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
Runes72 extra health makes a difference, and is very useful early game.
Just as you need armor and health, resistance is nice too. Lots of champions will just tear you up early game and this helps to mitigate that.
Since I stopped using Relic Shield, I wanted to make up the health somewhere. I used to have mana regen, but now have just more health because I no longer need the mana regen.
For Alistar, I run a 0/18/12 Mastery build. Let me discuss a few masteries, and explain why I have them or why I don't.
Why I have them:
5% CDR is quite nice, and it goes on top of the 40% CDR you eventually get anyway with this build. Even in the early game, it reduces Headbutt's cooldown by 0.7 seconds and Pulverize by almost a full second, which can make the difference when catching that escaping enemy or saving your ADC. Swiftness isn't going to matter as much, and is only even useful if they have CC (especially slows) and you don't ult. It's the same reason I get Ionian Boots of Lucidity over Boots of Swiftness. Swiftness isn't a horrible alternative, but it would mean also having to pick up Bond of Stone instead of Windspeaker's Blessing .
Why I don't get them:
I don't get health potions. As much as I need to heal the ADC, health potions just aren't necessary and I cringe when I see other Alistars get them. Faerie Charm is just more important. Assassin isn't even that great, but it's the only one that's useful.
It just doesn't do that much damage, especially when you don't build AD or AP. You are literally doing 10 damage per level, once every 20 seconds or so. Pretty uneventful.
I just think Windspeaker's Blessing is better. It's not much better; getting Bond of Stone isn't a terrible idea, by any means.
As always, prioritize your R. Q is most important to upgrade, but upgrade E as needed. W is less important so max it after maxing Q.
Alistar's passive makes him able to move through units and deal a small amount of AOE damage to everything around him, including turrets, for 3 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. Try not to trample around enemy minions if you're not pushing, as it might cause your ADC to miss CS. Trample is useful for Pulverizing, first, then stepping behind the enemy to Headbutt backwards into your team. It also helps you get around team fights easier to be in the position you want. When running from enemies, do so running through minions to block the ones chasing you that will probably have to go around the minions -- just make sure you proc your passive when doing so.
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 at level 1.
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. Because of this, try to Headbutt into a wall if you can -- but make sure you don't knock them OVER the wall (unless, of course, that's ideal). You should max Headbutt after Pulverize because it already has a lower cooldown than Pulverize. Get Headbutt at level 2 or 3, depending on if you need Triumphant Roar at 2 or not.
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 one of the reasons why I like Talisman of Ascension, because the mana cost for this skill is ridiculous. Try not to heal ally minions in lane unless you're wanting to push the lane. It can also be used to deny the enemy ADC from getting CS, but it's harder to do this and doesn't always work (in fact, could even backfire if they were going to miss otherwise but you stop them!). 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 upgrade Q instead, then W.
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 ideally 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.
This can help ensure kills, especially on people with high health regen or to semi-counter healing. Overall I dislike it because Exhaust is better in my opinion and it can KS enemies and that's not what you're going for as support, but sometimes it's good to have and many people run it as support, even as tanky supports.
You already have a heal and your ADC will probably have this summoner spell, 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 as much from this spell as from Exhaust.
This can also be used to chase or escape, but I simply prefer Flash. You can already move through units as is, so Ghost is even less useful for Alistar than for most.
But you have your ult...
But you're not jungling...
But you're a cow...
Since its buff, I've started with an Ancient Coin every game and have done great with it. You get more gold with the Ancient Coin over Relic Shield, and you don't even have to compete with the ADC for minions, or put yourself on the front lines when you're not ready, against the enemy champions trying to poke you. I used to start Relic Shield with mana regen runes instead of health, but this gives more mana regen and the same amount of health. It gives slightly less health regen, but it's made up for by the fact you can spam your heal to heal more -- especially after you get Nomad's Medallion.
Everybody starts Warding Totem. For support, I would keep this until you get Sightstone, then upgrade it to Sweeping Lens; or just waiting until you're level 9 and get Oracle Alteration. Getting Oracle Alteration at level 9 without having Sweeping Lens first will put it on cooldown. However, if you had Sweeping Lens already, they share a cooldown.
Items - Early Game
The best time to go back and buy is when your ADC does as long as nobody else is still in the lane or your lane is pushed all the way up. You unfortunately may have to go back before then (due to being extremely low on health or mana) or might even die. What you buy when you go back matters greatly on what is happening in lane.
This is good to get every time you go back, if you can afford it. It is most important to get when they have a stealth jungler (Evelyn, Shaco, etc.) or a stealth ADC (Twitch, Vayne). But it's also quite important to get if they are warding a brush your jungler is trying to gank through. Fights can break out over wards, so whoever can most safely ward the brush and kill the opponent's ward will be the one who has it warded. Sometimes people will fight over the ward, but this often leads to someone dying. Don't be that guy! Only contest a ward if it's safe to do so.
If you are dying or getting out-harassed by physical damage, these are good buys. Buy a Chain Vest if you can afford it, otherwise, buy a Cloth Armor. Both of these items build perfectly into your mid-game Talisman of Ascension or Randuin's Omen, so you don't fall behind in gold or anything by building either one of them. Warden's Mail is the next option if you keep dying to physical damage.
If you go back with 600 gold, it's not a bad idea to get Cloth Armor + Boots.
If you are dying or getting out-harassed by magical damage, this is a good buy. If you continue having this problem, you can get a Spectre's Cowl
If you are having mana issues, this is a good buy, especially if your mana issues are causing you problems in lane (can't secure a kill, can't protect your carry, etc.). It's also a good general item to get because it gives you more gold per minion kill than anything else and a handful of nice stats to boost. If you have nothing better to buy, just get this.
If you go back and have 675 gold, Boots + Nomad's Medallion is a good buy.
This item can eventually be upgraded into Sightstone, but it's not necessary to get on a first or second back unless you need to ward a lot. It can also be upgraded into Giant's Belt, which is then upgraded into Randuin's Omen, so never a bad buy. Ruby Crystal is a good buy if you are against somebody with true damage especially, including a double Ignite lane. Eventually, you could even upgrade it into Warmog's Armor. Irksome champions with true damage include: Darius, Cho'Gath, Olaf, and Vayne. (I always, always, ALWAYS ban Vayne if I can. She is the single best counter to Alistar and she counters everything about him.) I don't recommend building a Warmog's Armor on Alistar unless the enemy team has one of the four above mentioned champions, and then only build it if they are extremely fed. I'll explain more of my reasoning later in the "Situational Items" section.
If you have 300 extra gold, get this. If not, don't. Basically as simple as that.
If you have none of the above problems, or have plenty of gold after fixing them, consider buying this. 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 Nomad's Medallion and your second item Ionian Boots of Lucidity. You may even go so far as to buy a Talisman of Ascension already.
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. Here's a breakdown of what items to focus:
Get this as soon as you hit level 9, or after you get a Sightstone, whichever happens second.
Always, always get this if you have enough gold and an empty slot. Especially get this if the enemy team has a stealthy champion, like Akali or Shaco. Getting two of them against stealthy champions is not a bad idea.
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.
But the active on this thing is the main reason to get it. It can help you or your team initiate a fight or catch someone running away, or it can help you or your team escape from a bad engage or a lost team fight. Whatever the case may be, there are a million and one reasons to get Talisman of Ascension as early as possible.
I see a lot of people run Boots of Mobility on Alistar, but they give you LESS movement speed while in-combat so this is a bad thing in my opinion. Ionian Boots of Lucidity 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.
The third core item you should get is Sightstone or Ruby Sightstone. Ruby Sightstone for if you're a little bit more fed and can afford it, or mainly if you need that extra ward or the CDR on your active items (which is quite nice). But either way, you NEED wards, so this is how you do it!
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 building both at the same time. The other will probably be 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 95% of the time, you'll want a Randuin's Omen as soon as possible.
You'll want to build Spirit Visage before Randuin's Omen if the enemy team has fed AP's, but their AD's aren't so scary. It's the best resist item in the game, and gives health, massive health regen, and some CDR to boot.
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 will find yourself getting a full build more often than you think because of the insane amount of gold you get from the Ancient Coin line. Even so, you won't get your full build every game, 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.
Your most common fifth item will be Randuin's Omen or Spirit Visage, whichever you didn't get as your fourth.
This is the common fifth 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. Also note that you will surpass your CDR limit with the 6th item I have below. Once this happens, replace Ionian Boots of Lucidity with something else, preferably Mercury's Treads or Boots of Swiftness. Details about both of those are below in "Situational Items" as well.
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 as your fifth item. Otherwise, it's safe to save it for last, though Ruby Sightstone is ok to put off for dead last as well. Please note, however, that Locket of the Iron Solari's passive does not stack to people without it. If someone else on your team has one, do not build it, and consider Banshee's Veil or Abyssal Scepter instead.
Below is a list of items you will sometimes want to build, and 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 build has enough health as is. 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 if 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. Champions with true damage include: Darius, Olaf, Vayne, and Cho'Gath.
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 instead 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 Harbinger, 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. It's also not a bad item to get if somebody else on your team already has Locket of the Iron Solari, but you want more resistance.
This is a good item to build if, for some reason, your team does no damage and you feel you need to help pitch in. It's acctually not a bad item to build if you feel as though you need to be a "threat". Sometimes enemy teams will stop focusing you and ignore you altogether if you're not a threat, and that becomes a problem. Although it's expensive to build, it's not a bad idea. It also has a nice slow, for the added oomph your team might need for chasing.
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. It's also not a bad choice to get if somebody else on your team has Locket of the Iron Solari, and you need resistance.
One of these would be good to build if you end up getting 45% CDR without Ionian Boots of Lucidity, probably because you built Frozen Heart. Get Boots of Swiftness if you need tenacity against slows and nothing else, or get Mercury's Treads if you need resistance or tenacity against other forms of CC.
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!"
7/6/2016 - Fixed some typos.
7/5/2016 - Majorly updated the guide to be current as of patch 6.13. Sorry I neglected the guide for nearly 4 years!
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