Alistar Build Guide by MeltedWater
Mastery Tree Is Outdated
WARNING: These masteries are still using the old tree and have not been updated to the new tree by the guide author. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
I have been playing Alistar for a while now as my main, and I feel like I'm pretty good as him. I understand the importance of a support, and don't trust anyone else with that role. In this guide, I will teach you the ways of playing Alistar as both a support AND a tank -- at the same time. While Alistar can also be used as a jungler or even solo top, this guide focuses solely on supporting bottom lane with an AD carry.
Pros / Cons
Great in team fights
Great for setting up kills
Lots of CC
You're a cow
Can't deal much damage on your own
Not much of a threat to people who can shrug off your CC
You can't milk those
Some people might focus on AP or Magic Pen, but I try not to worry about how much damage I deal. I feel as long as I do my job to stay alive, then the others on the team can do their job to kill.
It's pretty much a no-brainer for any tank to get Armor seals. Armor over Resistance because regardless of the enemy team, minions and especially turrets deal physical damage. Build resistance only if you have to.
Greater Glyph of Replenishment The way I play Alistar, I have mana trouble, especially early on. Building a Chalice of Harmony/Athene's Unholy Grail isn't even enough to fix the problem all the time, so this little bit of mana regen really does help all throughout the game.
This build overall has an INSANE amount of gold earned without the need to kill creeps or champions. At the end of a lot of my games, I'll have the second-most gold on the team after only the AD carry. I usually have the other two laners and the jungler beat unless they get insanley fed. This build may seem relatively expensive, but it's not hard to do with the crazy amount of gold I make.
For Alistar, I run a 0/23/7 Mastery build. Let me discuss a few masteries, and explain why I have them or why I don't.
Why I have them:
Gives more move speed than Swiftness most of the time, and is needed to get to Juggernaut .
I *always* run Flash. But if you don't, and also don't use CV or Clarity, then I suppose you could go for not getting it.
Why I don't get them:
Doesn't seem to do that much. Mercenary is much more useful.
Exhaust's enhancement isn't really worth it. That's not what you use Exhaust for, so don't bother thinking of it that way.
2 Gold per 10 seconds is only 480 gold in 40 minute match. Just as Swiftness is better than Initiator, Mercenary is better than Greed.
You're the support. Is it really helpful to steal blue buff from your allies that need it more than you? Build a Chalice of Harmony.
You don't need levels. Acctually, Alistar is quite capable of being useful in fights even if he's a few levels under everyone else.
So as you can see, in generally, I prefer the Defense tree. It's just overall better for a tanky support than the Utility tree.
As always, prioritize your R. Q is most important to upgrade, but upgrade E as needed. W is less important so max it last.
Alistar's passive makes him deal AOE damage to everything around him, including turrets, for a couple seconds after every time he uses a skill. When you're killing creeps by yourself or taking a turret, be sure to time your Q, W, and E skills so that you get the full effect of Trample. Be careful NOT to Trample an enemy if you're at a turret and just want the turret, because it will cause the turret to attack you if you do. Also, try your best not to heal around enemy minions in the laning phase so you don't hurt them and push the lane and potentialy make your carry lose a minion kill or two.
This is Alistar's most important skill, and half of the Q/W and W/Q combos that make Alistar what he is. Your Q, Pulverize, is an AOE knock-up which cannot have its duration reduced like other forms of CC. If you are close enough to an enemy, you can use this skill first, and then your W to Headbutt them backwards into your team. It can also be used second in the combo, by Headbutting someone first into a wall and then Pulverizing. Also, if you press Q as your Headbutt animation starts, you can knock them up the moment Headbutt lands. This is hard to do, and provides less total stun duration than headbutting into a wall. When possible, make sure to headbutt someone into a wall for maximum effect! Max Pulverize first, but upgrade Triumphant Roar when needed. Get Pulverize first if you need to leash for your jungler or if there's an invasion; otherwise, get it at level 2 or 3.
This skill causes Alistar to fly towards an enemy, and knock them backwards. If they are knocked into a wall, they are stunned and unable to move for the duration that Headbutt would have lasted. I talked much about it in the above paragraph, so here I'll talk about skill order. You should get Headbutt first if noone is invading your jungle and you don't need to leash, because it's easier to harass with than Pulverize is. You should max Headbutt last because it already has a lower cooldown than Pulverize. If you got Pulverize first, get Headbutt at 2 or 3, depending on if you need Triumphant Roar at 2 or not. Headbutt can also be used to knock champions and minions over walls, so when trying to knock them into the wall try to make sure they aren't going to go over it -- unless you wanted them to!
This is an AOE heal that heals all champions and minions around you with a short cooldown. The downside? The heal is really lousy. But it adds up! Triumphant Roar's cooldown is reduced each time a minion is killed, making it really easy to basically spam it. When everyone around you isn't at full health, use it to heal them. When pushing a lane, use it to heal your own minions. When you're attacking minions or a turret, use it to proc Trample. When an ally is about to kill an enemy champion and you can't get there in time to help, use it to get an assist! You should use Triumphant Roar as much as possible, and this is why I get Chalice of Harmony every game, because the mana cost for this skill is ridiculous (and just got higher). Get this skill at level 2 if you need it, otherwise, wait until 3. Upgrade it as needed. If you're being harassed more you'll need a higher level, or if you and/or your ally has low health. If you don't need to upgrade it, just get Q instead.
Alistar's ultimate allows him to get hurt a lot less from all damage outputs (besides true damage), cleanses CC, and even deal a little more damage from auto-attacks (although you'll rarely use it for that). You can use it to turret dive, tank turrets/dragon/baron, cleanse yourself when running away (or chasing), and in the middle of team fights if you're getting focused. Try using it when you foresee yourself taking a lot of damage, and idealy it will save your life. Occasionally it can be used if you don't think you'll kill a person without using it for one reason or another, but this is rare. Use your better judgement. Upgrade your ultimate at levels 6, 11, and 16.
A must-have on most champions, in my opinion...but especially on Alistar. With Flash, you can instantly catch up to enemies to Pulverize them or Flash past them to Headbutt backwards into your team. A great skill for running, an even better skill for chasing. Can also be used to Flash in to Headbutt an enemy to finish them off, or Flash away when turret-diving. Flash has just so many uses, you simply can't pass it up.
Exhaust is what I normally run as my 2nd spell. Exhaust makes them slow down to help ensure kills. It adds to your large bucket of CC, and the more the merrier, right? It's even useful for escaping or helping a teammate escape. Great spell all around.
If noone else on your team gets it, it's a good idea, as you can help protect a turret by using it. It's also good for ganking or if you roam your lane to gank, you can get back with it. Teleport is best used on an AD carry, but some will refuse to get it.
You ARE the support...and that's what this is for. But with good enough wards, it's not neessarily needed. It's also hard to know when to use it so I just say you're better off picking something else.
This can help ensure kills, especially on people with high health regen or healing powers. Overall I dislike it because it can KS enemies and that's not what you're going for as support, but I can't very well put Ignite in the "bad" category.
You already have a heal, so this is pretty unnecessary. It can help save you or others in clutch situations when your other heal isn't enough, but I just don't think Alistar benefits much from this spell.
This can also be used to chase or escape, but I simply prefer Flash. And with all the move speed this build gives you, Ghost just isn't as necessary and therefore less useful in my opinion.
If you absolutely must go without a Chalice of Harmony, I guess this could work. Don't get it for your carry though...Mana Manipulator is better.
Why oh why? You shouldn't die. (Hey, that rhymed.)
I'm pretty sure if someone sees you with that, they KNOW you're trolling.
But you have your ult...
Pushing is generally bad early game, and you don't want to steal minions from your lanemate. Overall not a very good spell anyway so don't get it.
I always start with a Faerie Charm, 2x Sight Ward, a Health Potion, and 3x Mana Potion. In recent patches, the price of Mana Potion was reduced, making these starting items possible. Alistar was also recently nerfed, causing his Triumphant Roar to use more mana. A Health Potion can be used before you get Triumphant Roar or if you get extremely harassed before it's leveled enough, but generally the Mana Potions are more important. Faerie Charm also helps to keep that mana up, and upgrades later into a Philosopher's Stone which I feel is a staple item for the early game. Use your wards wisely, placing them only when they need to be placed so you don't waste your gold on needless wards. Buy more as you need them, ideally keeping 2 to 4 on you at all times.
Items - Early Game
The best time to go back and buy items is when there's more people in your lane than them, either because you killed one without having a death, you killed both and had less than 2 deaths, or they went back for whatever reason. You unfortunately may have to go back before then or might even die. What you buy when you go back matters greatly on what is happening in lane.
First and foremost, you should always try to have 2x - 4x Sight Ward and 2x - 4x Mana Potion (if you don't have a Chalice of Harmony) every time you return to lane. Aside from that, consider the following conditions:
They are killing your wards: If it is causing you problems, go ahead and buy an Oracle's Elixir if you an afford it and don't think you'll die. Otherwise, just get a Vision Ward or 2 and hope it shuts down their counter-warding. There can be extreme fights over whose ward stays, so make sure you know what you're getting into when you start that war and know when it's not worth it.
One of the laners and/or the jungler can be stealthed: If this is causing you problems, do basically the same as above. Get an Oracle's Elixir if you think you won't die and can afford it. Otherwise, buy a Vision Ward or 2 and plan on placing it in clutch circumstances or where you think they might pass through. If their stealthiness isn't a problem to you, don't waste your gold to prevent it!
You are dying or getting out-harassed by physical damage: Buy a Chain Vest if you can afford it, otherwise, buy a Cloth Armor. Both of these items build perfectly into your mid-game Randuin's Omen, so you don't fall behind in gold or anything by building either one of them. After buying a Chain Vest you still have this problem, you can go ahead and get a Warden's Mail if you can afford it.
You are dying or getting out-harassed by magical damage: Buy a Negatron Cloak if you can afford it, otherwise, buy a Null-Magic Mantle. You may consider building a Null-Magic Mantle anyway if you are having mana issues and plan to get the Chalice of Harmony soon. Getting the Negatron Cloak can't hurt you though, because if you're being harassed that much early game you'll definitely want a Force of Nature sooner or later. If you continue having this probelm after getting a Negatron Cloak, go ahead and get a Null-Magic Mantle first and then eventually a Chalice of Harmony, as they are much cheaper than a Force of Nature, and you WILL have mana issues eventually.
You are having mana issues: Buy a Chalice of Harmony ASAP, especially if your mana issues are causing you problems in lane (can't secure a kill, can't protect your carry, etc.). Mana Potions can only sustain you for so long, and you lose gold evey time you buy one. Chalice of Harmony really is the number 1 sustain item for Alistar, especialy now after the nerf. You can literally stay away from base as long as you want to. Don't undersestimate it; it's a great buy for only 890 gold.
You are fed, but there's also a champion on the enemy team that's fed and has true damage: Let's say you have 5 assists, but Darius is having his way with your top lane and has 5 kills already. If you have none of the other above problems, consider getting a Giant's Belt now as you will eventually have to deal with the true damage nuissance. Eventually, this will be built into a Frozen Mallet or even a Warmog's Armor if they get hyper-fed. Irksome champions with true damage include: Darius, Cho'Gath, Olaf, and Vayne. NEVER build a Warmog's Armor on Alistar unless the enemy team has one of the four above mentioned champions. Only then build it if they are extremely fed. Warmog's Armor is a bad item on tanks, and I do not recomend it. I will explain why later in the "Situational Items" section.
You have none of the above problems, or have plenty of gold after fixing them: This will happen a lot. I put it on the bottom of the list because I want you to make sure to buy the above items first because they ARE more important if they're necessary. If you don't have any problems, your first item should be a Philosopher's Stone and your second item Boots of Speed. You may even go so far as to buy a Heart of Gold or Boots of Swiftness already. I normally don't even get a Heart of Gold, as I find its HP to be less useful. I often upgrade straight from a Warden's Mail to a Randuin's Omen.
Items - Mid Game
Mid Game is typically when the first turrets start going down, and people begin roaming about the map. During that time, there are three core items you want to focus on having before making the transition into late-game, and a fourth item depending on the situation. On top of those, there are three expendable items to think about. Here's a breakdown on what items to focus:
These are the most important items! Wards save lives. Wards win team fights. Wards win games. Make sure to have three to five wards every time you leave base. Go back just to buy more wards if you have to. If you don't know where to ward, there are other guides out there on that.
If they are warding extensively and it's becoming a problem, you might want to get an Orale's Elixir. Don't get one if you're afraid you'll die because that's just a waste of 400 gold. It's also a good idea to get if they have any stealthed units that are a problem.
If you can't afford to get an Oracle's Elixir or think you might die, get a Vision Ward or 2. If you don't have room for both kinds of wards, replace sight with vision and use only them. Make sure to know when and where to place them, it's even more important than a Sight Ward!
You want to get this as soon as possible so it starts making gold for you early on. The health regen and mana regen from this will be useful throughout the Mid Game as well, so build this item as early as possible to benefit.
I see a lot of people run Boots of Mobility on Alistar, but I don't know why. Maybe it's because they go back to base a lot. I don't. I don't think a support should. It's your job to stay there and support the team, and if you are constanly going back for whatever reason (mana issues, eh?) then you can't do that. Boots of Swiftness won't make you go as fast as Boots of Mobility outside of battle, but as the tank, it's useful for you to move past people to Headbutt them backwards or Pulverize them. Boots of Mobility are completely useless in battle...which is where the tank shines. Also, Boots of Swiftness along with Initiator gives you enough movement speed to catch up to someone to Headbutt THEN Pulverize, rather than Pulverizing WHILE Headbutting. The difference? They are stunned LONGER as they suffer the FULL duration from Headbutt before being Pulverized. Try it yourself -- you'll see.
The third of the core items, the Chalice of Harmony is most important. There's no reason not to spam your heal in battle, outside of battle, whenever. It pushes lanes, it keeps you alive, it keeps teammates alive, it grants you accidently assists, it procs your passive. What more do you want? The only excuse for not spamming it is being low on mana. Well, I have he cure, my friend. For 890 gold, does it really hurt you to buy it? It may also keep your resistance higher to not need a Force of Nature as early -- or at all.
The Fourth Item:
You may have started building one of these items before the three above, and even if you didn't, you'll probably know which of these items you'll want to build first. There's nothing wrong with getting all three of these items, and there's nothing wrong with building two at the same time. Best-case scenario, though, you can finish building one before you need to build your fifth item.
You'll want to get this item most of the time. Even if they don't have heavy AD, turrets still do physical damage and you'll want to tank that. You'll also want to add more CC to your kit with the slow that Randuin's provides. It's only slightly situational because some enemy teams might REQUIRE that you build resistance or health to such a degree that you don't have time to build armor. But 90% of the time, or more, you'll want a Randuin's Omen as soon as possible.
Alistar is so naturally tanky, that with a Chalice of Harmony he won't need any more resist a good chunk of the time. The speed at which you get Force of Nature (if at all) depends on how jointly fed all the AP-dealers of the enemy team are. If they have a super-fed AP carry, or if they have two or three semi-fed AP carries, that's when you know you'll need to build Force of Nature as your fourth item.
This item has three uses: slight attack power, decent health, and an amazing slow proc. You'll really only need the latter two. Get the Frozen Mallet if you're having trouble chasing the enemy and you're right up on them often to slow (if you could) OR if they have a decent amount of true damage (this can include Ignite, Zyra's passive, etc., and not just the "true damage champions" I mentioned earlier).
The neat thing about all three of these fourth items is that each one of them helps you chase enemies and run away. Randuin's Omen has an active slow, Frozen Mallet has a passive slow, and Force of Nature has a passive speed boost. No matter what you build to combat the enemy team's damage, it still won't put you behind in catching!
You shouldn't build Warmog's Armor often enough that it deserves a spot in this section. Please see "Situational Items" for more details.
Items - Late Game
You won't get your full build in most games, either because one team surrenders or beats the other team quickly enough that you won't have time to get all your items. That's fine. The four items you got above is enough. But in the cases where it does go on, here's a guideline for what to get next.
This late in the game, Philosopher's Stone has earned its fair share of gold...and usefulness. Its stats are basically nothing now, so it's time to get rid of it. If your team is having trouble catching up to the enemy, upgrade it into a Shurelya's Reverie.
Otherwise, sell it.
Your most common fifth item will be Randuin's Omen, Force of Nature, or Frozen Mallet, whichever is most useful of the two you didn't get as your fourth. Don't hesitate to sell Philosopher's Stone to get the extra boost in gold needed for any of the above items. If you feel you need all three of these items, go ahead and build all three. These three items (along with Chalice of Harmony and Boots of Swiftness are a pretty solid build. Don't be surprised if it's the five items you get most games that last long enough to "complete your build". (Don't forget, that sixth slot should *almost* always be for wards!) Note: Frozen Mallet should almost always be the next item you build after Warmog's Armor if true damage continues to be a problem for you. Don't build a second Warmog's!
This is the item you build after Randuin's if you just need much more physical tankiness. The CDR of Frozen Heart is nice, but the slow from Randuin's is too good to pass up, so I never recomend building Frozen Heart first. NOTE: Frozen Heart doesn't stack. If someone else on your team has one, consider building Thornmail instead. Details follow in the "Situational Items" section, under "Thornmail".
Let's say you're doing fine tanking. You don't need any of the above mentioned items. But maybe some of your teammates are a bit squsihy. Help them out by getting this. Please note, however, that Aegis of the Legion does not stack to people without it. If someone else on your team has one, do not build it!
After you have five complete items, Chalice of Harmony included, it's time to finally upgrade it. Sometimes you may want to get it sooner, if your team needs the extra damage or the CDR. It also gives a bit more mana regen and resist. With a full build otherwise, it doesn't hurt to upgrade...so let's do it.
The "sixth item" you have should almost always be wards. Occasionally you'll find in extremely long drawn-out games that wards become useless, but this is generally near the very end anyway.
Below is a list of items you will rarely want to build, but should always keep in mind. Each game is unique, and you must always be prepared for anything. Knowing what to build in the right situation could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Here it is, the dreaded Warmog's. This is generally NOT a good item for a tank. Tanks need to be able to stay in a fight and withstand a lot of damage. This is possible by building more armor and resist, not by building health. Health regen and heals also help you stay alive, but they don't do a whole lot of you don't have armor and resist. Everything they heal you will be gone as fast as you got it. Now especially considering how your ultimate makes you get hurt even less from damage, you can see why if for any champion, Warmog's is especially bad for Alistar. Ok, but this section isn't about what not to build...it's about what TO build. So when do you build Warmog's? Build Warmog's ONLY when one of their true damage champions has so much damage, that it tears right through your health. Health counters true damage. If you die, and look at the death recap and it says "True damage 40%"...you have a problem, and an excuse to buy a Warmog's. If true damage is a problem, but not THAT big of a problem, simply build Frozen Mallet instead.
The main time to build a Thornmail really is when someone else on your team has a Frozen Heart, but you need more than just a Randuin's Omen. Basically...when you're not the tankiest tank. If you seem to be focused (and probably die alot), and someone else on your team is tanky, and building Frozen Heart and what have you, and they are tankier than you...go ahead and build a Thornmail. It will give your team damage, and probably stop you from dying. Generally speaking, Thornmail is a bad idea on a tank because it discourages them from focusing you. If you deal damage BECAUSE they focus you, they probably won't focus you. Just get Randuin's and/or Frozen Heart insted in most cases.
If one of your AD carries is face-rolling them so hard that your tankiness doesn't even matter, go ahead and get Zeke's Herald. Typically, this will be when the AD carry is tanking all the damage AND killing everyone. A hyper-carry, if you will. Usually in these circumstances they will just surrender immediately but if the game progresses, this is probably your best build choice.
Similar to Zeke's Herald, this is a good item to build when you have a hyper-fed AP carry. If your tankiness doesn't matter much (or you're plenty tanky) and you want your AP carry to deal that extra punch (and maybe you can as well) then this is the best item for you.
If your hyper-fed AP carry is ALSO tanking all the damage, this may be what you build after the Abyssal Scepter.
Usually, people will have more armor than resistance making Rabadon's Deaathcap overall better for being a threat. If this is ever not the case though, Trinity Force is a good item to build. It makes your physical attacks a lot stronger after using a skill, and gets the job done just as well as a Rabadon's Deathcap. The momvemnt speed on this is also so great, that you could probably sell your Boots of Swiftness in exchange for something else if you were to get one of these.
If you still get focused in team fights and tend to die a lot regardless of how tanky you are, you might consider getting this. It would bring you back in the fight and possibly allow you to win afterwards. I very rarely have built one, as I feel like this is an item for people who plan on dying first (and I don't!).
If someone tends to start team fights by making you useless (Silence, Stun, etc., and then engage the rest of your team) you might consider getting this. Generally I think it's a bad item for any tank but if you think you could make it work, go for it.
Rylai's isn't as good as it sounds on Alistar, and not as good as Frozen Mallet, because it's useless on your Pulverize and Headbutt, and you really only get the effet of Rylai's from Trample. It's really only useful if you need BOTH AP AND Health...otherwise, get a Frozen Mallet. Frozen Mallets slow when you basic attack; Rylai's slows when you heal. Now which do you think you'll do more of when chasing? Note that this item IS a good item to build if you have to be the AP carry.
If you are laning with someone who has mana issues, but neither of you have Clarity, this is a good item to either start with or get on your first back (only 295 upgraded from Faerie Charm). Kog'Maw, Sivir, and Ezrael are some examples of AD carries that generally have mana issues. Don't upgrade it into a Soul Shroud, as the item is relatively expensive and not that useful. CDR doesn't help others around you much, and there's other ways to get CDR for yourself. Mana Regen aura is also less useful late-game. If you get a Mana Manipulator, simply sell it mid-game when you no longer need it.
Please don't downvote me becaue I'm new to Mobafire. This is my first guide, and I want people to judge the guide -- not me. Please give me constructive criticsm. I want more than just "your guide sucks". I can and will change anything, and I'll give credit where it's due if applicable.
And please, always remember: "Mess with the bull, and you get the horns!"
8/15/2012 - Fixed some typos, added some icons, added this Update Log, Removed Spirit Visage from "Situational Items", changed the wording of a few things
8/14/2012 - Added Summoner spells
8/10/2012 - Published guide
The Great Barrier, an Alistar Support Guide
Feeding Your Team With Milk
Alistar - Rampaging Through the Twisted Treeline
Milchkuh?-Träum weiter!! [S3 ready (German)]