Build Guide by frizzy350
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.
Hey all, this is my personal guide to Alistar. Considering I am still looking to improve in this game, and as Alistar, constructive criticism is highly appreciated. Here I will give you a quick overview as to how I play Alistar. Keep in mind that the skill/item order/runes are all for Alistar himself as there are many alternative builds that are equally effective but team specific, I will go into detail about alternatives according to specific teams within the team work chapters.
This guide is NOT an AP/AD Alistar build. Many folks like to use the reasoning that because Alistar is such a good natural tank, he does not need any tankish items. First off while Alistar has very good natural Armor and Health, Alistar's Magic Resist is the same as all character (A less than stellar 30), and will need to be improved via items to effectively soak up burst damage from AP characters. Second, Alistar's damage moves do have a good AP-Damage ratio, but even with maxed Cooldown Reduction (CDR), you can generally only muster out 1 Pulverize and 1 Headbutt about every 8 seconds. Sure Unbreakable Will will last long enough to get two of those in, but Alistar's ****py walk speed allows enemies to simply run. I will go into extensive detail as to why this is not a good strategy for reasons other than walk speed in the skill section. Pumping AD or ASPD with Alistar is just a plain bad idea. Smart opponents WILL check what items you are building, and if they simply see you have 0 defense beyond your natural, they will have no qualms about focus firing you and destroying you, shortly followed by your tankless team. Even with pumped up AD and ASPD, Alistar does not dish out a moderate amount of DPS. The fact of the matter is, if you want a tankish character who is built for getting kills or mass farming capabilities, Alistar is not your character.
Pulverize: Generally you want to max this skill first. It is great for procing your sheen, great crowd control, good AOE damage, great for stalling opponents and a 2 second AOE stun (even at lvl 1 its a 2 second stun). It's only fallbacks are a pretty heavy mana cost, and a 15 second cooldown (both are addressed later). Early in the game, you are gonna want to save this as sort of a "surprise" in skirmishes rather than an initiation. Having a solid damage 2 second stun on the ready is extremely valuable in getting those early kills, burning it early is not a good idea. Later in the game when mana is more abundant and you have solid CDR, it makes for a phenominal initiator. Although it is common knowledge to most, using pulverize to knock up and stun opponents, then running behind them to headbutt them into your tower or dps lane partner is an effective strategy to feed your partner.
Headbutt: This is Alistar's best skill, bar none. Unlike most champions, you want to level this skill last (after pulverize at LEAST), because it is his best skill. The problem with leveling this skill heavily early on is it increases the mana cost of this skill. While the damage on it is really good, it is the skill you want at the ready at all times. Also, building AP/maxing this skill early makes it so tempting to use for damage, which is generally a bad idea. This skill should be used situationally (although it HAS a use for nearly every situation), you do not want to randomly use it just to get a solid chunk of damage out of it.
-Knock opponents into tower/laning partner.
-Knocking an overextended tank deep into your carries, allowing them to focus fire while you stall their backline.
-Knocking champions who activated devastating Ultis out of the battlefield (Nunu, Katarina, Fiddlesticks, etc)
-Last hitting champions (be absolutely SURE it last hits them, otherwise chances are you are knocking them safely behind their towers if it doesnt kill).
-Knocking away opponents chasing your carries during a team retreat.
-Knocking carries/mages/support characters directly into the fray before they are ready.
-Knocking opponents into solid walls, effectively pinning them for a bit while you smack them with a proced sheen, followed by pulverize.
-Knocking opponents through/over walls, effectively keeping them out of the fray.
-Knocking defenders AWAY from their own towers, while you/your team beats it down.
-Knocking pushers away from your towers, giving you that extra second or two to keep it standing.
And many, many more. TIP: Grab a buddy and make a custom game with just the two of you and spend some time experimenting with headbutt in different areas of the map. Learn what walls you can knock people into or over, what ledges you can knocking champions over, good brushes to knock opponents through to stall or runaway, and any other way to severely frustrate your opponent.
Triumphant Roar: Alistar's AOE heal. You don't want to level this too hard unless you need to, the mana it consumes at later levels is not worth the extra amount it heals. It is a pretty ****py heal overall, but is fairly spammable, making it really good to use with sheen. Think of it more as extra health regen for mana, rather than as a hard heal. This skill is very useful for pushing lanes by yourself while everyone else is confused or occupied by other factors of the game. A couple of these heals in the middle of minions can allow 2-3 waves of friendly minions to stack onto each other. This will force the enemy to send someone to deal with these minion waves as 2-3 waves will tear through a fresh wave and knock over towers fairly easily. This skill is definately helpful in the early game to sustain lane prescence with your partner.
Unbreakable Will: Your ultimate, obviously level this whenever possible. You basically become near indestructible for 6-8 seconds. The key to this skill in teamfights is not to use it too early, or too late. Using it at half-life is ideal. Remember that it also removes all CC's from you, making it an effective way to escape ganks (worth it if you have been solo pushing an unattended tower). This skill is really nice because it has a forgiving cooldown after some CDR at lvls 2 and 3, allowing you to be slightly reckless with it. It is not as massive of a tide turner in fights as other tank ults (amumu, nunu, shen, malphite, rammus) so you don't need to be constantly afraid to use it for fear of wasting it. Just try to use your best judgement with it. This is a great skill to tower push early on due to the increased damage + Alistar's extra tower damage passive. Use proc your sheen and headbutt defenders away and towers will melt away in your presence, just beware of the gank.
I would definately recomend flash. Flashing behind opponents is the most effective way to headbutt them into your team early on for easy early kills. Saving pulverize for their retreat is ideal because the stun will allow you and your teammate to get a few extra hits on them. Flash is also obviously a good escape mechanism, and just overall good for establishing positional superiority, which Alistar relies on heavily.
Ghost is also great because of Alistar's terrible walk speed. Ali, although he is a tank, he is very susceptible CC based ganks. Slows and stuns make Ali very easy to kill if caught off guard (even if you have your ulti). It also allows you to chase, get in good positioning, and allows you to run to other lanes much faster than anybody expects; even with good MIA calls you can ghost into another lane very fast simply because nobody expects Ali to move at any decent speed.
Other notable skills:
Teleport: Ali's mana regen is pretty garbage and mid game you will find yourself recalling a bit more than is ideal to pick up items and get your mana/health back. Because of Ali's terrible walk speed and poor farming ability (also poor lane presence against ranged heroes with no ranged partner) this allows you to get back to mustering up whatever gold you can and not missing out on EXP. Ali is usually a few levels below most champions at the mid-late stages of the game. This skill does not allow any surprises for the enemy really, they can see you teleporting in, and won't let you chase or escape, but it is still a decent skill.
Clairvoyance: Don't underestimate this skill. It has a nice cooldown, and can really help with map awareness. It also eliminates the need for wards (and guess who is primarily responsible for buying those, the big cow who already has financial trouble) and let's ali safely check bushes since he lacks a skill shot. This skill isn't really great for Ali, but sometimes a team should just have this skill available, and Ali usually will fit the bill for the guy to carry it rather than anyone else.
Not so notable skills:
Ignite: Great skill, but you may end up stealing kills from your carries, and it just fits better on those characters anyway.
Exhaust: Ali has other and more effective methods to keep the enemy hanging around or away. The attack speed decrease does little for him, the move speed is nice but ghost is nearly as good, and lasts much longer, making it more effective to escaping/chasing. Plus exhaust only effects one enemy champion, while ghost makes u capable of chasing/escaping from all.
Clarity: Not terrible on him because his mana is a pretty rough situation, if you really like it, use it, just not my recomendation.
Personally I can't recommend anything else. Ali already has a heal, fortitude just is not that useful, rally is meh.
I use CDR quints and glyphs because combined with the masteries, you get a 20% CDR right out the gates, allowing you to spend more on tanky items. I don't use CDR/level because Ali is usually a bit underleveled in matches, and the CDR/level don't become worth it until around lvl 13-14. Get the CDR right out of the gates to be an effective early game ganker and get your team a big early lead. It also allows you to deny a lot of gold to your laning opponents by headbutting them when they move in for last hits and constantly healing so you can stay in their face.
Marks generally favor offense, so they aren't exactly great for Ali. I tend to go for the flat MR, being as how Ali's has really poor MR, and this will let you be more aggressive in your lane against ranged casters. AP and HP runes are also good choices here.
For seals I like 6 Clarity runes to really help with his Mana Regen mid and late game (a little bit early on, too) because Ali is REALLY hurting in the Mana Regen department. When his skills get pumped up they eat up an absurd amount of mana. I also dropped in 3 more magic resist runes, but you can always run all Mana Regen if you want. Once again, HP and AP are not bad choices either.
I go 9/0/21. I feel the 9% CDR you can muster out of the Util and Offense trees is just awesome. Once again, combining this with CDR runes makes it so you aren't FORCED to stack CDR items. Utility also gives Alistar much needed mana regen (a little health regen also), extra move speed and gold (also needed) and greatly helps with the cooldown of your summoner spells (flash + headbutt is like a second ultimate IMHO). The 9 offense is mostly for the CDR, a teensie bit of AP and the magic penetration just for kicks.
Defense isn't a necessity, your items will build plenty of it, the CDR + regen is just so much more valuable in my opinion.
First off I generally start off with cloth armor. It helps with physical champions, minions, and tower damage, builds into the Heart of Gold, and is cheap enough to afford some consumables. I also like to take 2 health pots and a mana pot, yes, I could buy more, and I could also forfeit a pot and take a ward instead. Wards this early I don't feel are necessary, and I end up going back fairly early anyway. There are many really good starting items for Alistar, this just tends to be my preference. Rushing sheen or boots is not a bad strat either, nor is a mana manip if teamed with a mage.
@lvl 5/6 You should have farmed enough gold to port back for your heart of gold and boots of speed (1025 gold assuming you bough cloth armor). Alistar has a fast attack animation and you should be trying as hard as possible to get this 1025 gold, be a butthead for a bit and dont be afraid to "steal" last hits. These items are pretty easy to get if you can muster out a kill really early via surprise pulv/headbutt. The heart of gold is what you really want, the boots are just nice to pick up as well to get you back into the lane ASAP. Once you have your heart of gold, focus on denying opponents last hits and feeding your lanemate.
Heart of Gold: Great item for alistar, the HP bonus is just great pre-mid game, the armor is solid, letting you hold off on stacking it for quite a bit and the gold generation is more significant than you realize.
Boots of Mobility: The game recommends the CDR boots, as do many players. I feel here is a good place to address the CDR issue with alistar... it does NOT NEED to be maxed. It just needs to be solid (in this build u start from 20, and will end up with 35). Many players go overboard with Alistar's CDR, and they either get stuff to over cap it, or they rush CDR items and completely lack any functional ability (ganking, lane sustainability, tanking, any sort of damage output, etc). Swiftness are a very good choice here as well, but I prefer mobility because it really lets you get around and be an absolute menace to the enemy team. Life is easy for an enemy team that knows where the tank is, and is going, at all times. These boots let you quickly defend and unattended tower, quickly run in to push a tower, change lanes much faster than the opponents expect, cut off running opponents. These boots are just too useful to ignore. Many people like merc treads for the MR and CC reduction. Alistar HAS issues with CC, but not from a SINGLE CC, he has problems when 2-3 champs CC him over and over again, in which case, the treads will NOT save you. The unpredictability and chasing power of the BOMS are just too strong to ignore. Swiftness are very nice too, and definitely take tabi or merc treads if the team is horrendously imbalanced and you desperately need either armor or MR.
Sheen: I know I know, I said if you want damage you shouldn't play Alistar, but sheen really is a great item on him. I don't feel you should get it first, but right around here (mid game, when it's an all out gank fest) is a great time to nab it. It's relatively cheap (1260) and it's ability to double your damage on your next attack is just too good to ignore. This item is the single best reason not to build a damage alistar. It increases your ability power, gives you a fat stack of mana, and it combos so freakin well with all 3 of alistars abilities. If you didn't know, you can actually get an auto-attack off right after headbutt while the enemy is still flying through the air. It's ability's usefulness is obvious with pulv and roar. This item gives you just enough damage to make you threatening to squishies, and increases your laning/jungling ability significantly. Great item, get it.
Spririt Visage: At this point in the game, Ali's lack of magic resist will be catching up to him. You should still be in the heart of mid-game right now, and for 1550, this is a really solid item to address some key needs. This is gonna give you another burst of health which you haven't felt since you got the HoG, practically doubles your MR, gives you a solid 10% CDR (putting you at 30%) and increases your health regen and healing ability for yourself. This item will significantly help you in staying in the action as long as possible. Also, with sheen and heart of gold, you should be able to quickly scrounge up the cash for this.
Aegis: Boosts health, armor and magic resist, plus increases armor, magic resist and damage for you and your teammates. This is the item that puts you into true tank status. An entire enemy team will have difficulties focusing you down with this item for a forgiving cost of 1925. The aura this gives off is not to be underestimated, and this is the perfect time to buy it, full scale team fights should be developing right around now. Since you are now supplementing you team with an aura that helps their survivability, the enemy team will have a really good reason to attempt to focus fire you to death.
Randuins: You don't need to get this item here, be sure to check what the enemy is doing. If it is an AP heavy team, going banshee's veil or force of nature here is a much better option. The opponent has physical carries (trynd, ashe, yi) this item is indispensable. The armor and health bonus is absolutely massive, the 5% CDR puts you just below the max, the passive is great (if they are dumb enough to hit you with physical attacks) and the active ability on it is extremely good.
After randuins the game should be decided. If for whatever reason it isn't, get what best suits your needs. I picked banshee's veil because it is just an all around great item, boosting your MR which you need and having a sick passive (health n mana is nice too). Trinity Force should probably be your last item, you can push this a bit earlier if you feel the need for it. It is a great item for alistar, pushing your sheen into overdrive, allowing you to slow enemies on attack and increasing your move speed, health, mana and attack effectiveness, but it is just too expensive to try to get any earlier and does not boost either your armor or magic resist.
-Try to lane with an ally who has a ranged attack or is a very good champ killer (jarvan, xin, kassadin).
-If you are a coordinated team, try to lane with a ranged ally who benefits from extra mana regen and CDR (karma, ashe, cait, veigar, karthus, annie, lux, morgana, ryze, etc). Drop the CDR quints for gold quints, start with mana manipulator and health pots and rush a soul shroud instead of heart of gold. The mana regen and CDR aura can give you and your ally an undeniable lane presence and probably a handful of kills/tower falls.
-If you have a team with at least 2 physical DPS champions, seriously consider stark's fervor. Be sure to communicate with your team and make sure nobody else is planning on getting it.
-If playing against a team with stealth based characters (2+, any less and you can just headbutt them out of you/your teams way when they pop up) you are in charge of getting oracle's elixir. If you think the opponent is smart enough to use wards you should nab it as well. You don't want the opponent to see you rumbling around the map looking to pick off champions, and you also want to give the enemy a reason to target you.
-You do not have a taunt like shen/rammus. This is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that alistar is generally not banned in ranked matches (shen and rammus are banned almost 100% of the time, malphite and amumu are banned very often as well, even though they are tauntless). The curse is that since you cannot force the enemy to attack you, you need to give them a really damn good reason to do so. Stacking auras (stark's fervor, soul shroud, aegis, etc) and using oracles + constantly ganking and p*ssing off the enemy is a great way to do this.
-Don't die often, but don't be afraid of death. Many people think a tank should never die, but there are many times when getting yourself killed is better for your team. This is definitely a concept that takes some time to master. Sacrificing yourself to save some of the support/carry characters can be much more beneficial than saving yourself. Alistar simply does not do respectable damage, and letting yourself die in order to save those that do output high damage can definitely be in your team's favor. When you die, make sure you die for a good cause.
-Alistar is a great staller, and is great bait. In the later mid-game, Alistar can keep a gank attached to him for longer than probably any other champion. Obviously you should inform your team of your actions, but you can afford to do moronic things with Alistar. For instance, you can solo tower dive, and when the enemy champs come crashing down upon you pulverize them, headbutt one away from you, run, ultimate, keep running, pulverize, re-headbutt. All of that + Alistar's high damage soaking potential can afford him 15-20 seconds, and a team aware of that can make either a significant push upon a base or double back and re gank the entire enemy team.