With my Pretender God design I'm particularly interested in Sacred units. Sacred units cost half upkeep and don't cost all that much more initially considering their quality. Even if they can't get Bless active they're close to the cost effectiveness of regular units. Once you can get Bless going with my Pretender God set up these units are amazing.
The place to start when analysing a civ's units is the Mod Inspector. Here's what the forces of
The top 11 units are Commanders available immediately to recruit in my cities. 2 of them will only ever be available at the Capital Province. Another one is available in Foreign provinces, I'm not sure what that means.
The next unit, the Lar, is my only magically Conjured unit. I'll have to train up the Conjuration school of magic to 5 before I can start summoning them. I like the stats so I'll definitely add that as a mini-goal for this playthrough. I think they would make great behind the lines stealthy harassing units.
The last 13 units are the basis of my army. Only one of them has the candelabra symbol showing it as sacred, the Equite of the Sacred Shroud. Annoyingly it's cap only which will make producing them and getting them to the frontline tricky in the late game. I'll need to be on the lookout for options
Among my other units I have a Standard which is worth adding one of to every squad, several types of heavy infantry and several types of skirmisher. My missile troops are rather poor quality.
Let's now look at my commander types.
I have 5 sacred commanders and the powerful defensive buffs are an important consideration on a commander. It's very annoying if a commander dies, especially if he or she was carrying lots of magic items.
The same 5 all have Priest skills allowing them to turn on the buffs I picked when I made my Pretender God. One of them has level 3 Priest which makes him able to bless the entire battlefield with one spell, a significant milestone ability.
The Lar is sacred but not a priest. If I want to use them as soloing thugs I'll have to give them an item that lets them activate a Bless. They will also be a fine addition to my regular army stacks.
The Legatus Legionis has Leadership 120 which makes him an exceptionally fine commander. Most units he commands will get +2 morale so I want these guys running my armies as far as practicably possible. I also want to look for ways to turn this key unit Sacred.
I have some Commanders with utility abilities. My augur units have fortune telling which is a chance for a negative random event to be cancelled. It could be quite useful to have them around any key strategic province or high income province I'll possibly place one wherever I put a castle, quietly Researching away.
I have Assassins which are great for, well, disposing of enemy commanders. With a few magic items as Assassin can be made strong enough to comfortably beat commanders who would otherwise fight back too effectively or commanders who have bodyguards. However best not to invest too much as it's a risky role.
I also have the vanilla Scouts which are cheap mobile and very useful. The more intel, the better the plan.
Now let's look at magic skills. First let's list out the potential and I'm going to explain my system for doing that.
A Flamen gets one point of Fire skill and then a second point which can be either Fire, Air, Water, Earth or Nature. I list that as FFAWEN (2 Fire, Air, Water, Earth Nature). You'd never see a Flamen with FFAWEN skills - it's potential from my Empire's entire stock of actual and potential Flamen. It's useful in this format because it let's me see at a glance what could be available to me.
For example if I want to cast a Nature Ritual like Contact Lar I will need both Nature gems and a Nature mage with one skill. The only possibility for a Nature Mage in my civ is the Flamen. (Other than getting my God to do it and I'd much prefer not to waste Caligula's valuable time). I am going to have to roll Flamen until I get lucky and get a Nature one. It could also help with site searching.
This is my mage list:
Augur Elder FFFASSDDD (Note S = Arcane, or Star magic. Note 2 I disregard completely any schools that are listed at 10% chance as it's a mistake I think to try to roll a DDDD Augur Elder. The probability is just too low)
Pretender God (arrives after 3 years) FFFAAAWWWEEESSSDDDNNNBBB
Next I have a hard look at what I can do with the lowest units, the Augurs and Pontifexes. These are my cheap units and I may deploy them en masse if I can find a good use for them.
So let's now look at all the combat spells that can be cast by a mage of Fire skill 1.
OK. So I don't think I can support casting the two top ones which permanently use up a fire gem each cast across dozens of low level magi so we'll disregard those two. I also don't like spells with no range as these are pansy little magi who will die very quickly if they go up close to heavy infantry. The spells that stand out as useful are mostly single target nukes or debuffs. This is my list: Combustion, Blindness, Fire Darts, Bonds of Fire.
Now there are some spells I don't want them to have. If they know how to Resist Cold they will be casting that on themselves instead of nuking a bad guy and 98% of fights aren't against things that will hit them with cold spells. (It's the big bastards on the horses coming to chop your heads off you need to worry about guys). So I'd like to tailor my list to add in the good spells and exclude the self-buff rubbish. I want Alteration 2, Alteration 6, Evocation 1, Thaumaturgy 2. I don't want Alteration 2, Evocation 1, Enchantment 1 and 3. I can research very elegantly therefore by just going to Thaumaturgy 2 which would add a good spell for all my Fire magi without adding in any rubbish or I can bite the bullet and accept that them sometimes self-buffing Resist Cold against a line of Archers is just a price I have to pay to get Combustion.
OK, we've analysed Fire 1 which is relevant to all magi from my civ (except the summons). That's going to be the backbone of my magical support. I did just now consider whether I could base my strategy around Augurs (FS) rather than Pontifexes (F) but there's not great low level Arcane battle magic and the upkeep of Augurs is a lot more which matters when you're thinking about adding 10 to every army. If a tie breaker were needed Pontifexes are Sacred and Augurs aren't.
Next consideration is whether to equip them with items to make them more effective. Pros: same upkeep cost, much better spells. Cons: initial gem cost for each pontifex, will not at first have access to the powerful spells.
It's a midgame/lategame strategy but let's look at it now anyway.
These are the items I'm considering adding:
Let's have another look at the Fire combat spells, except this time our guys will have FF (2 Fire skill) and a free gem to burn (heh).
OK there's now some really nice options. Hydrophobia looks a nice late game spell. Or I can use Phoenix Power which is a self-buff that adds a point of Fire skill and use these lowbie units to cast skill 3 spells such as Firestorm which nukes the entire battlefield or have them each summon a powerful Fire Elemental.
There are other options. I could base my spellcasting strategy around my more expensive mages which would give me other schools to look at and start from a higher skill level but I think we can see that several Pontifexes (upkeep 32 gold/turn) will be more powerful than a couple of Augur Elders (168 upkeep/turn) for gold spent.