[GUIDE] Alistar the Tanky Tank or the Newbs Guide to Alistar
EDIT: Before you begin reading my guide, please keep in mind that epic Alistar changes are in the works. Please refer to Guinsoo's post: http://www.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=437005. I will update my guide once the changes go through and I have time to play test him for a week or so.
I started playing with Alistar once I realized how versatile of a character he is. I apologize for the length of this guide but I think Alistar deserves it and it’s necessary for me to communicate how I play this character. A lot of the Alistar guides I’ve read focus on building up his mana pool so he can spam his abilities, or how to make him an unconventional tank by buying un-tankish items. I think one guide recommends trinity force. These are definitely novel ideas and especially useful if you want to throw a little twist on the character, but as I was learning Alistar I found the existing guides next to useless. Why am I buying tears of goddess and archangel? The fundamentals of the character, or of a tank in general, just weren’t being targeted and I was having a tough time learning the character.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say something that no other guide seems to want to say: Alistar is best played as a pure tank because he is F’ing good at it. Pure and simple. Lots of people say “well hey all Alistar is good at is not dying, so why is he such a big deal.” Exactly. He is good at not dying. I’ve had a lot of great LoL moments with my original love, Kassadin. Nothing beats teleport chasing a full health tristana halfway across the map as she tries to desperately buster shot me away and rocket her way back to the fountain, in vain. Well, I have found bliss yet again with another character, and that character is Alistar.
Picture this: All 5 team members pushing up the middle. You’re at point and your minion wave up ahead is getting decimated by the enemy teams 5 players. This is it. This is what you were born to do. You lumber up to the enemy tower as you mumble “Tank-ity, tank-ity, tank-ity” over and over again with each step. You hit R, and all five enemies unleash the fury of hell onto your poor soul. Your health bar plummets as all 5 players do their worst. And… all of enemy Ryze’s 4 abilities are spent and on cooldown. Sion has used his stun. Veigar has HADOUKENED you with all he’s got. The MFing Chogath has feasted and done his silence and pop-up stun. The entire enemy’s ignites and exhausts are tapped. And….. you’re at 1/2 health. And slowly hitting the tower, now at 3/4 health, while mumbling “Tank-ity, tank-ity, tank-ity.” I would like to go on with what happens once your team swoops in, but I will cover that in-depth in the strategy section. And I stress this because Alistar’s strategic potential is very high and I play him a certain way that I feel works extremely well with this overly tank-ish build. I play Alistar so he is strongest END GAME. This is my philosophy because careful yet aggressive play early and mid game will put you in a good end game position, where you will completely dominate (for what I mean by “careful yet aggressive,” read the Playing to Be Evil Guide http://www.leagueoflegends.com/board...ad.php?t=14432. It’s one of the best general guides out there). I will also cover what items to buy and when, and also which items I think are useless.
I want to stress right now that the most important part of this guide is the Items and Strategy sections. I’m not going to waste too much space talking about ability upgrade orders, starting stats, or runes and masteries. That is up for you to figure out and honestly, I often realign these just to experiment. If you’re new to the game and you’re having trouble following my guide, open this link while you read so you know what I’m talking about:
It lists all the abilities and what they do. Don’t want to waste space here because this guide is already monstrously long.
I know, I know. I said Items and Strategy would be the highlight of this guide and not the other stuff, but summoner abilities is definitely a special mention. I used to use Heal and Teleport, but now I use Cleanse and Flash. Heal is good in the beginning but not so great towards end game, and once your Roar (E) is upgraded it starts to take the place of heal. Teleport is a good spell and I’m not against it. Cleanse is controversial given that Unbreakable Will (R) acts as a cleanse, but my experience is that in a late game team fight you will need to break out of slows and stuns MORE THAN ONCE. And trust me, this makes a huge difference when it means skating past their team to the enemy Ashe in order to stun her (or at least make her run away). Flash is definitely a skill move and it is usually used defensively (get out of fail free card). I use it to flash to an opponent that hangs back and stun him with Pulverize (Q). You usually won’t need it early game when laning but it is KEY during end game play. No one is going to let you stroll in and casually stun during late game. Once again, while early and mid game is certainly key, careful and aggressive gameplay will put you into a good position for end game.
Wait, I thought you were skipping abi- Shush. I start with Pulverize (Q) and max it ASAP. I level headbutt (W) and roar (E) in tandem, usually favoring headbutt if in doubt. Obviously take Unbreakable Will (R) whenever you can.
I’ve been told that buying tankish items for Alistar is a waste of time because he already “naturally” has tanky stats. That logic is nonsense. Alistar is a tank and he can only be made better at things he’s already good at. However, the key to understanding this guide is that Alistar is built based strictly on what the enemy team has and for late game success. For the AP / Mana / non-tank alistar builds, it makes sense to have a fairly rigid item buy. That’s just not the case for Alistar the Tanky Tank. If the opposing team has a bunch of DPS carries (which is VERY common since those characters are “fun”), you will clearly favor health and armor, where as if they have a number of nukers and/or disablers, you’ll be going for magic resistance and some sort of trap negation. Awareness is KEY, for you need to understand who is doing the most van-damage or has the potential to do the most damage on the opposing team throughout the whole game and buy items in accordance to how things are developing. Your team will love you for it.
For the Newbs: Click this link and read along so you know what I’m talking about.
I begin all my games with a meki pendant and pot of health and mana. I do this because it gives me good mana regen, which will eventually be upgraded into a Chalice of Harmony that gives you +30 magic resist (and trust me, this will be useful ‘cause every team has AT LEAST 2 people that are built AP). But wait a minute, I thought you said this was pure tank Alistar and a meki pen- Shush. Alistar needs some sort of mana regen item in order to effectively use his skills without running back to the fountain all the time. I have found that this item creates a good balance between health and mana exhaustion and since it also provides some magic resistance, it makes me happy. And for those of you that think Alistar needs more mana than Chalice can provide, I have two words for you: Mana Potion. 40 freaking gold. A lot of guides say you need to load up on mana because Alistar is low on mana. There’s a reason he’s low on mana, and that’s because he’s not meant to use that much. Tears of the Goddess? Archangel staff? Really? I honestly think people don’t understand what Alistar’s role in a fight is. Think of all the team battles you’ve had. How long has the meat of the battle usually lasted? 15 seconds, max? And I’m not counting the time when everyone is yards away, dancing around and feeling each other out, or after the fight when the stragglers are running away and the subsequent chase that occurs after the smoke clears. Don’t believe me? Count fifteen seconds out loud right now. It’s a long time. In every single team battle that I have ever taken place in, I’ve had the opportunity to do the pulverize and headbutt combo TWICE MAX (we’ll get into that in the strategy section), even with cooldown reduction items. The truth is, by the time you come down to that point in time AND if you were doing your job properly, you should be at relatively low health, your team should be alive, and you should now be concentrating on cutting off the paths of any of the low health enemies that are running away in sheer terror of your Flash/Pulverize/Head Butt combo. So why do I need that small mana boost in the first place? 2 pulverizes, 2 headbutts, 5 roars, and even popping your ultimate should be just fine for the amount of mana you have. Sure, more mana would be fantastic and would help sustain a push. Well, that’s what the Chalice is for. Also, mana potion. 40 gold. Get over it. By the time the next real team fight happens, you’ll be at 75% mana bar at a minimum, even without going back to fountain.
So meki, then boots. Now, what boots should you buy? If you look at the name of this guide, it’s also called the Newbs Guide to Alistar, so I’m forced to say the following: If the other team has heavy DPS, buy ninja tabi for the armor and dodge. If they are more AP nuker stun heavy, buy mercury treads for the MR and trap reduction. You can hit tab and see what the enemy has, so no excuses. Seriously. Just hit tab and READ what they have. If the enemy is smart and they are balanced, that’s where you have a problem. It’s up to you. Is their DPS carry getting early kills? Then go tabi. Is their nuker totally owning your laning partner? Go Mercury. Are both types owning you? Then go one or the other. Now… if the enemy is conservative and isn’t taking early risks, go boots of swiftness to get the extra movement. I find that teams that are conservative early are generally conservative late too, so the swiftness will capitalize on the extra speed you’ll need to initiate fights.
OK, so now you have chalice and upgraded boots. Now what? Here is where it gets golden and you really get to play Sherlock Holmes. By now, certain trends will have started to develop in terms of who gets kills on the other team. Further, in about 50% of games I play, teams generally are unbalanced and I see people going heavy DPS or heavy nuker. Why, I’ll never know but here is a break down of what to get depending on how stacked towards DPS or AP a team is. And keep in mind, even if 3 of their characters are AP, maybe they aren’t really that good, or are getting low kills, so it’s the 2 DPS characters that we really need to buy for. Now while health is good against both DPS and AP, it’s armor and magic resist that really wins fights. This is also why while I think Warmogs is a great item, I don’t really stress it in this build. If an enemy team is balanced, which happens the other 50% of the time, I generally go back and forth between items on the DPS and AP Counter list. And always remember, buy for what the situation calls for.
Let us begin.
Damage Per Second (DPS) Counter Items:
First off, if you’re a newb, you need to learn which character build towards DPS and which characters build towards AP. Fighters such as Yi, Tristana, and Ashe almost exclusively build DPS. You just need to learn this by playing. If someone is getting cute (I’ve seen Tristana AP), then adjust. If the team is DPS heavy, here are some items that completely counter, listed in order of usefulness:
- Randuin’s Omen
What a beautiful item. 300 health, 25/5 sec health regen, 90 armor, 15% cooldown (helps in late game team fights with using your stun), and an ability when active to slow enemy movement and attack speed (newb note: hitting the numerical key of the item activates it. It’ll save you precious seconds). This item literally gives you everything you could ever want to counteract DPS. There is no other item that’s better. NOTE: Warden’s mail eventually builds into Randuin’s. Now if you’ve gotten this and their DPS is still hurting you, you move on to:
- Sunfire cape
At 450 health and 45 armor, another great counter to DPS. The 40 damage /sec that it does to nearby enemies isn’t too shabby either. It’ll help clear away minion waves and will make the other team feel it a little if they decide to swarm you. DISCLAIMER: Read the disclaimer under Thornmail before ripping me for this decision.
My apologies for putting this after sunfire cape. I honestly think thornmail is better, but the combo health and armor of sunfire sells me more on it. Further, thornmail to me has always been a late game item. By level 18 and some team fights, the DPS carries start to really pack a punch. The 100 armor is great for this, but even greater is the 30% returned magic damage on standard attacks. Yes. You read right. 30% returned damage. This is especially useful against ranged carries like Ashe/Tristana/Twitch that like to think they can just hit you safely from far away. DISCLAIMER: If the enemy team is balance DPS and AP, I usually begin with Randuin’s Omen, get a good magic resist item, then skip over sunfire and get thornmail, mostly because by now it’s late game.
Frozen Heart, Warmogs, and Soul Shroud get special nods because they do a good job of protecting you, but honestly you shouldn’t need the Frozen Heart mana or cooldown (remember, Randuins), Warmog’s obscenely one dimensional health boost (remember, armor and MR wins battles), or Soul Shroud’s magic regen and cool downs (Chalice and Randuin’s take care of it).
Ability Power (AP) Counter Items:
- Force of Nature
Yup. I went there. +76 MR, 40/5 sec health regen, and an 8% move buff. I would like to see Karthus rip through this piece of bad *** looking armor. It provides magic resistance and health regen, both crucial things when going against a nuker. Now yes, Banshee’s Veil is a fantastic item, but it gets second place because remember we have an ultimate that cleanses and also the actual cleanse summoner spell. :D
- Banshee’s Veil
I know, I know. This could easily have been first. 450 Health, 400 mana, 57 MR, and blocking 1 negative spell every 30 seconds. Perfect against Ryze’s, Annies, Ashe’s arrow, Sion, etc. If the team has heavy stun and slow capabilities, GET THIS ITEM FIRST. Further, it will solve all the “mana problems” some people might think this build has. In all honesty, Banshee’s veil is a better late game item than Force of Nature so I usually get it after Force. Although, I have gone Banshee’s first if the enemy team is STACKED in stuns.
Honorable mention goes to Spirit Visage for the 33 MR, 20/5 sec health regen, and 12% cooldown, but honestly it doesn’t have a good late game impact. Same thing with Aegis. Grants pretty much a little of everything and gives a nice ally buff, but I feel it’s too weak for late game play. Use your skill and cunning to get you successfully past early and mid game play without these mid tier items.
Items I Hate and Think Are Terrible, or have no place with Alistar:
OK, let the trolling begin. I think Guardian Angel is a bad item. Sure it has armor and MR, and you can die once every five minutes. Stop right there. The point of this build is to not die. While that buff isn’t bad (though five minutes is a long time) the benefit of the ability is built into the price. I think money is better spent on items that do a better job at preventing you from dying.
Innervating Locket = Fail. +430 health and +450 mana is nice, but the ally buff it gives doesn’t suit Alistar’s play style and it’s not really that much in late game. Maybe this is good for Soraka but this play style is to make yourself the center of attention and just make people attack you.
Any sort of AP build is just nonsense. Do it if you want to try something different and I’m sure you can win with it and such, but come on. This is Alistar the Tanky Tank.
Phage/Frozen Mallet isn’t the worst choice ever since it gives good health and slows the enemy on each hit. Not worth it for Alistar. Your focus is not attacking enemies. You already do your part with stun/headbutt, and the way I play Alistar is to go straight for the tower and be the sponge in most late game cases. Also, Randuin's active slows everyone's movement and attack around you.
Alistar the Tanky Tank doesn’t take sh** from anyone. Well, maybe in the beginning. Before I go into the key strategies of early, mid, and late game, I need to talk a little bit about zoning. Zoning is everything in this game. You have 5 enemies. Usually 1-2 big guys that can take damage, and 3 squishy guys behind them. KNOW EVERY CHARACTER’S RANGE FOR THEIR BASIC ATTACK AND THEIR SPELLS. This is so important and can only be learned by playing and learning the mechanics of the game. If you move towards an enemy team while taking point, they will most likely counter and move back. Sometimes the big guys will engage you while the squishy guys fire at your from far away. After a few hits, everyone disengages. This is fine… there are lots of skirmishes like that. You will survive skirmishes. Sometimes squishy carries get greedy and move out of their safe zone and commit to kills. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you move forward and their squishies don’t move back and suddenly you’re in range. Make them pay for this mistake. This is how gameplay works and you must understand it in order to be successful.
Team balance is also key. Communicate this during the pre-game champion selection. You’re the tank. Make sure you have another mid health hero to help you initiate, preferably with a stun (Taric, Malphite, etc.). Make sure you have dps carry (shaco, yi, twitch) and a long range nuker (ryze, annie, veigar, etc.). Make sure you have a support character (Zilean, Soraka, Nidalee, etc.). Team balance is key. Having 5 squishy carries is cool cause OMFG SO MUCH DAMAGE! You would probably kill 1 or 2 people from a balanced team, but the remaining 3-4 would clean house. To demonstrate how silly a 5 carry team is, imagine the opposite. A 5 tank team. Yeah. You’d hardly ever die at first but you’d get nowhere. It’s just as ridiculous.
Early game: 1-8
You are (comparatively) fragile early game and your best bet is laning with someone who can do high damage or harass well early. I’ve been very successful laning with a ryze, tristana, zilean, shaco. These guys scare the **** out of opponents and generally keep them away from you, which well let you and your partner farm with relative ease. If anyone gets close, stun them and attack along with your high damage laning partner and they will surely stay away. This is key because keeping them away from farming allows your laning friend to last hit a bunch and pick up some money so they become the carry they are supposed to be later in the game. Conversely, your opponents won’t be able to last hit too well and I often find myself pushing towers early if I have a good carry behind my back. Remember to use Roar (E) on occasion to refill your laning partner’s health, your own health, but ESPECIALLY your minion life bars. You’d be surprised how much a roar or two will prolong the life of a minion, especially when they’re just fighting other minions. If successful, this will bring more of them to the enemy tower which equals a few extra more hits that will make the difference as the game progresses. Remember: Be aggressive but play tight. If you are outmatched, acknowledge it and back away, knowing that later on you’ll be able to turn the tables in team fights. It’s tough to swallow. I specifically remember laning against a sion and ryze combo and let me tell you, stun + exploding shield + Ryze’s RWQE will own Alistar early-mid game. Sucks but it’s true. It sometimes happens if your opponent is sloppy but I’ve flashed within range of a squishy opponent, stunned him with Q, walked behind him, and headbutt (W) him back to my carry, who finishes him off. Against better players this will not happen.
Mid game: 9-14
Things are going a little better for you. At this point you should have a few of your big boy items and the first team fights are starting to break out. While you aren’t invincible quite yet, by now you have a defense profile that matches well with the opponents. If you have a stunning initiator on your team, let them start at this point because you aren’t strong enough to initiate yourself quite yet. I’d rather have a Sion or Morgana stun an enemy carry before I charge in rather than just walk in there and have all 5 enemies focus fire me. In team fights, you should always be point and barrel in. If the enemy is smart, they’ll use some sort of stun or slow. This is when you pop Unbreakable Will (R) which will break that effect and also reduce your damage by a whopping 70%. Most likely, there will be a second sort of slow or stun, whether it be exhaust or another ability. This is where you pop your cleanse and just stroll up to them as they sh** their pants. You stun them, and here is the important part, WALK DIRECTLY BEHIND THEM (yes, they are stunned for a full 2 seconds, and yes, it helps if you have 3 movement speed with boots of swiftness) and Head Butt (W) them BACK TO YOUR TEAM. I have gotten countless kills this way and this happens in all levels of play. Now, pop quiz hot shot. Who do you stun and head butt back to your team?
B) MFing Chogath
D) A squishy, high DPS/Nuker/Support character like Yi, Soraka, Ryze, Zilean
E) I hate this guide and don’t like winning so none of the above
If you picked D, then good for you. If you picked A-C, or E, then I guarantee I’ll see you on the battlefield and eat you for lunch. Or at least make it so my other teammates eat you for lunch, or…. Whatever, you get the point.
Late game: 15-18
This is what you’ve been waiting for. If your team has been well balanced (as I’ve discussed earlier) and you all have been aggressive yet tight (see How to Be Evil guide) then you should be up on kills and tower pushes or at the very least even. You should now have at least 3-4 of the big boy items. Here is where you really shine as a tank and now your strategy really takes off. In team fights, just barrel in with the same strategy as in mid game. If they stun/slow you, throw on unbreakable will and/or cleanse. Now the team is faced with 2 options. 1) Focus all their efforts to kill the giant moo cow or 2) ignore the moo cow ‘cause he’s jacked up on defense and attack his teammates. Now, if they pick option 2, then good for you. Stroll up to their carry/nuker, stun the living bah-jesus out of him, and knock him back to your bloodthirsty friends. Type /taunt. Slap around a few guys while spamming your healing roar (E) a few times, then stun the bah-jesus out of the next dude and hit him again with your headbutt (W). Type /taunt and /dance since everyone will be dead or running away. Now say they choose option one and try to attack you. That’s all fine and dandy, but unless they are a very good team, they are all going to SPAM THEIR SKILLS AT ONCE. Yup. All up front there… while you have... UNBREAKABLE WILL up. Yup. I see it ALL THE TIME, even against lvl 30 guys. I tank-ity tank all up in their face, they flip out and start spamming their AP happy abilities on me, all while I’m reducing 70% of damage. With all honesty, I have initiated into a team fight at level 18 with some good equipment (Randuin’s, banshee’s veil, sunfire, force of nature), thrown out my ult, and after they burst EVERYTHING, I’m still at 50% health. I stun and disable a few people, maybe try to head butt them back, but even if that doesn’t work, the enemy team is completely exhausted and now it’s just time for your already well fed team to clean up. You are excellent at killing turrets now too. So the enemy is down to their last 3 turrets within the base and they are being defensive. Wait for a minion wave to come in… bring your teammates to the cusp of the base… and just walk in and start banging on the turret. Their team will be like “holy F’ing sh** what the f***!!!11!one!!!1” and start spamming their abilities…. All while you have your ult up. Sometimes I’ll even die, but at that point the tower is half dead since my passive skill is 60% additional damage to turrets at this point and my team just plays clean up once again. Everyone is happy. I do my thing, the rest of my team does their own things. The enemy team dies.
Edit: See below for a great point on headbutt that I forgot to cover in my guide.
That’s really all I have for this guide. I hope it has helped you all to play Alistar better because I know there are many out there that just can’t get him to work. I want to thank Condon for inspiring me to write a humorous guide (I don’t even come close to his level of humor. Condon is King.) and I want to especially thank MancerX and Rahceusk, my RL friends who helped me develop my strategies with Alistar and also call me a “nab” whenever I sucked. See you all out there on Summoner’s Rift! :D
NOTE: Here is an excel spreadsheet with DPS counter items sorted by Armor, then health, then AP counter items sorted by MR, then health.
I read it all, didn't see a rune page. Which runes do you prefer?
I like this guide, and I prefer building Alistar tanky, but my only problem with Ali is farming. I just don't feel like I can build half these items in a normal game.
Any suggestions on that? Other than mastering Last hit on minions? Just seems terribly hard to build up gold especially early with a lane partner, when there are no real team fights happening.
By the time the team fights begin I tend to be very undergeared and might as well be a squishy.
Great Guide to be honest [Thumbs up]
Even though... well i've seen bad teams play against alistar [consistently hitting for everything they are worth], and good teams [ignoring him, with tanks taunting him by sitting in his face, while squishies stay away]; I dunno what to say about a "tank" alistar; I find him unimpressive, tank or otherwise. If my team is competent, he's got, at most, major nuissance value, but i'm not remarkably concerned about him.
The problem is, VS a good team, you have a hard time initiating w/o flash, and it does have a long-ass CD.
The simple fact is, you can't win an all out fight with Alistar blocking the way, so a competent team will simply refuse to engage while Alistair is here. The only REAL way for you to make use of tankiness then is to push turrets, and force teamfights with Flash. Incidentally, this is also the one situation where you CAN die mostly due to the Turret pounding you for all its worth.
Furthemore, Madreds can make your life very miserable, and a there are a couple of Anti-Tank abilites and items out there as well [Warwick and that OP lifesteal, for example, or the infamous deathfire].
Also, Alistar is generally weak-ish until he gets his bad boy items, and late game tends to fall behind damage oriented tanks [Nasus and his OMFGWTFRUN ulti, the MFing Cho Gath and his OMFGWTFHAX Stun/Silence/OmNomNom].
good job. Have a cookie!
As for masteries, I generally go straight up defense, though sometimes go a little utility depending on my mood.
Really a stellar guide. I love ending up 1/4/18 as alistar cuz.. we win. and let's face it. no one likes to lose. he is a great addition to any low elo nuke-heavy OMGROFLSTOMP owaitwelost? carry stacked team like so many of us see in pubs all the time. I really appreciate you taking the time to write such an in depth and comprehensive guide.
Also great guide! I know it works cause our team pwns everytime!
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