I thought I should give an update on where we're at with Alistar. A couple months ago (has it really been that long?) I talked a bit about an Alistar remake we were working on internally. This excited a lot of people. In the process of doing a champion remake, I spent a lot of time learning the champion, as I always do. I got lessons from Reep, played games with him Dapacman, Nicosharp, etc, and played a whole bunch of Alistar myself.
In doing so, I learned that Alistar is really not in a terrible spot, just very hard to play. I have also seen Alistar played successfully periodically in the ELO ranges I play at on my two accounts (1400-1800 solo). From these experiences, my goals for Alistar changed. I no longer believe he needs a large buff, or even a medium one. I think he could use a small buff, but mostly he needs usability tweaks (which were also scheduled along with the buff).
Our initial Alistar changelog for the first remake playtest looked something like this:
Pulverize - AoE increased and normalized to interact more regularly with units of varying sizes; cooldown modified to longer at rank 1 and shorter at rank 5.
Headbutt - Now can target minions, cooldown modified to longer at rank 1 and shorter at rank 5; damage increased slightly toward upper ranks.
Triumphant Roar - Cooldown, cost, and effect reduced about 15% (this is to support the new passive better).
Unbreakable Will - no longer provides attack damage; now removes debuffs in an area around Alistar as well as himself.
Trample - new passive. Whenever Alistar casts a spell, he gains a bit of move speed, can walk through units, and deals area damage for a few seconds (stacks and overlaps). EDIT: currently Trample does damage turrets. This isn't set in stone but is currently helping him not lose his pusher role.
Now, before you say it, yes this was way overpowered. Our initial thought for Alistar was to give him a new, distinct role in the tank lineup - anti AoE-CC. In doing so we were able to remove Attack Damage from his ultimate (which did synergize with his passive but muddied the spell's clarity of purpose and also doesn't really feel like it belongs on a tank), which was a goal. We also wanted to improve his farming so we tried out our first attempt at the passive Trample. It made him better at nearly everything - escaping, farming, killing, you name it. Clearly OP
So we went on, nerfing the remade Alistar as we playtested and he continued to mash faces. In the next version, we made Trample simply refresh and not stack, which helped a bit with his killing-anyone-at-level-2 problem, and in the test after we nerfed down the move speed some more on Trample so he wouldn't be so unkillable.
We tested this new version a few more times, and it was still overpowered, but we also had a new observation. Nobody really seemed to like the AoE cleanse on Unbreakable Will. It created odd scenarios like do I use my Unbreakable Will despite being at full health and not targeted? Plus Alistar often have to take a second to move next to the CC'ed carry and by that time it was somewhat not useful to cleanse him anyway. So we shelved that mechanic for now, although we might use it on a future champion in a better form (pair it with a more suitable off effect, and it probably needs to be target-AoE rather than PBAoE). In doing so, we moved movement speed from the still-too-strong Trample to the ultimate. This new version seems to be a pretty good direction for Alistar, but still pretty strong.
One alternate approach we've thought about as well is to give him a reduced cooldown passive on his Triumphant Roar slot (like Heimerdinger's Upgrade!!!) so that his cooldowns don't get too out of control with max CDR. I don't particularly like this approach however as it's akin to "Lowers the champion's cooldowns but also the CDR cap" and it feels like a bad solution... but it does give him lower average cooldowns but mitigates the extremes, so it probably could work even though I'm not a big fan.
One last particularly controversial nerf came in near the end - reduced stun duration on Alistar's Pulverize. If we want a shorter cooldown and better hitbox on it, the disable time has to go down, too. In reality his Pulverize is almost as good as an ultimate. His priority has also been reduced since he's really not underpowered, just really tough to use and possibly a bit overshadowed. I'm still working on him occasionally when I have time, but patches take a lot of time and effort. We still have not decided for certain if we want to move forward with the Trample passive or not. It might just be too strong overall, and it is a pretty big kit shift away from turret pushing (even though it seems to be a net buff). Then there's always the concern of how the community would accept an Alistar buff that included a nerf to Pulverize duration.
One of the initial complaints about Alistar is that he's very summoner spell reliant because he's so reliant on his positioning. You can often make your own positioning by Headbutting enemies into walls or using the Headbutt-midair-Pulverize combo, so I don't think he's as reliant on summoner spells as people make him out to be. Too much help here would be too strong IMO. One of the things I like best about his current version is now you can Headbutt to a minion next to a champion, then Pulverize. While this is weaker than the Headbutt-midair-Pulverize combo, it's easier to do. So you have flexible options.
So what do the Alistar players think? Are these acceptable tradeoffs for some of the buffs you guys are looking for? Or would you rather see a more scaled back approach? His kit is clearly strong - AoE stun of almost ultimate quality, a knockback, an admittedly weak AoE heal, a massive damage reduction, and debuff removal. So we could probably solve any problems he has with numbers (though this is possibly even more risky). The new version looks a little like this:
Pulverize - reduced cooldown at upper ranks, reduced stun duration, increased AoE size
Headbutt - deals more damage, reduced cooldown at upper ranks, can target minions
Triumphant Roar - reduced cost, effect, and cooldown by about 15%
Unbreakable Will - provides movement speed instead of attack damage
Trample passive - on casting a spell, Alistar gains AoE damage (like Tremors) and can walk through units for 3 seconds.
EDIT: One thing I forgot to add is that yes we plan to increase his difficulty and remove the recommended tag. Good point.
Sorry that this turned into more of a blog than a forum post. I didn't intend for it to happen this way. I feel like I'm forgetting a few inb4's, but I'm being summoned to the Tol Barad raid boss guy. I hope this turns into a good discussion!