Alistar Build Guide by The Horned King
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Hello. I'm going to teach you how to get by with Alistar in a low ELO ranked play (or high ELO unranked play, equivalently) setting. Contrary to popular belief, you can achieve a statistically significant win percentage playing support in low ELO - with Alistar, anyway.
Yes, I live in what's called "ELO Hell." And I'm going to tell you how to play there without losing ground when you have to play support, which most of you will.
This is mainly as a bodyguard support unit. Every so often I take Alistar solo top, but mostly I just take Alistar in a traditional support role with Clairvoyance, Sight Wards, and nearly no creeps killed. Seriously - I have a total CS in the two digit range in most of my Alistar games.
Let the AD range last hit, they'll be happier if you do. If they don't last hit, ask them politely to last hit. If they don't, just stick by them and keep them alive as best as you can. Support works, even at 1000 ELO.
I have maintained at all times a 55-60% win percentage with Alistar in ranked, even at low ELO ratings; and I've played, as of this writing, well over 100 ranked matches with Alistar. I am slowly climbing up the ELO ladder.
Winning +1/6 of your matches (which is what this tends to be) with the typical +13/-12 win/loss spread gains about 2 points of ELO per Alistar game. It's not great, but it's positive. Most of you reading this guide probably would like to expect to gain 2+ ELO per game, and most of you are probably down in an ELO range where playing Alistar reasonably well will get you that 2+ ELO per game.
It's frustrating to support at low ELO, since you don't have as much influence over the game as you might like; but if you play the role solidly whenever you're in it, it will help your win percentage and help you creep up the ladder.
I start with the very standard Faerie Charm + Sight Wards + Health Potions. With Triumphant Roar on deck and you not running around autoattacking creeps (don't do it!), you don't actually need much else. You're support - your job is to hang back and make sure the AD range guy, who locked with Ashe or something else squishy without communicating with the team and is probably drunk, doesn't feed too badly while farming up to become scary.
Ideally, you won't be back at fountain until you can afford a Philosopher's Stone (or, if you score an early first blood, a Heart of Gold), but the idea is that you'll build Heart of Gold and Philosopher's Stone early - this provides most of your gold for buying other items. Accordingly, they should be your first item priority - if you can afford a GP/5, you get it.
Your other early item should be Boots of Speed. You should also be buying Sight Wards starting the first time you go back to fountain - I usually only pick up one my first trip, but don't get more than two until you've gotten all packed. At that point, start buying five. No, seriously. Be sparing with them before you get your GP/5s, but after you have GP/5s and boots, get a full stack each time you go back.
After you get your two GP/5 items, Mercury's Treads and Sapphire Crystal are your usual next priorities. The idea is to build Glacial Shield as soon as you can for the core CDR. The former let you move quicker and give you your necessary Tenacity, the latter gives you the mana you need to be able to keep firing off Pulverize and Headbutt while keeping your buddy up with Triumphant Roar. Again, make sure each trip to fountain counts. Until you have a full Glacial Shield and Mercury's Treads, you should be buying as much as possible of their components and wards every time you find yourself at the shop.
Frozen Heart is an obviously good tank item. It's really the core item of the build - Heart, boots, wards. Anything more is gravy, and means that the game is running long.
As support, you're mostly in charge of seeing things. Get Oracle's Elixir after your Heart unless your team is facing stealth heroes; after your GP/5s if stealth is ruining your team's day.
Other than that, you probably shouldn't be building anything else until you're done with your core items. OK, so what happens next? Zeke's Herald is a good buy - it's delivering more extra CDR than you can use, but combined with Frozen Heart, it really rocks the house for everybody else in controlling who gets attack damage off.
A good item on the list is Aegis of the Legion, which is inexpensive and provides a nice, if underappreciated, aura buff to the team. Guardian Angel is also just solidly good all around. If I have no specific threat that I need to react to, I'll build these two.
Force of Nature is a very good choice. It's one of my favorite Alistar items overall, probably because it's a tanky item that gives a movement bonus, but the price means I won't build it unless the game is running long.
If you're dealing with lots of physical damage, especially from squisher AD heroes, build Thornmail. It costs only 2000 gold, but makes you a lot meaner of a target in a teamfight.
I will sometimes build Sheen on Alistar if my team is fairly tanky already - e.g., Shen top, Rammus jungle, and Mordekaiser mid - and things are going well early in the game, to give me much more aggressive damage-dealing capability. Bear in mind that if your team doesn't need intensive support in order to stay alive, you should probably build and play more aggressively, and with your high rate of spell use, Sheen procs add a lot.
Trample: You deal damage to everything near you during a teamfight. With maximized CDR and sufficient mana, this will be constant during teamfights. This is another reason to stay in the enemy's face during team battles, although you'll also want to attack the enemy with autoattacks while you're waiting for your spells to cool down.
Pulverize: The important thing with Pulverize is to make sure you actually are close enough to the enemy heroes for it to work. Pulverize is an easy ability to use, and the cooldown is low enough that if you fire it off too early, it's not the end of the world. This is probably one of the easiest abilities to use in the entire game.
Headbutt: This is one of the hardest abilities to use correctly. There are three ways to use Headbutt:
- To knock an enemy, particularly one with low health, towards the tower or your team. This is easiest to pull off in a 1-2 combo with Pulverize.
- To knock an enemy, particularly one with high health, away from threatened heroes. If it's 5v4 in the middle while you're rushing towards the action, headbutt the highest health enemy away and then fire off Pulverize to stun the others to disrupt the teamfight while it's going badly.
- Finish off almost-dead enemy heroes. This ability does the most damage and is your only ranged attack - use it as a finishing move when it seems unlikely that your team will make the kill.
Triumphant Roar: If you're at full mana, cast Triumphant Roar immediately unless there's nobody around to see. Other than that, cast it during laning phase whenever you or your AD carry can accept the full HP benefit of the spell, during all phases of the game whenever you and a nearby ally are down far enough to gain full benefit, and spam the **** out of it in teamfights. Just try to keep enough mana on hand for your other spells.
Unbreakable Will: Use this the moment you get stunned/feared/silenced for maximum effect - and then try to attack as much as possible while it's up, since it gives you a serious damage boost. Also, use this to tank towers. Occasionally, you might even use it to tank baron or dragon, but be a little cautious about that. Be generous with using it - it has a fairly short CD for an ultimate ability, especially with a CDR-heavy item build, and has much more effect fired off a second too early than a second too late.
Masteries & Runes
I play a strong defensive mastery tree with Alistar - 0/22/8. You could add more or less utility as you choose, but I'd like to highlight three key points to this build.
Siege Commander. Someone on your team should have it.
Mercenary is a great source of gold, since you should be scoring a lot of assists fairly easily and you don't have much income from creeps or kills.
Finally, you can get several percent of movement bonus off your masteries. Alistar direly needs to be fast, make him fast.
My current runes are AP/MP hybrid marks (you deal similar amounts of magic and physical damage), GP/5 seals, CDR glyphs, and movement quints. I've tried subbing in GP/5 quints, but you just don't move fast enough that way.
I usually start off with one rank in Triumphant Roar (E for those of you using default keys, and Alistar's heal ability). This is because low ELO play is full of fairly unskilled players who think they're hot stuff with an AD carry, and they have a disturbing tendency to die before hitting second level if I don't babysit them carefully. You also deal a fair chunk of your magic damage through Trample anyway - so don't sweat the fact that level 1 Pulverize and Headbutt just don't fire off big clumps of damage. You want that, you should be playing a solo top AP Alistar build, which this isn't.
If the enemy laners are both melee types, I might start off with Pulverize instead, but unless things are going really badly, I spend the first three levels getting all three abilities. Then I maximize healing, because you don't really do that much damage with Pulverize and Headbutt - the control is important - but the odds are good that your AD carry is going to feed if you don't keep saving them, and you'll be hitting team battles where your healing output becomes important before you hit 10th level.
I have two words: Don't farm. If there's something else to do - and there usually is - you should be doing it.
You won't farm early, because you're letting your AD carry get all the CS (except when they're dead). You probably won't farm much late, because you'll be too busy bodyguarding everything on your team.
That said, if nobody's engaging and there's some creeps there for the taking, and you don't need to go drop more wards (which is more important than farming creeps), take them, but always be willing to abandon your farm to go rescue a teammate. Which there's a lot of demand for in low ELO play - teammates keep getting themselves in bad places at bad times.
Do encourage your teammates to take dragon and baron when appropriate. If necessary, go start smacking it and ping wildly until one of them comes. Just don't die doing that.
If you want to farm up an expensive Alistar, check out my Alice build for a fun, thematic, but unfortunately expensive build.