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Alistar: How to be a support AND a tank.
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+8 ability haste
+8 Magic Resist
+8 Magic Resist
Note: After over 2 years of not being updated, finally updated for patch 10.20! However, a huge patch is coming in about 5 weeks so when that happens I'll return and update again since so many things will change.
This is taken so you do actual damage against turrets and can help take one down. In the early game, getting the plating off turrets gives a lot of gold and this helps with that too!
Not the brightest or flashiest rune, but it'll help a bit. Scales with the more Armor and Resist you have, making every item you build with those stats even stronger.
Now that Relic Shield and its upgrades no longer heal, you're doing less healing overall. I think Overgrowth is all around better just to have more stats for the late game.
A permanent 150 mana makes quite a bit of difference for Alistar. It means you won't run out of mana for those fights that last a little too long, and you'll be ok waiting to build a mana item until your 5th or 6th item, if at all. Each game is different; some games you'll need the mana and others you won't. Note that after the Mid-November patch, much less items will have mana on them, and Alistar isn't getting compensated for this. We'll probably need to switch the Manaflow Band.
This rune is basically 300 free gold, and supports need all the gold they can get. It's also 10 permanent speed, and Alistar's speed is really important in the mid- to late-game. It's not as important in the early game, so it's ok not to have boots until about 9 or 10 minutes in. Note that after the Mid-November patch, I'll probably recommend taking Celerity instead as we'll need the mana from Manaflow Band. Celerity gives slightly less movement speed most of the time, but slightly more when we have movement speed buffs. Sadly we lose the 300 gold, but it beats needing to buy a Sapphire Crystal just to have enough mana.
Your passive heals every so often when minions die. CCing an enemy champion helps the heal go off sooner, and receiving a takedown on an enemy champion makes it go off instantly. It heals you and every allied champion within 1000 range of you, so the range is pretty big. It heals your allies twice what it heals you, which is nice. There's not really much to say about the passive, but if your ally is low, you can look at your stacks, and if it's about to go off, killing minions will heal them which might be your best option to save them. Also, if you heal an ally about to kill an enemy, you get the assist so keep that in mind as well.
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 (Note that after the Mid-November patch, this will no longer be true). 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! Get Pulverize at level 1, and keep it 1-2 levels above Headbutt until it's maxed out.
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).Get Headbutt at level 2, and keep it 1-2 levels below Pulverize until Pulverize is maxed, and then max Headbutt.
Alistar's last skill is Trample. Trample does a small amount of damage per half second to nearby enemies for 5 seconds. Each proc that hits at least 1 enemy gives you a stack, and at 5 stacks, your next attack does bonus damage as well as stuns the target. While E is active, you are "Ghosted", meaning you can move through champions and minions. To make sure to get a few extra ticks in, start your E before you use your Q (especially before the W/Q combo), though it also helps to Q then walk behind them and W, since you can walk through things. If an enemy is running away while your E is active, it's best to run with them rather than auto-attack them so you can keep up to stun them when you get to 5 stacks. It's also good to use while being chased so that you can stun someone at 5 stacks, though if multiple people are chasing you it may just be best to keep running. Trample's AOE damage doesn't scale much with its level, and its cooldown doesn't decrease much with level, though the bonus damage at 5 stacks scales with champion level. Because of this, it's best to get level 1 of your E at level 3, but max it last.
Alistar's ultimate allows him to get hurt a lot less from all damage outputs (besides true damage) and cleanses all CC on use (even Suppression). The only thing it doesn't cleanse is stasis, such as from Bard's ult. 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. 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? Use it in 2v2's early on the enemy ADC to make their auto-attacks do less damage, or to slow their escape. 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.
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 spells aren'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.
It's not a bad idea if you're roaming and want to get back to lane or even use it to gank, but Exhaust is honestly just better. Someone else on your team will hopefully have Teleport, probably the top laner, so just let him use it.
But you have your ult...
But you're not jungling...
But you're a cow...
The only difference between the two tank support starting items is that Relic Shield gives AP, while Steel Shoulderguards gives AD. Since Alistar tends to use abilities more than auto-attacking, I chose Relic Shield but there's not a huge difference either way.
You'll want to start with a Stealth Ward to ward early game until you get to 500 gold with your Relic Shield. The next time you go back after finishing the quest, swap it out for Sweeping Lens to clear enemy wards.
This is good to get every time you go back, if you can afford it. It's particularly 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 to or getting out-harassed by physical damage, buy a Cloth Armor or even 2, if you can afford it. Warden's Mail is built from 2 Cloth Armors so it would naturally be your next buy. That then builds perfectly into Randuin's Omen. Note that you might go back with enough told to just buy the Warden's Mail already on your first back. That's great!
If you are dying to or getting out-harassed by magical damage, this is a good buy.
If you are having mana issues, this could be good buys, especially if your mana issues are causing you problems in lane (can't secure a kill, can't protect your carry, etc.). Keep in mind that it's rare that you have mana issues. Typically, you only engage fights when you think you can get a kill or they engage first. Using your abilities to "poke" is risky because you have to get near them, it draws minion aggro, and it doesn't do much damage anyway. That being said, everybody has different playstyles, and if you find yourself having mana issues every game, this may be the way to go for you all the time, and that's ok. Most Alistar players will only have mana problems when there are continuous long, drawn-out fights in bot lane (this will typically be when either both junglers, both mids, or even all 4 of them, keep ganking at once and both teams try to fight but Alistar isn't getting focused). In a case like this, you could run out of mana and if you expect it to keep happening, feel free to get this item. Keep in mind that these skirmishes, while they may seem long, are actually overall short and mana regen would do you little good. Flat mana is much more important, and upgrades into much better tanky items. Glacial Shroud upgrades into either Iceborn Gauntlet, Zeke's Convergence, Turbo Chemtank, or Frozen Heart, any one of which is a good choice to build despite not being one of my normal 4 core items. More details on them later though. Note that after the Mid-November patch, I will likely recommend building mana items far less often, building Frozen Heart only in very rare circumstances, very late in the game, and NOT for mana.
Ruby Crystal can be upgraded into Giant's Belt, which is then upgraded into Randuin's Omen, so never a bad buy. It can even be upgraded into Kindlegem if you are going to build Spirit Visage early. 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. Note that after the Mid-November patch, I will likely recommend building Warmog's Armor as your last item the majority of the time.
Get this once you have acquired 500 gold with the Relic Shield and can now use it to ward.
Always, always get this if you have enough gold and an empty slot.
I now build Boots of Swiftness instead of Mobility Boots because it helps more when initiating fights, during fights, and running away, all of which are more important than having more speed while roaming and warding. Mobility Boots and Mercury's Treads do have their place though in certain situations. Never feel like you're tied to one type of boots every game, and be prepared to change it up if need be.
The Third and Fourth Items:
These are the first two "main" items you build, besides your Relic Shield and boots. You'll probably know which of these items you'll want to build first, and surely have started it already. You can even build both at the same time if you need to.
You'll want to get this item first 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. Note that after the Mid-November patch, I don't expect this to change.
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. Note that in the Mid-November patch, this is getting severely nerfed. Because of that, I recommend NEVER building it.
You shouldn't build Warmog's Armor often enough that it deserves a spot in this section. Please see "Situational Items" for more details.
Note that after the Mid-November patch, there will be a new item in this section to replace Spirit Visage. Stay tuned!
It's a good option if you need a little bit more resistance after Spirit Visage. Otherwise, it's safe to save it for last (or not build it at all). 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 Abyssal Mask instead. Note that in the Mid-November patch, this item is getting nerfed too, just as the Spirit Visage and a new resist item is coming out, plus Abyssal Mask is getting buffed. Because of this, I recommend NEVER building this.
This is my most common fifth item, and sometimes I build it even sooner. It gives you just about everything Alistar could want (Armor, CDR, Mana, Damage, and a slow) and is therefore useful in a variety of situations. Need armor? Build it. Need mana? Build it. Need more damage? Build it. Need another slow? Build it. It is very likely you'll need one or more of those by the time the late-game starts, if not sooner. Chances are, you may have even started building this. If you are getting very fed, however, this is the first item you should buy. Note that in the Mid-November patch, this item is changing names and being nerfed. Because of that, I won't recommend building it anymore. This entire section will be redone fo the new patch. Stay tuned!
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.
This is an okay fifth item you build after Randuin's if you just need much more physical tankiness. However, I find that that's rarely the case and I rarely actually end up building it. The CDR of Frozen Heart is nice, but the slow from Randuin's is too good to pass up, so I never recommend building Frozen Heart first. NOTE: Frozen Heart doesn't stack. If someone else on your team has one, consider building Thornmail instead (an even worse option for Alistar). Details follow in the "Situational Items" section. Also note that you might pass the CDR limit with this item, so it may not be as good as it looks on paper.
On rare occasions, you might be super fed and unkillable. You want to retain your unkillable status, but adding a bit more damage wouldn't be a problem, and in those instances I recommend Sunfire Cape.
If you happen to need more damage but also resistance, this could be a good item for you to get. It's not much damage for you, but mostly for your APC(s) on the team. This is especially good to get if your team has multiple heavy AP damager dealers, and/or someone else on your team has the Locket of the Iron Solari.
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.
Righteous Glory isn't a bad idea to get if your team is having trouble initiating team fights. As the support, you are most likely not responsible for it and even if so, your W-Q combo is usually sufficient. But sometimes the enemy team is very skittish and this may help in those situations.
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 and Iceborn Gauntlet. 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.
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!"
10/14/2020 - After another long period of neglect, changed the guide to be fairly relevant for patch 10.20. Major changes to the guide coming in about 5 weeks after the Mid-November Patch that is changing, removing, and adding a lot of items. Stay tuned!
1/25/2018 - Fixed the guide again to be current with patch 8.2. Sorry for yet another long period of neglect!
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