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Alistar Build Guide by nex apparatus

Support [S3] Nothing Can Hold YOU Back (Support Alistar)

Support [S3] Nothing Can Hold YOU Back (Support Alistar)

Updated on February 7, 2013
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League of Legends Build Guide Author nex apparatus Build Guide By nex apparatus 5 1 16,930 Views 5 Comments
5 1 16,930 Views 5 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author nex apparatus Alistar Build Guide By nex apparatus Updated on February 7, 2013
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My name's Mike. I go by nex apparatus. I've played Alistar since Season 0 and felt it was time to pass on what I've learned.

This guide emphasizes an Aggressive Support Alistar, focused as much on providing your carry with the love and care that he or she needs to fluorish as it is on disorienting, overpowering, and outlasting the enemy team.

If done right, your allies will love you and your enemies will fear you.
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I want you to recite this until you have it firmly drilled into your head:


As Alistar, your job is to protect your team, both directly (through skills and active items) and indirectly (by warding and other forms of map awareness).
Whereas other supports such as Janna and Sona fill a more traditional support role due in part to their damage boosting abilities/auras and the fact that they are ranged, support Alistar is more concerned with initiation and displacement.
Alistar is gifted with having the most spammable crowd control in the game, as well as one of the absolute best ultimates in the game. A good Alistar will use his advantages to protect his carry from ever dying by absorbing enemy damage and crowd control, displacing key targets and keeping his carry's health topped off.
At the same time, Alistar can use these same abilities to actively feed his carry kills by punishing the enemy's positional errors or lack of warding.

The key to this strategy is speed. For this reason, Mobility Boots is a core item and once acquired will increase both our map presence and ganking potential. In addition, maximizing cooldown reduction will allow you to both tank with your Unbreakable Will and initiate more frequently.
Alistar is one of the most item-independent and level-independent champions in the game. Once you acquire just 1 rank in both Headbutt and Pulverize, you are ready to go. Likewise, itemization is simple - Mobility Boots is useful for the reasons mentioned above, while an early philosopher's stone will solve some of your mana problems while preparing you, economically, for the lategame.
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Skill Sequence and Tips

> > >

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Unbreakable Will (R)
50% Damage reduction, bonus AD, cleanses on cast and pumps up your team! By far one of the best ultimates in the game. Makes you twice as tanky, letting you take a beating and keep going. Using your ultimate creates a lose-lose situation for the enemy - either they try to kill you slowly, which lets your carries clean up, or they ignore you and either have to run or suffer your CC.

  • Unless tower-diving, use your Unbreakable Will as soon as you notice yourself being focused. Waiting too long might kill you, while not waiting will waste the damage reduction that your ultimate provides. The more crowd control abilities and damage you absorb, the more your enemies will be baited into focusing you, only to find their attacks ineffective
  • If initiating, use your Unbreakable Will shortly after being stunned or snared (as you would use Cleanse). This will minimize the time you are CC'ed while essentially wasting the enemies crowd control spells
  • Do not neglect the bonus AD that you receive from your ultimate. At the first rank alone, you get an extra 50 AD (more than a BF sword!) for the duration of your ultimate, which can be used to turn a low-health duel around in your favor
  • True damage such as Ignite will go through the damage reduction of Unbreakable Will (thus, unfortunately, making it breakable...)

Triumphant Roar (E)
Short cooldown AoE heal. A heal with an interesting mechanic in that it's cooldown is reduced with nearby creep deaths, making it very useful in the laning phase and for pushing. With that said, you'll be maxing this first so that your carry is as healthy as possible in the laning phase (and because the CC duration on your two CC spells does not increase with level).

  • An unfortunate side-effect of leveling up Triumphant Roar is that you may end up pushing the lane. For this reason, as outlined in the item build, we start with 2x sight ward and 1x Explorer's Ward to avoid being ganked
    - However, you should still actively try to position yourself so that your heal affects only your lane partner and not your creeps
  • Do not spam this skill, otherwise you will rapidly run out of mana
  • You can use this skill to deny farm by healing your creeps right before the enemy goes in for a last hit
  • Trample damage will trigger tower aggro, so be careful when healing at a tower with enemies nearby
  • Can be used for frequent Sheen procs (and, later, Iceborn Gauntlet or Trinity Force)
  • Use before initiating with Pulverize because the phase from Trample will make it easier to get into position

Headbutt (W)
Single-target dash and knockback. A very versatile spell with decent AP scaling and base damage, and which isn't affected by Tenacity. You will be maxing this skill second and using it defensively to create space between your ranged carry and the enemy team, or offensively to knockback enemies for your team to kill when ganking.

  • Perfect the Headbutt -> Pulverize combo. You have to use Pulverize as soon as you see that your character is moving forward with Headbutt
  • The fly-time of Headbutt is equivalent to a 1 second stun
  • Interrupts channeling
  • In a pinch, can be used on enemy creeps to escape as it will bring you to their location

Pulverize (Q)
Short range AoE stun and knockup. You will be maxing this skill last. It is an excellent initiation tool, consisting of a 1 second knockup and a 0.5 second stun for a total of 1.5 seconds of immobility. It requires good positioning, but is otherwise one of the strongest crowd control spells in the game and is what makes Alistar such as threat in mid- and late-game teamfights.

One may argue that maxing Pulverize would yield more damage (on account of its being AoE) than maxing Headbutt, but there are two things to consider:
  • You will not always be in perfect position to land your Pulverize on multiple enemies, even with your Mobility Boots
  • Headbutt is ranged, single-target and has a shorter base cooldown, making it more reliable as both a damage source and as a source of crowd control

  • The area of effect of this ability is tiny. Pairing yourself with an AP mid that has a stun or snare (ex. Lux) will help you land a good Pulverize and also saves you the mana of having to Headbutt -> Pulverize
  • The stun component of this spell is affected by Tenacity, however the knockup component isn't
  • The CC duration of both Pulverize and Headbutt stay the same at all levels of the skill, making them relevant through all periods of the game

Trample (Passive)
Minor AoE magic damage and unit phasing. The unit phasing that it provides is more important than the damage as Alistar naturally has a huge character model and getting into position for a good Pulverize in a lane clogged with creeps can be difficult. As mentioned above, Triumphant Roar will make sure that your Trample is active when you need it.
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Offense Tree - Summoner's Wrath for Improved Exhaust and 4 points into Sorcery for the cooldown reduction. You must remember that your goal is not to kill but to maim, so your offenses are limited, while your ability to disrupt the enemy for your carry is maximized.

Defense Tree - No points into defensive masteries because the Tauren are a hearty race, thick-skinned from their rugged lifestyles in the Great Barrier.
In layman's terms, your Unbreakable Will will do the tanking for you.

Utility Tree - The reasoning for these masteries is as follows:
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Fleet Footwork
Phase Rush

Marks: Greater Mark of Magic Penetration to add some kick to your nukes, as even after countless nerfs your two nukes (combined with your passive) do fair amounts of damage.
Seals: Greater Seal of Armor to guard your flanks from stray swords, bullets, arrows, etc. in the early game.
Glyphs: Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist, because you won't be dying from magic burst in the early levels, especially in bot lane, so the scaling runes will easily overtake the flat resist runes by the time you need them.
Quintessences: Greater Quintessence of Gold to stack with your philosopher's stone to help you build up economically.

Alternative Runes

Marks: Greater Mark of Armor are virtually interchangeable with the recommended magic penetration runes. They help if you are very worried about early physical damage and/or harassment.
Seals: None.
Glyphs: Greater Glyph of Scaling Mana Regeneration, Greater Glyph of Ability Power, and Greater Glyph of Mana are all viable options. Whether you use them or not will depend on your personal playstyle, such as how well you manage your mana.
Quintessences: Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed, Greater Quintessence of Ability Power, and Greater Quintessence of Mana are all viable options. Again, their use will depend on your personal preference.
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Summoner Spells

The Good

There's never a good time to leave home without flash. It's use as an initiation tool and a clutch escape are unmatched. The sequence of skills that you will usually want to use is Flash-> Pulverize, then either Headbutt an important target back to your team and/or use your Unbreakable Will if you start being focused, get CC'd, or are fighting under an enemy tower.

An integral part of protecting your carry. Compensates for cases where both your Headbutt and Pulverize are on cooldown as well as for cases where you're fighting against gap closers who can "cancel out" some of your crowd control (ex. Ezreal blinking back into the fight with Arcane Shift after you had used Headbutt on him).

The Bad

Teleport ganks with Alistar, with or without Mobility Boots, are potent. It is a good summoner spell to have, but it's let down by the fact that you would have to drop either Exhaust or Flash, both of which are more relevant to protecting your carry during the laning phase.

In conjunction with your Triumphant Roar, Heal can help you make nice baiting plays. It is held back by the fact that bottom lanes are virtually guaranteed to run Ignite. If using Heal, remember to adjust your masteries to include Summoner's Resolve in the Defense Tree.

The Ugly

Reduced from it's former glory. Still useful for early invading, but the addition of the Sightstone and Explorer's Ward severely reduced its efficacy. It has a niche use in scouting very mobile junglers (ex. Shaco) and/or other assassins. You can also take it and use it to scout top lane so that your top laner can be relatively safe from ganks while using a risky starting build (ex. starting with Doran's Blade or Long Sword + 2 x Health Potion).

Should be on your AD carry instead of you, as a carry is a better judge of whether or not it should be used to guarantee a kill, and it contributes nothing towards defending your team.

Offensively, Ghost is better suited for champions that have sustained DPS or otherwise need to chase their opponent. Alistar needs to get in instantly and do his thing, which is why Flash is usually preferred.
Defensively, you shouldn't be running from a battle, and your Mobility Boots will let you choose your engagements. You would also be dropping Exhaust, which leaves your carry more vulnerable.
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As mentioned earlier, and philosopher's stone form your core. You will be making them in every game you play. Possible enchantments for the boots include Enchantment: Captain, Enchantment: Homeguard, and Enchantment: Distortion. They are all equally viable but are no means a priority in your item progression.

As a support, you're also expected to buy a , but I would recommend holding back on buying the Sightstone until you have at least 1 armor or magic resist item as it makes warding safer. The Ruby Sightstone upgrade can be held off until you complete your first core item for the damage type that you're facing, as the 1 extra ward that it gives relative to the Sightstone isn't critical, and your mid, top, and jungler probably have some wards placed of their own.

vs AD

should be your go-to anti-physical item as Alistar. It provides everything that you need: mana, cooldown reduction, armor, and a nice aura to boot. The fact that it doesn't provide health is a good thing - at face value, you will look squishier to your enemies and they'll try to focus you, while your heal will also be more effective because it heals for a flat amount.

- Alternatively, if you find yourself in a comfortable lead in the early game, you can build a Iceborn Gauntlet from the Glacial Shroud instead, though I would recommend starting with a Sheen because the combination of sheen procs and Triumphant Roar lets you bully the lane.

emblem of valor also provides a useful aura and can be built up into either Aegis of the Legion or Banner of Command, the former generally being more useful because it buffers you and your team against magic damage and can also be upgraded further into a Runic Bulwark (if magic damage is a serious concern), while the latter pairs situationally with champions like Heimerdinger or, in general, as part of push strategies.

vs AP

will cover you for when the enemy AP mid is fed or is an aggressive ganker type such as Ahri. It also helps against the more aggressive AP junglers (ex. Diana and Fiddlesticks). Spirit Visage is unique in that it will improve your Triumphant Roar heal (though only on yourself), which helps deal with magic burst.

is needed against heavy magic users and is the defensive item of choice if you find yourself unable to afford a relatively quick Negatron Cloak, but the choice remains of whether to upgrade it to a Twin Shadows or Aegis of the Legion:
- is useful if the enemy team doesn't have strong AD . The slow and movespeed bonus from Twin Shadows helps with initiation, though the active is better used for scouting because the 2 minute cooldown is too long compared to the short cooldowns of your Headbutt and Pulverize. Despite the extra gold per 5 from kage's lucky pick, you should start with the Null-Magic Mantle instead if building this item as otherwise you will be left too squishy to initiate.
- will serve as a better upgrade from Null-Magic Mantle in cases where the enemy team has a more balanced mix of damage types, and if you're finding that you're melting too quickly in team fights as the added health can help alleviate that. The upgrade to Runic Bulwark is relatively inexpensive and helps your entire team even more against magic damage.


is a very solid choice for the mid- to late-game when teamfights become more common. The choice of when to upgrade your philosopher's stone is up to personal preference, but remember that as soon as you upgrade it you lose the extra gold generation from the philosopher's stone. It is a good item to get when faced with a skillshot-heavy enemy team, especially those that rely on skillshots for initiation or CC, as the active from Shurelya's Battlesong will let you dodge them and counter-initiate with ease.

Alistar's natural bulk, coupled with his Unbreakable Will, makes him an excellent carrier for some of the more non-conventional support aura items:
-zeke's herald is incredibly useful when your mid lane is an AD-caster, and also if your jungler is AD, as these two positions will benefit the most from your aura in early ganks and in contesting/taking dragon. Unfortunately, the lifesteal is lost on Alistar, so consider whether the investment is worth it over more defense-oriented items such as Glacial Shroud or Aegis of the Legion.
- is an interesting item. It will help greatly with some of your early mana problems, and the Mana Manipulator used to make it is a viable (albeit shaky) replacement over an early philosopher's stone. Consider getting it if your bottom lanemate has many active skills or mana-heavy spells, such as Ezreal or Tristana. The active has a fairly short cooldown and is best used on yourself or a tanky AD bruiser while chasing - using the active during a static teamfight will not be taking advantage of the slow.
- is another viable aura item. Some AP mid champions won't include it as part of their early build (ex. Xerath) and will appreciate the aura, while some AP top laners (ex. Rumble and Vladimir) that do build it naturally will greatly benefit from the aura stacking in mid- and late-game teamfights. It's important to note that Will of the Ancients doesn't provide you with a good build-up, so hold off on buying it until the mid- to late-game, after you've bought 1 of your core defense items, for when big teamfights occur.
- is a logical progression from a Spirit Visage if you feel it isn't providing enough magic resist and that your team is doing well enough that you can dabble in some ability power. It is a good item to have if your team has a lot of AoE magic damage, as even spells such as Rocket Jump and Void Ooze will start to do significant damage. As an added benefit, the extra ability power will boost your Triumphant Roar.

makes you a relevant damage source when your Unbreakable Will is activated due to the extra AD you receive, even more so when paired with a zeke's herald. Your Unbreakable Will will make it easy to land basic attacks to build up the magic resist stacks, which will then help buffer you against magic damage for when your ultimate runs out. However, do not buy Wit's End until the late-game because it is primarily your carry's job to do damage.

, as mentioned before, pairs well with the low cooldown of your Triumphant Roar. The choice of whether to build it or not depends on whether you have an AD bruiser or other tanky champion on your team who can share the tanking load, letting you get away with building fewer defensive item early on. Sheen is more effective the earlier you get it, before large health-boosting items have been purchased by the enemy team, so if you plan on getting it consider starting with the riskier Sapphire Crystal, sight ward, and 1 x Health Potion item build and playing more conservatively early on.
Both of the upgrades for Sheen are viable:
- provides very decent defensive stats and the slowing field makes initiations incredibly easy, as just a single autoattack will let you run ahead of your enemy and Headbutt him back.
- , on the other hand, is much more aggressively focused and should only be considered as a luxury item as it's usefulness outside of small 1v1 and 2v2 skirmishes is limited, compared to the slowing field of Iceborn Gauntlet, which can slow a large portion of the enemy team.
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Though virtually any brush can be a strategic warding spot, these specific spots will serve to be especially useful through the various stages of the game:

*Note* All of these wards pictured below are placed from the perspective of the blue team. The same ward spots can be used on the purple team, but offensive wards will naturally change to defensive wards and vice versa. Any exceptions to the rule will be noted.

Defensive Wards

What does it do? This ward protects you when you are pushing top lane as it gives you vision of several different paths that the enemy team could be taking to approach you. In the early game, you should shift the location of this ward downward so that you have a clear view of the blue buff area.

What does it do? This ward is standard as far as defensive wards go, giving you vision of any river ganks coming from the blue buff area or from the tri-bush. Though this ward is sufficient when playing on the blue team, you will need another ward to cover yourself on the purple team to better protect yourself from lane ganks. This extra ward can go either in the tri-bush or in the farthest edge of the second lane bush.

What does it do? As you transition to the mid-game, and/or one either of the tier 1 bottom towers has fallen, the previously-described ward will prove insufficient as it provides no vision over Dragon. This ward will alleviate this problems, but is also viable early on if the enemy team has a highly mobile jungler (ex. Hecarim) or is capable of an early Dragon attempt.

What does it do? This ward is excellent for spotting counter-jungling attempts as it covers the most common route that enemy junglers will take. Coordinate with your jungler to decide when to put this ward down - junglers who are weak early (ex. Amumu) game will love you for giving them this ward, while seeing aggressive counter-junglers on the enemy team, such as Shaco and Nunu & Willump, should warn both you and your jungler that you should put this ward down ASAP.

Offensive Wards

What does it do? A classic ward that will cover you when pushing the tier 2 tower in mid lane and also provides you invaluable information about the enemy jungler as it is the most direct portal to the red buff side of the jungle. This ward generally receives high traffic throughout the entire game and should be a high priority.

What does it do? A necessary ward for when you are pushing the tier 2 top tower. If you decide to place it earlier in the game, or if you are pushing the tier 2 mid tower, shift the ward's location to the left so that you get better vision of the red buff area and can see if either the enemy top laner or jungler are transitioning towards a gank in the mid lane.
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Friends and Foes


You compensate for their lack of CC and can also set up their skillshots with a well-placed Headbutt or Pulverize. Ezreal has the added benefit of being able to easily keep up with your initiations with his Arcane Shift.
With Sivir, you have to be wary not to push the lane too much early on, but later in the game your Triumphant Roar + Ricochet + Banner of Command (and/or zeke's herald) + On The Hunt can create a scary push.

An Alistar + Tristana bottom lane is extremely aggressive - unless the enemy has an innate escape skill such as Arcane Shift, you will be getting kills, since Rocket Jump can be used to follow up on your initiations and the healing reduction from Explosive Shot prevents supports like Soraka from saving their carry.
Likewise, an Alistar + Vayne bottom lane is also aggressive - your crowd control spells can set up a Condemn and vice versa, and the longer the enemy is CC'd, the more damage will pile on from Silver Bolts.
The case of Alistar + Kog'Maw is a mix of the previous two cases; as with Silver Bolts, damage from Bio-Arcane Barrage will pile up while the enemy is CC'd, while Rocket Jump and Void Ooze both slow and deal reasonable damage either when you've already initiated or to help you initiate.

The synergy between Alistar and Blitzcrank is legendary. Though not competitively viable to put in the same lane, these two champions combined have ridiculous crowd control and respectable damage. I would recommend one of you start with a Mana Manipulator to help offset your high mana costs.
Unless the enemy support has strong sustain (i.e. Soraka), you will get kills in the bot lane. At worst, you won't get kills but the enemy carry will be zoned out and unable to last hit from fear of a Rocket Grab or Headbutt.
Alistar synergizes just as well with Nautilus, who has just as much damage and similar CC, but can viably contribute this synergy from the jungle or mid positions, unlike Blitzcrank.
The Alistar + Thresh lane functions similarly to the Alistar + Blitzcrank lane, albeit with slightly less CC and slightly more damage due to Damnation and Death Sentence. However, Dark Passage allows for some insane combinations, making this lane partnership just as dangerous and arguably more viable as, currently, Thresh can be played as an AD carry.

An Urgot serves as a great lanemate with Alistar because you make his life much easier by setting up his Noxian Corrosive Charge and helping him get more mileage out his hyper-kinetic position reverse by using your crowd control abilities to keep the enemy pinned after they've been teleported out of position, while also keeping the enemy from taking advantage of Urgot's bad positioning after using his ultimate.


Your Unbreakable Will doesn't protect against true damage, so these spells will be a constant pain in your side. In these cases, you may want to forego the standard, low-HP build and invest in a Sunfire Aegis or other health-boosting items if you find yourself dying too quickly. If these spells are giving you a hard time, take solace in the fact that the other team is wasting them on you rather than your carry.

Janna's Zephyr hampers your ability to get in quickly to initiate, while her Monsoon can outright negate any initiation that you carry out, wasting not only your cooldowns (especially your Unbreakable Will) but those of your allies as well. If that wasn't bad enough, the lingering slow will prevent you from running back in to fight, and the heal will reset the enemy's team health as if a fight had never happened.
As bad as all of this sounds, Monsoon is on a 2 minute cooldown (at rank 3), while Unbreakable Will is on a 80 second cooldown at the same rank. Adding in the fact that you will be itemizing heavily for cooldown reduction and that your other spells are on relatively low cooldowns, the harsh effects of Monsoon become somewhat dulled. However, to truly take advantage of your lower cooldowns, you must force fights while Monsoon is on cooldown.

Malphite is a pain because his Seismic Shard steals a percentage of the enemy's movespeed, so he can easily turn your Mobility Boots against you. Further, his Unstoppable Force is unarguably the best initiation and counter-initiation spell in the game, having 1.5 seconds of unmitigatable CC with a ridiculous range. If used after your Pulverize initiation, Unstoppable Force + Ground Slam will completely negate your team's momentum.
As with Janna, the only way you can overcome this deficit is by taking advantage of your shorter cooldowns, being active on the map, and picking fights when the enemy's counter-initiation spells are on cooldown. It doesn't hurt to keep a timer (either in or outside of chat) that will keep track of the cooldown of spells such as Unstoppable Force to help you gauge whether you should be seeking an initiation or be waiting to counter-initiate.

Though his Contaminate won't be preventing any of your crowd control spells from doing their job, his Pillar of Filth severely hurts your initiation attempts as it not only slows but displaces, and is on a similar cooldown to your crowd control spells. Even worse, as Alistar you are one of the most potent targets for his Agony, which coupled with the rest of his kit will make him an unstoppable force and will make your carry's life much harder.
If he's already used his Agony on you, you should disengage and focus on using your crowd control to keep Trundle away from your carry. A Shurelya's Battlesong is a good pickup in this case.

Your role as a initiator relies entirely on your being able to land both your Headbutt and Pulverize on the most important enemy targets. When these targets get a Banshee's Veil, you will either need a teammate to pop it before you initiate, or you will have to settle for only one of your crowd control spells having an effect.
On the positive side, using Headbutt on an enemy with Banshee's Veil will still bring you to their location (and put the Banshee's Veil on cooldown) but won't knock them back, which can be used to mimic your Headbutt -> Pulverize combo but with the benefit of having a more lenient timeframe in which it can be pulled off.
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Miscellaneous Tips

  1. Communicate with your team - I'm not just talking about pinging. Alistar is one of the most team-dependent champions in the game. If you want to maximize your success, you will want to tell your AD carry as much information as possible, such as when you hit level 3 and want to go in for a Headbutt -> Pulverize, when you want to play conservatively to save mana, or when you are ready to tower dive with your Unbreakable Will. Programs such as TeamSpeak and Skype are obviously recommended for this reason. If you already have these programs, then be as talkative and loud as possible (something I've personally gotten into trouble for with my neighbors), letting your team know your plans ahead of time, as ultimately your plays will be a huge deciding factor in the outcome of teamfights.
  2. Team awareness - Before initiating, make sure that you actually have your team behind you! As good as your initiation may be, as many enemies you may catch with your Pulverize, there's no point to it if your team isn't there to provide the damage, or if you're outnumbered and outgunned.
  3. Map awareness - This is a practiced skill and goes in part with the point about communicating with your team. Beyond what you get from wards, you should have an idea of where the enemies may be at a given time, call people who are missing from your lane, and judge whether or not someone's been missing for too long, as these intuitions will determine the appropriate playstyle for the situation.
  4. Target priority - Another practiced skill that also depends on your own judgment calls. Though it is generally a good rule of thumb to focus the carry with your CC, you should also be mindful of your own carry's position and keep enemies away from him/her.
  5. Layer your stuns - Make sure to wait when using your crowd control spells or when combining yours with your allies', as you want to maximize the crowd control duration on the target. If, for example, you knock the enemy carry into a wall with your Headbutt, you should wait to use your Pulverize instead of using it immediately because the enemy carry will be immobile against the wall for ~1 second. Again, to tie in with the first point, you will need open lines of communication with your allies so that you can establish an ordering of who will use which crowd control spells and when.
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Closing Words

Thank you for reading my guide.
I hope you find Alistar to be as fun as I do and that my build can inspire your Alistar gameplay.
As this guide is fresh and ongoing, any positive or negative feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated.


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League of Legends Build Guide Author nex apparatus
nex apparatus Alistar Guide
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[S3] Nothing Can Hold YOU Back (Support Alistar)

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