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How to Counter: Alistar

By Strongbad - 17th June 2011 - 02:28 AM

A major factor in increasing one's experience and skill in any competitive game is the importance of countering. In League of Legends, this is no different. Be it adapting to the new characters introduced every two weeks, or learning how to work around tried and true strategies used by older characters, countering is amazingly important. This series focuses on this element of the game by offering techniques, lesser known secrets and general tips to avoid getting dominated by that flavor of the month strategy.

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How to counter...Alistar the Minotaur

Basic Introduction

Alistar is a Tank champion who controls the area around him in several ways. He is fairly predictable, but has the kit to do what he needs to do very effectively.

First his passive:
  • Trample (Innate): Each time Alistar casts a spell he will be able to move through units and will deal 9 + (1 x level) + (+0.1 per ability power) magic damage per second to nearby enemy units and structures for 3 seconds. It deals double damage to minions and monsters.
So in a lane, he gets to go through minions and you don't. It needs to be noted that if he pulverizes you in the middle of your minions, he can still walk behind you for the headbutt, which is something he couldn't do as easily before the rework.

His first two abilities are what make him most effectively played as a Tank:
  • Pulverize (Active): Alistar smashes the ground where he is standing, dealing magic damage to all enemies in the area and knocking them up for 1 second and stunning them upon landing for 0.5 seconds. Radius of AoE: 365
  • Headbutt (Active): Alistar charges at an enemy and rams them, dealing damage and knocking them back (it does not stun). Range: 650 / Knockback Distance: 650
The Pulverize-->Headbutt combo is an initiation like Singed's slow and fling except of course Alistar will have a bit of time to line up which direction he wants to send you 650 distance away.
The Headbutt-->Pulverize combo is either a clever headbutt into a wall and then a Pulverize for good measure, or a way for Alistar to reach your team without using Flash. So just because you don't mind taking a headbutt to the face doesn't mean you should.
  • Triumphant Roar (Active): Alistar lets out a commanding war cry, instantly restoring health to himself, and nearby friendly units for half of that amount. The cooldown is reduced by 2 seconds each time a nearby enemy unit dies. Radius of AoE: 200
    Self Heal: 60 / 90 / 120 / 150 / 180 (+0.4 per ability power)
This ability pushes minion waves hard which makes him an even better tower killer. Also if Alistar goes for an ability power heavy build (usually after being fed or the other team being under leveled) it is a useful lane harass and post-team fight push heal.
  • Unbreakable Will (Active): Alistar lets out a wild roar, removing all crowd control effects from himself. He also gains bonus physical damage and takes 75% reduced physical and magic damage for a few seconds.
    Cost: 150 mana
    Cooldown: 120 / 100 / 80 seconds
    Duration: 6 / 7 / 8 seconds
    Bonus Damage: 60 / 75 / 90
6-8 seconds for charging into your team or baiting your team. Don't waste long cool down CC on him before he activates Unbreakable Will. Not that you shouldn't be focusing him, but sometimes you need to ensure safety during the horrible moments you are running from an Alistar with an activated Shurelya's Reverie.

Countering in Lane

Roaming Alistar

Alistar is often used as a CCbot for arranged teams. He sacrifices levels and gold for the chance to make his teammates win their lane. With a flash-pulverize-headbutt combo he can get a kill on unsuspecting or cleverly baited enemy lanes. Just his walking into a lane can cause enemy champions to waste summoner spells and think twice about coming out from their towers, which leads to the first tip:

Panic flashing: Alistar wants you to flash/ghost before he or a teammate uses their flash/ghost/exhaust. Risk and reward logic might tell you your reaction time might not be good enough if they decide to engage with summoner spells, and so get to safety as fast as you can. However during early/mid game he can easily just come back before your cool downs are refreshed. Keep in mind panic flashing doesn't just happen during the lane phase.

Try to find a way to avoid engagement without using summoners.
  1. If you're willing to play a champion with a built in jump, do it.
  2. If you can bait to allies for an advantage, do it.
  3. Also note that sometimes (while rare) flashing/ghosting after his combo is more useful than before it.
  4. Buying wards and staying on the opposite side of the lane can really discourage an Alistar from committing.
Roaming Alistar is certainly a powerful tool in an organized team, but with good warding, his risk will not pay off and if caught alone (and with enough allies) he can be easy kills. Also, while Alistar is out of bottom lane, harass his lane partner and deny farm. Probably not a good idea to over extend yourself and do an exp deny-zone if it's a decent level of ELO (which most roaming Alistars are found at), but you could try it if you're confident you can escape the Alistar wrath when he returns.

Lane Alistar

If the team decides Alistar needs more than 20 minion kills for them to be a functional squad, Alistar can and will farm up a storm. Tip two:

Burning the Cow-Farm: Like most melee champions who are competent lane farmers, Alistar uses healing to ignore incoming harassment. So besides silencing him into using only auto attacks (which can be mana costly), the Grievous Wounds effect can discourage him from slapping minions within your attack range. If playing as one of those champions, and you are willing to give up the solo lane to shut down the lane Alistar, then do your job and don't let him benefit from his spammable heal. Also, if you are confident in your damage dishing abilities and are branding him with your harassment, there's a chance he will be pushing his lane with his AOE heal, which can be a huge advantage if you have a dedicated ganker. Unfortunately, no one has auto attack range high enough to be outside of his 650 headbutt range (except Tristana late in the game), but if you have some way to regenerate that health from the headbutt damage, go ahead and mess with the horns.

Lane Alistar will get a Sheen and if he is accompanied by another champion, he will knock down your tower if you aren't careful. So unless a gank is coming to your lane, letting minions reach your tower isn't always the best idea.

Jungle Alistar

Like all counter jungling, ward or ping for a CV at the appropriate time and either steal wraiths or golems or go for a kill at red or golems. He is low on health and sometimes even mana during those last two camps and is vulnerable to a good counter jungler like Nunu, Nocturne or Udyr. Also keep in mind he has a slow jungle, so if you have a way to do a few camps and then head over for a camp steal/gank.

Ability Power Alistar

With a bit of CDR and a lot of Ability Power, Alistar has a decent kit for dishing out damage. However, after his ultimate is down, he's just another squishy melee wannabe. Don't reward him for going for the risk build. Kite him and his team while his ultimate is on, and when it's off beat him like a rented mule. It's very important to notice his items every time he re-enters a lane. If he pops his ultimate there is usually very little reason to fight him during those 6-8 seconds. This is where the true damage counter champions really shine because if he tries to use his ultimate to make an escape, they can still tear him apart.

Specific heroes

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Cho-Gath: Knock-up/slow, silence, true damage.
Gragas: Counter-positioning CC, small AOE slow, long ranged harass/farm
Irelia: Slow/stun, jump, CC reduction, true damage
Vayne: High mobility and ranged true damage plus a knockback to prevent him engage.

The two tanks need to make sure Alistar can't reach their carry, and if they can reach him towards the end of the fight, dishing out the damage after his ultimate is off will help the team a lot.
Irelia can make an over extended Alistar pay. If your team has a way to keep his slower teammates off, shred his ultimate and slow/stun him so he can't reach your carry.
Vayne on the other hand, as a ranged mobile assassin, can dodge pulverize, throw him away from the team and possibly stun against a wall. Plus, the true damage procs will help fighting against his Ultimate.

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Sona: The movement speed chord is huge for kiting teams, counter initiation with ultimate
Morgana: Spell blocking shield, snare, beefy
Janna: Counter initiation ultimate, knock-up, slow

Sona and Morgana like to get right in the action and force enemy champions to do what they want to do. Make sure your carry is protected and then give your team the advantage in the team fight.
Janna will babysit the carry making sure they have no potential threats jumping through the fight towards the carry. She has a lot of useful tools to make sure Alistar doesn't headbutt the carry into his team.

Tip 3: If you don't have any really hard counters to Alistar consider Rylai's Crystal Scepter on some casters, Rylai's syncs very well with AOE or spammable single target slows. (e.g.: Malzahar)

Items to Watch For

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These are the early game items that will have the biggest impact on his early game.
Sheen: with his spammable nature, this allows him to do extra damage in low level team fights and hit towers hard, which works well with his minion pushing heal.
Philosopher's Stone: Mana and Health regeneration, Gold per 5.
Shurelya's Reverie: Health, recipe uses Philosopher's Stone, CDR, movement speed boost active.

Remember to check his items often to know how to counter him.
AP build: burst him after his ultimate is down.
Tank build: Lower his mobility, kill last.
Gold/5 build (usually roaming): Ward the map, find him alone with some of your allies and burst him down, but never chase an Alistar into their jungle.