Alistar is one of those picks that seemingly never goes out of fashion in professional play. As MSF GorillA says, Alistar can just do everything. He’s a strong tank with reliable engage, who can peel the stickiest assassins off of his carries. He works well with most ADCs, as all of them need protection, and he’s fantastic against burst mages and assassins, which are often seen in every game.
Of course, he comes with his set of faults as well. As a melee tank, he can offer no poke and he also can’t deal with it properly in lane, which forces him to play passively unless he can win fights.
"He is a very well-rounded support – he can do everything."
Aftershock is the best keystone on Alistar as he’s a melee tank with lots of CC. The extra bulkiness and damage, that come with proccing Aftershock, is nothing to scoff at, especially in lane. Other runes from Resolve that work great with Alistar are Demolish or Font of Life, Bone Plating and Unflinching. Font of Life is recommended against lanes that are more volatile.
Your secondary tree should be Inspiration, where you can pick up Hextech Flashtraption. This rune gives you an extra gap closer, which works best when used out of vision.
GorillA engages a fight with Hextech Flashtraption
Usually your best options are Flash and Ignite. Ignite gives you the extra oomph you need to get kills in the laning phase. Exhaust is a good alternative if you think that there is a low chance of securing many kills in lane, or if the enemy has a lot of assassins that you will need to deny later on in the game.
Passive: Triumphant Roar
The passive gives Alistar and his ADC a bit of, admittedly, unreliable healing in lane whenever he hard-CCs an enemy or a nearby unit dies. It can help keep you sustained in lane.
This is your bread and butter ability – an AoE knock-up. Works great for both engage and peel.
A targeted knock-back ability that is usually used in conjunction with your Q – but works well on its own as well in some situations too. You can use it to knock enemies away from yourself or your ally, or vise-versa.
This ability deals a little bit of AoE damage in your melee range and builds stacks when it damages an enemy. Once you’ve hit five stacks, your next auto-attack will stun the enemy. This is best used early on in fights and especially on CC’d enemies, who won’t be able to leave your AoE radius.
R: Unbreakable Will
Alistar’s ultimate is a free Cleanse that gives you heaps of damage reduction for seven seconds. It makes you very tanky so be sure to use it when a fight is getting started or when, for example, you’re about to tower dive.
At Level 1 you should pick up Pulverize, but you won’t get much use out of it unless someone happens to walk into your range or you get invaded. Level 2 on the other hand, when you have both Q and W, opens up the option to start engaging fights in lane. Your maxing order goes similarly – Q then W and then E.
1. W Q
This is the quintessential Alistar combo. It entails using Headbutt and then, upon reaching your target, activating Pulverize as well. This ultimately stops the enemy from being knocked back and, instead, they will be knocked-up with little time to react.
2. Q W
Sometimes you don’t need Headbutt in order to hit a Pulverize. This occurs most commonly when an enemy unknowingly steps into a bush that you are hiding in, or if you sacrifice Hexflash or Flash to get into range. After you Pulverize your target, you can reposition yourself while they are knocked-up and then follow up with a knock-back into the direction of your allies or a friendly turret, thus cementing their fate.
3. E W Q
This combo works best when the enemy lane has a melee support. At the start of a skirmish, activate Trample and stack it up while fighting with the enemy support. After reaching five stacks, you can rapidly switch targets by W-Qing the enemy ADC. Now you can easily CC lock the enemy ADC by first knocking them up and then following up with a prepared stun.
GorillA and Hans Sama get an early 2v2 kill with E W Q
Relic Shield is the standard GP10 item for a melee support and Alistar is no exception. Gives you a good amount of gold and some sustain for early game.
On your first back you should aim to purchase Mobility Boots outright, if you have 900 gold. This will make it easier for you to roam and generally make you very intimidating in lane. If you couldn’t accumulate that much, Boots of Speed and Targon’s Brace will do instead.
Your core item is Eye of the Aspect, which gives you some better stats and allows you to carry an extra ward around. After that, there are many items that synergize well with Alistar. If your team needs a shield or you need some MR, pick up Locket of the Iron Solari. Righteous Glory is a great pick-up that will make it easier for you to set up engages for your team. Redemption is a staple support item that works well in pretty much every game, even if the stats don’t complement Alistar all too well.
Zeke’s Convergence and Knight’s Vow are two more great items which will not only benefit you, but also your ADC. The latter will transfer some of the damage your ADC takes to your tanky self, and the former will allow him to deal extra damage to enemies in your melee range, after you use your ultimate.
Alistar can have a tough time in lane depending on what sort of enemy bot lane you are facing. As a melee tank, he doesn’t have any way of reciprocating or denying poke from the enemy support if they are ranged. This means you will have to be very careful and hang around the brush if you want to stay healthy. If you get poked down too hard, you won’t be able to engage without putting yourself at risk.
Another thing that counters Alistar is good peel. Alistar is excellent against immobile ADCs like Draven or Jinx, as they would need to burn flash and rely on their support in order to survive your engages. But if they have a support who has strong disengage, that puts a big dent in your plans.
"If you want to play Alistar you should ban Morgana, Tahm Kench and Gragas"
As a support with powerful all-in, Alistar is best when paired with a burst ADC who can take full advantage of all the CC.
Starting from level two, when you have both Headbutt and Pulverize, Alistar can potentially all-in the enemy ADC/support if they are caught in his range. But prior to getting your full arsenal, you will just need to lay low and survive.
"Alistar is just kind of useless before Level 3."
In a lot of games, Alistar can be a potent roamer. According to GorillA, you can start roaming right at level three, provided you have your Mobility Boots and a gankable enemy mid laner. If they have someone like Fizz or LeBlanc, someone very slippery, then there is probably no use in going. But against someone like Syndra or Orianna, especially if they are pushed towards your ally tower, Alistar’s ganks can be very deadly. If possible, try to coordinate your roaming with your jungler, so that you can both show up at the same time and thus secure a kill for sure.
Alistar can fulfil many roles in a teamfight and which one you tackle depends largely on both your team and the enemy one. Primarily, you will want to keep an eye out for your ADC. If they are fed, they will be sought out by virtually every member of the enemy team – especially if the enemy has assassins. Luckily, Alistar is a terrific peeler. Stick close to your ADC and make sure nobody can kill him without going through you first.
If your ADC is not in particular danger, you can instead focus on picking out enemy champions with your W Q combo and tanking with your ultimate. It is also possible for Alistar to be the primary engager, if your team has no other. In short, Alistar can do anything.
GorillA follows up on sOAZ’s engage with a three-man pulverize
To conclude, Alistar is a very tanky support with a plethora of CC available, who is great at protecting and peeling, but also and engaging fights!
A very special thanks goes to Misfits’ support GorillA, who will leave you guys with one more precious tip:
"If you want to play Alistar, you really need to use Moo Cow Alistar. You have to ring the bell because it's really annoying and it'll make your opponent aggressive. So don't forget the bell!"