishing another candidate for that coveted title – Rhaegar Targaryen – at the Battle of the Trident.
A clash between Robert Baratheon and his former subject Gregor Clegane – before the days when Robert had ever even heard of a breastplate stretcher – would be a fascinating one. Ostensibly, The Mountain has an advantage – both warriors’ strength is their insane power, but you would expect the gigantic elder to Clegane to be stronger even than Robert.
However, Robert – in his younger years at least – would certainly have had a speed advantage over Gregor Clegane and his having fought the likes of Rhaegar Targaryen in one-on-one combat would give him an edge in experience. Moreover, Robert has been used to fighting (and defeating) quicker, more agile opponents so he would easily be able to connect his warhammer with Clegane’s oversized frame.
2. Daario Naharis
Once a sellsword and co-captain of the Second Sons, Daario becomes besotted with Daenerys, causing him to savagely kill his fellow leaders and pledge his own life and his mercenaries to the Mother of Dragons.
In a show filled with spectacular, choreographed battles such as in The Mountain and the Viper, Daario is an abrupt, efficient killer who – unlike Oberyn – don’t beat around the bush in combat. The full extent of his killing ability is seen at the gate of Meereen, where Daario strikes down the horse of the enemy champion before cleaving him in half almost instantly.
Daario Naharis professes to be skilled in the ways of women and war. His persistent approach to winning the affections of Daenerys have shown the former to be true and, based on the evidence, the latter seems to be equally accurate. With his choice of Dothraki weaponry, Daario would be significantly faster than The Mountain, and his documented ruthlessness means he wouldn’t give Clegane any recovery time after inflicting first blood.
3. Jaqen H’ghar
Even after appearing in large chunks of Arya’s (often infuriating) storyline, Jaqen H’ghar – or at least the person with his face – still remains one of Game of Thrones’ most mysterious characters. What we do know, though, is he’s a member of the Faceless Men of Braavos, an elite guild of assassins. And the one thing we know for certain about them is that they can kill.
The face-shifter gives Arya the ability to name three people of her choosing to be killed by him, to repay the Red God for the three lives she saved (reminiscent of The Lion Kings circle of life, right?).
H’ghar’s miraculous ability to remain unseen, change his appearance and kill seemingly anyone at any time means that he would be far too much for The Mountain to handle. Gregor Clegane is a master of cleaving apart foot soldiers on the battlefield and using his size to crush his enemies, but the nameless Faceless Man of Braavos represents an opponent which Clegane’s size cannot help him against.
4. Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane
Despite recent efforts at changing, Sandor Clegane is every bit the killer that his brother is. Though not as big or as brutal as his older brother, Sandor still has a special talent for the letting of blood, gutting his first opponent in combat when he was only twelve. Other than Oberyn, Sandor Clegane has more motivation than anyone for killing his hateful brother.
In the past, his loyalty to the crown has prevented him from exacting his revenge – now he has no affiliation with a house, The Hound is free to act as he pleases. He may not have the insane power or strength of The Mountain, but Sandor’s imposing size means he is more than capable of instantly inflicting a fatal wound.
Forever being the younger child who grew up being savaged by the psychotic Gregor has likely fortified Sandors resolve, meaning that he is the mentally stronger of the two siblings. His slightly smaller stature may not necessarily be such a disadvantage anyway. We saw in his fight with the Red Viper how effective speed is against The Mountain and – though he is nowhere near as fast as the Dornish prince – The Hound is certainly more rapid than Gregor. Meanwhile, his hate and desire to win would help overcome any weaknesses and give him the CleganeBowl victory. Get hype.
5. Oberyn Martell (Pre-Elia’s Murder)
Yes, I know, he already got crushed by the Mountain. And in fairness, the Red Viper’s flattened, bloody head does seem to be some fairly swaying evidence against his placement on this list.
However, prior to that final, stomach-churning twist that wiped the grin off Jaime’s face and sent Cersei’s heart a-flutter, Oberyn had been making The Mountain look like more of a gradual hill. Thanks to a sublime show of martial arts skill by Oberyn’s stunt performer Liang Yang, the Red Viper looks untouchable for the vast majority of his battle with Clegane, corkscrewing around the arena and chipping away at his adversary at every available interval.
Before long he had virtually conquered The Mountain and stood over his wounded foe waiting for his confession. This was Oberyn Martell’s one mistake in an otherwise flawless performance – rather than getting The Mountain to take ownership of the atrocities committed against his sister, he should’ve driven that awesome Dornish spear right through the brutes throat.
Had Elia never been killed, we can assume the fight would have been exactly the same, but Oberyn wouldn’t have wasted time asking for a confession. Though the Red Viper is quite evidently a natural showman, we can assume that he wouldn’t have taken such a crazy risk in letting Clegane draw another breath had he not been so emotionally invested.
6. Syrio Forel
Syrio Forel, formerly the First Sword of Braavos, is one of the finest swordsmen in Game of Thrones and would be an incredibly difficult opponent for any warrior in the Seven Kingdoms. Forel instructs Arya Stark in the skilled combat style known as water dancing which as opposed to the gigantic swords and sluggish armour of Westeros foregrounds the importance of speed, footwork and balance.
Though for most of the first season we see Forel sparing with the comparatively tame opponent of Arya, we see his true abilities in the seasons climax as he fends off Ser Meryn Trant and a group of Kingsguard cronies with just a wooden sword.
Syrio Forel is one of the worst possible style match-ups for the mountain. Forel may be half his size, but he could use his skill and speed to weave within the cumbersome swings of Clegane’s great sword and inflict some serious damage (provided that he is given a non-wooden sword).
Water dancing is designed to exploit the plodding nature of Westeros warriors so when matched against the particularly slow Mountain, Syrio Forel would be sure to show why he was first appointed as the First Sword of Braavos.
7. Jaime Lannister (With Both Hands)
Whatever your opinion is of his oath-breaking or his peculiar relationship with his twin sister, the swordsmanship of Tywin Lannister’s eldest son cannot be questioned. Prior to Locke cleaving-off his sword hand, Jaime was widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters in Westeros. Indeed, Jaime had the honour of being made the youngest member in the history of the prestigious knightly order of the Kingsguard at just fifteen-years-old, after showing considerable bravery and skill in battle.
Though until the death of Robert Baratheon, Jaime was little more than a valet in the palace for the drunken King, we have still seen flashes of Jaimes undeniable ability: his scrap with Ned stark, his unsettling murder of cousin Alton Lannister while captured, and his battle with Brienne of Tarth all demonstrate the Lions ability in combat.
When facing The Mountain, Jaime would be able to use his exceptional swordsmanship and footwork to avoid the instantly fatal attacks of Gregor and – like the Red Viper – chip away at the granite Mountain until he fell to his knees. Jaime is quoted above as saying he has never been hit – the likelihood of one of Clegane’s leisurely, arcing swings being the first to hit the knight is extremely unlikely.
8. Khal Drogo
The scenes depicting Drogo’s slow demise are incredibly sad for fans, not just because he is so beloved by Daenerys, but because we knew that we wouldn’t see Drogo do battle against the Jaime Lannisters and Gregor Cleganes of the world. The famed warlord of the Dothraki was an exceptional warrior, even by the standards of his war-loving people.
The Khal died undefeated in combat, documented by his super-long braid (which the Dothraki must cut every time they are beaten in combat). Drogo is considered extremely young to be ruling his own khalasar, testament to how dominant he is among the nomadic people. Much like Oberyn, Drogo forgoes the heavy armour customarily worn by Westeros soldiers, sacrificing security for speed.
Drogo seems to be every bit as fast as Oberyn but is also incredibly powerful. If Drogo managed to get inside the reach of The Mountains huge sword, he would be able to go to work with his arakh (curved Dothraki blade) and dual daggers.
However, Drogo also shares the same weakness as Oberyn. He is so contemptuous of the challenge of insubordinate Mago that he allows him to cause a minor wound. Though Drogo annihilates Mago in some style with his own blade, the wound he allowed the rebel to inflict would eventually fester and kill him. Khal Drogo would end up the same way as Oberyn if he showboated against an opponent as dangerous as Gregor Clegane. As long as he remained respectful of the threat posed by The Mountain, Kahl Drogo’s natural killing ability would come to the fore, allowing his braid to grow even longer.
9. Barristan Selmy
Barristan Selmy was not only the archetypal knight, but also the most skilled and revered in all of the Seven Kingdoms. Of the many mistakes made during the reign of Joffrey Batatheon, dismissing Ser Barristan Selmy from the Kingsguard was doubtless one of the greatest (ranked just below having that sip of wine).
Barristan Selmy’s experience not only lends itself to invaluable counsel, but he was still the best warrior Joffrey had at his disposal, despite his comparatively old age. In disrespecting Selmy, Joffrey personally handed Daenerys Targaryen one of her most valuable assets.
Were he to fight Gregor Clegane in his prime, Selmy’s skill and mastery of tactics, combined with the strength and speed of his youth, would mean that he would easily best the larger man.
As per the books, Barristan entered a tourney disguised as a knight and jousted with Targaryen royalty aged only ten. Since this point, Barristan Selmy established a reputation as being one of the greatest knights in the history of Westeros, both in the heat of battlefield and in tourneys. Even after having fought for the losing side, Robert Baratheon spared the life of Selmy in virtue of his legendary skill and honour as a knight. Hulking brutes like The Mountain come and go in Westeros, but a warrior of Barristan Selmy’s calibre comes once in a lifetime.
10. Arthur Dayne
Though he lived and died some years before the events of Game of Thrones, Arthur Dayne still retains his status as perhaps the greatest knight of all time.
A member of the Kingsguard for the Mad King, he wielded a magnificent great sword, Dawn, which was purportedly forged from a fallen star. Who needs valyrian steel, eh? We got a glimpse of Dayne’s ability in Season 6, where it was revealed it took a sword in the back to defeat him, and that only scratched the surface of his talent. Ned’s own words in the books speak volumes about his prodigious skill:
“The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed.”
In the books, Dayne is repeatedly described as being the greatest knight of his generation. Indeed, even the legendary knight Barristan Selmy believes that the Mad Kings guard was his superior in every way. With a knight of Selmy’s credentials giving this account of Arthur Dayne, it is safe to assume that the warrior whose deeds have not been forgotten in spite of his service to the Mad King could easily dispatch Gregor Clegane.