Alistar is a champion which is not on the radar of many supports right now; yet Madlife received the MVP award in yesterdays (19/07/2013) OGN HOT6iX Champions Summer 2013 round of 16 event between KT Rolster Bullets and CJ Entus Frost for playing Alistar. It was a great game and I suggest you watch it.
You’d be forgiven for not appreciating the context of this pick. Alistar was neither picked nor banned in the whole of the OLYMPUS Champions Spring 2013 tournament, and so far in the HOT6iX Champions Summer 2013 tournament he has only been picked once. Further to this, the prominence of this match should not be understated because Frost were 1-0 down to KTB in what was to surely be a deciding match in the group stage.
People who are more recent to the scene or who don’t follow the Korean scene as closely may not be aware that, historically, teams have always been afraid of Madlife’s Alistar. Whilst Madlife hasn’t played Alistar very much in season 3 – if you doubt the power of his cow – then I suggest you watch this video.
And although Reginald might not be the most respected player in North America, he certainly appreciates a good player:
“[Madlife] was known for so long as a fantastic Alistar player, that’s really how he made a name for himself …before the Blitzcrank days even. So kicking it old-school this time.”
DoA on Madlife picking Alistar against KT Rolster B.
To an extent, the way Madlife played Alistar in terms of the roam and gank threat he consistently possessed, reminded me of the very famous M5 v Dignitas game in the IEM Season VI – World Championship back in March 2012; this might not seem a long time ago, but in the context of League of Legends it’s nice to see how far the game has progressed.
Why did Madlife choose Alistar?
When Madlife chose Alistar, he chose him after the support had been confirmed as Nami by KT Bullets. Madlife didn’t choose a champion until he had 21 seconds left and then instantly locked in Alistar.
- CJ Frost lacked a real initiator and considering Thresh was banned, it made sense for Madlife to choose either Alistar or Blitzcrank. The problem with Blitzcrank in this scenario is that it would have almost completely relied on Madlife hooking the correct targets; and whilst nobody will ever doubt the astonishing skill that Madlife possesses with Blitzcrank, the movement speed buffs from Nami and Nunu on Varus combined with Ezreal’s Arcane Shift would have made it incredibly difficult for Madlife to hook anyone of real value.
- Alistar has a lot of engage which can break crowd control up. He can also be used as an effective counter engage. If Alistar and Orianna could keep KT Bullets locked up for an effective Vladimir ultimate – Hemoplague – then Twitch’s Spray and Pray would deal 12% more damage to each target. This is a huge amount which theoretically would tear through both bruisers and carries. You’ll see later on that Madlife selects specific runes, masteries and items to allow him to quickly initiate or counter-initiate when his team needed him to.
- Picking Alistar after the other support was vital. Whilst counter picking support champions is rarely seen in competitive play, if KTB had chosen a Soraka it would have exponentially increased the difficulty of initiating with Alistar. In most scenarios Madlife would use headbutt as a gap closer only to be silenced instantly by Score, this would result in whoever Madlife headbutted being flung to safety. Whilst Soraka isn’t seen to be the most competitive of supports, she is an extremely effective counter to Alistar. Other characters like Fiddlesticks do well because the terrify performs the same function as Soraka’s infuse but terrify has a 0.1s cast time; this means that in most cases Madlife would have been able to perform a full combo. In regards to Nami, Nami has no real way of stopping Alistar’s crowd control chain which becomes a problem for KT later in the game.
- Whilst there are other supports such as Sona who can lock characters into place, these are all lessened by Tenactiy. Tenacity does not effect the knockup duration of 1 second and headbutt is not a stun. Consider Nunu and Zac had been selected, it made sense to not focus on tenacity negatable crowd control considering Zac gains 50% tencacity on Let’s Bounce! and Nunu will often build Spirit of the Ancient Golem. Also inSec, in the previous game, had already shown how effective knockups are against double ad compositions combined with Orianna ults; and whilst they didn’t have the follow up Nami ultimate it was certainly not necessary in this game.
- MonteCristo’s quote below is spot on. When you appreciate that the major thorn in CJ Frost’s previous match was inSec’s Malphite then it makes sense to use a support character who has abilities as similar to that as possible and then beat the composition in the same way.
This is very characteristic of KT Rolster B. When they beat a composition that they see their opponents use, they frequently mimic it in the second game. They have kind of an attitude about ‘oh you did that wrong, we’ll show you how it’s done’.
MonteCristo on KT’s attitude.
Revealed: Runes and Masteries
It’s impossible to be exactly sure about the runes and masteries that Madlife used in terms of his glyphs and a few mastery points; however, there are many logical deductions that can be made. Whilst I won’t bore you with the details of how I worked out what Madlife used, I can sum it up quickly. Essentially I compare the stats found in this screenshot I took
and compared it to his base stats found here. Whilst I found the results slightly surprising here is what I’ve found Madlife to use (obligatory Sherlock Holmes quote). If you do want a step by step article based on how I worked out the runes and masteries then I can post that for you at a later date.
I am 100% certain that the defensive mastery tree is correct. There are points of contention in the utility tree – though – these are pretty minor. For example I know for a fact that Madlife runs 21 points in utility but I can’t be certain about him using 2 points in Mastermind (summoner spell CDR) or the extended ward line of sight; that would take far too long to test. The major sections in the utility tree which I know to be fact are:
- Expanded Mind – extra mana per level
- Greed – extra gold per 10
- Wealth – increase in starting gold
- Biscuiteer – regenerative biscuit
- Explorer – 60s ward
- Nimble – 3% movespeed
I’ll stress again that I know that the defensive tree is 100% correct but the arguable ones in the utility tree would simply take too long to ratify plus OGN might not even show me the data. I’d also like to add that I’ve based the speculative points on mastery pages he often uses for other champions which is why I think it’s likely that he put a point in the scout – 25% increased range for 5 seconds – mastery as an example.
The rune page was obviously a lot less speculative and all the runes are correct apart from the glyphs. But like I mentioned above he probably used either flat or scaling mana regen on Alistar. If you’ve ever played Alistar you’ll know that he suffers from mana problems during the laning phase. It should be noted that whilst he definitely did not use magic resist, he could have used cooldown reduction, health regen or magic penetration but I don’t consider these rune choices particularly likely.
Proof that these are the correct runes:
Runes and Masteries Analysis
Madlife’s actually utilising a very good mix and match approach which is made specifically for this match. These runes and masteries are fine tuned for this matchup and it’s really very apparent because of how random they appear to be. Whilst I was shocked at the runes and masteries that Madlife used, with due diligence it’s quite easy to appreciate the genius.
Like most professional supports he opts to not use gold per 10 runes simply because, at the competitive level, every stat counts. Against the double attack damage composition that KTB were using (Ezreal mid and Varus bot) the +29 armour would be incredibly useful. It also helps against the auto attack harass that both Nami and Ezreal were likely going to give a melee champion. As I said before, the mana regen is standard on Alistar and so is extra hp. What’s most surprising is actually the mastery page.
Running 0/9/21 on a melee champion is a risk. You’ll normally see people running something like 1/13/16 with more of an emphasis on the defensive tree than Madlife used. But, because he appreciated that he was going to be the team’s major initiator, he wanted the extra movement speed from nimble without having to sacrifice extra armour and health in the quintessence area. The movement speed was necessary to roam around the map and to initiate fights; good examples of this are seen in the match. His focus on these stats are solidified by his itemisation.
Madlife is famously good at controlling map vision with sight and pink wards and oracle’s elixir. On a melee champion such as Alistar this becomes more difficult because clearing wards with a ranged champion is far safer. Madlife’s itemisation always focused on map control:
This is a standard pickup for melee supports. It brings hp and map vision.
- Philosopher’s Stone
Many European supports opt to skip the Philosopher’s Stone but it makes sense to buy this considering that Madlife was always going to rush Shurelya’s as his first major item. Whilst the stats aren’t terribly useful, the gp/10 is great for snowballing. I don’t think Madlife would have bought this item had he not intended to rush Shurelya.
- Boots of speed
The one thing you’ll notice that all the items Madlife buys have in common is map control. It’s hard to roam and successfully initiate if you aren’t at least the same speed as the enemy team. It’s also great for covering the map more quickly to ward and de-ward.
- Mobility boots and Oracle’s elixir
This is the most obvious combination to buy next and Oracle’s compliments the boots of mobility. It’s very common to use both mobility boots to initiate and to clear wards as quickly as possible. They’re easily the best choice for a melee support.
In the latter fights you’ll probably observe Madlife backing off when his crowd control is on cooldown, attempting to rekindle his movement speed buff.
- Shurelya’s Reverie
This of course finished off his movement speed tangent. Shurelya’s allows for both a quick engage and a quick disengage. Considering Madlife was Frosts only consistent method of initiation, Shurelya’s makes a lot of sense. A lot of inexperienced supports will make the mistake of not quickly upgrading the Philosopher’s Stone into a Shurelya because it loses them the gp/10 bonus. This is a very bad mistake to make because a good use of the Shurelya active is far more likely to win you the game then holding onto the 5 gp/10 for another 10 minutes.
The camping of the tri-brush
It needs to be noted that CJ Frost were immediately behind in the bottom lane because Space almost face checked the tri-brush in which Mafa and Score were waiting. By 2:38 Space decided to recall which made a huge experience discrepancy between the bot lanes.
The short term significance was that after KaKAO had put some pressure bot lane, he attempted to steal the red buff when it respawned. Nothing came of it though with both bot lanes dancing around red until KT conceded it. What came next was impressive.
KaKAO ganks bot
KaKAO ganked through the river brush and forced Madlife to use his ultimate. The main difference between Madlife and other Alistar players is that Madlife will almost always use his ultimate – Unbreakable Will – at the right moment. He uses it when he has a lot of hp, he does not use it to try and save the last few hit points. Whilst that is a good baiting tactic, Madlife placed himself in front of Space, absorbing as much damage as possible. If Madlife had activated his ultimate any later then I’m sure that the resulting kill would not have happened and it would have been 1:0 to KTB with the extra 100g from first blood.
Whilst it’s hard to see because of the camera angle, Space flashes and Madlife headbutts KaKAO to secure first blood before Madlife dies.
Both players had an intricate understanding of exactly how much damage they do. If you want to get to better at the game this is one of the best ways to improve because it allows you to make calculated decisions instead of hopeful ones.
Space then managed to somehow dodge Score’s Piercing Arrow making the trade worth it even though Varus was now 20 cs ahead by 9:30.
Madlife’s own brush camping
Because it wasn’t shown on camera, the best way to illustrate Madlife’s next beautiful play is to show that he had been waiting in the lane brush closest to the red tower for approximately 20 seconds. He waits for Score and Mafa to walk past. It’s more logical for Madlife to be in the first brush because that’s where every other Alistar player would have been. The main reason for this is because their lane is behind. Varus has a BF sword and a vampiric sceptre whilst Twitch has a bilgewater cutlass. It seems foolish for Madlife to want to fight but he appreciates that whilst his own ultimate is on cooldown, so is Varus and Nami’s.
As soon as he sees that Mafa is a good position to headbutt he knocks him forward towards Score. The logic behind going for Nami is that she is an easier position to headbutt – Varus would just walk away – and Nami bought a philosopher’s stone compared to Madlife’s sightstone. This means that Mafa is significantly squishier than he should be, at approximately 850hp, and would have about 200 hp less than Varus.
After Madlife headbutted Nami, he waited. He didn’t immediately pulverise. This is further proved by the fact that he actually walks up to Nami and auto attacks her. Madlife had two options, immediately pulverise Nami and possibly let Varus kill either Twitch himself or wait and bank on the fact that Mafa will flash back in Score’s direction allowing for an easy double pulverise. It was a zero risk strategy because Nami would not have been able to flash further than the range of Madlife’s pulverise.
If you look at the situation that Madlife is now in it seems like a waste of time to follow, but, Madlife chased Varus because he knew that CloudTemplar was coming down the river. Because Madlife chased Varus, he forced his flash for free. It was great communication from Frost.
As much as we want to praise Madlife in this next section, the next kill was actually a huge misplay by Score. Madlife sneaked through the river to flank Score through the tri-brush and Score stayed under tower despite Madlife’s position being ferociously pinged at by KTB. If I was to guess as to why Score stayed under tower it would either be because he assumed Madlife was warding KTB’s blue buff or that he misunderstood how Unbreakable Will worked. My reasoning for the latter is that as Madlife was launching himself towards Score the animation for Chain of Corruption began but Score used it too late. Plus Unbreakable Will removes all crowd control so it would have been ineffective anyway. Whilst it was a nice play to use Alistar’s ultimate to tank the tower it was more of a misplay by Score.
These two kills which twitch picked up allowed him to re-coup the cs difference between him and Varus and also put him at 3:0.
When you discern headbutt’s function you’ll notice that it’s used to effectively “stun” a champion against a wall or to displace a champion to your advantage. In this case, Madlife simply uses headbutt to get in range of Ryu by headbutting a minion in range of him. There are two main advantages to this:
- The more obvious one is that if you charge a minion instead of a champion and if you mess up the headbutt-pulverise combination then the minion will be displaced but the champion, Ezreal, won’t go flying to safety. Realistically, Madlife is not worrying about this.
- The second, more intricate reasoning is that Madlife has milliseconds to react. Space has just unstealthed and used the BotRK active onto Ryu. At that exact moment Madlife has to be on top of Ryu or he simply arcane shifts then flashes to safety with almost full hp. But because Madlife headbutted towards that minion it gets him to his destination ever so slightly more quickly. Now whilst this might seem minute and almost irrelevant but if you look at what happens underneath you’ll see that Ryu’s reactions are so quick that he manages to arcane shift as he’s being knocked-up by Madlife.
Whilst Space made the initial play by stealthing towards Ezreal and using the BotRK active, Madlife’s fantastic reactions by using the minion to get towards Ryu even more quickly cemented the play and the kill.
Do the same thing. Over and over again.
It has to be said that for Score to be pushed up that far without a river ward is terrible practice. Once again he almost seems to be giving up free kills – that said – it’s Madlife and Space who are pro actively searching for the kills.
Madlife didn’t need to headbutt a minion this time because Score had just flashed and Varus doesn’t have any gap closers.
Madlife demonstrates Alistar’s flaws
Alistar is incredibly vulnerable if his ultimate does not have perfect timing. A good example of this is when KaKAO empired in the brush next to dragon. The Nunu ultimate melted Frost and because Madlife did not sense the Absolute Zero he lost so much hp that Unbreakable Will was essentially useless. Map vision is so key for Alistar and it’s something that Madlife is possibly the best at in the game: controlling the map. This is one of the main reasons that Madlife is such a good Alistar, if you can control the map vision then you can roam very efficiently. In this case though, Madlife did not have full control of the area.
Another problem with Alistar in competitive play is that the champion is essentially useless after using headbutt and pulverise. At max rank Pulverise has a 13 second cooldown and Headbutt has a 10 second cooldown. From Madlife’s masteries you can see that he probably had 6% cooldown reduction. From the masteries alone – which was actually Madlife’s only source of CDR for much of the game – Pulverise has a 12.2 second cooldown and Headbutt has a 9.4 second cooldown. If we include the Shurelya’s Reverie (10% CDR) which he bought late into the game we see that Pulverise now has a 10.9 second cooldown and Headbutt has an 8.4 second cooldown. This is a very long time which means that you have to use Alistar’s crowd control as efficiently as possible. It showed in the match because I don’t recall a single fight in which Madlife managed to chain his crowd control together more than once. Whilst Alistar is a great champion for microing skills such as body-blocking he’s certainly not as useful as the majority of other supports when their crowd control is on cooldown.
Madlife’s Unbreakable Will
Madlife didn’t want the Varus ultimate to lock him in place because it would have left him in a very vulnerable position. Madlife would almost certainly have needed to pop Unbreakable Will too early meaning that he’d lose some valuable seconds of the ultimate.
Madlife managed to knockup three members of KTB which gave Space and CloudTemplar enough time to kill Zac’s Cell Divison. As he knocked the playewrs up he almost simultaneously popping Unbreakable Will in one incredibly slick movement.
It was an incredibly audacious move to initiate onto KTB despite being a member down but it paid off and Space managed to secure a quadra kill; Madlife didn’t die either, in fact, he was barely scratched.
How to outplay an Ezreal
Madlife patiently waited with his crowd control as he could see that neither Shy, Ganked by mom nor CloudTemplar needed help, having over a 9k lead gives you this luxury. He spotted both Mafa and Ryu grouped together – immediately popped Unbreakable Will – and in one quick movement flashed on top of both Nami and Ezreal immediately pulverising them.
Again Madlife reacted quickly. He stepped forwards and just as the stun was wearing off of Ezreal and then headbutted him. This meant that the headbutt effected Ezreal’s Arcane Shift effectively landing him next to Madlife. It was a huge outplay and great prediciton from Madlife to estimate where Ryu would try and Arcane Shift to. To be honest Frost were so far ahead it mattered very little but it really does highlight Madlife’s impeccable timing and placement of his crowd control.
I’m just on a Madlife high right now.
I found some highlights, they’re ok but they’re not the best.
This article was written as a pilot to test the waters so I’d really appreciate some feedback.