|Marius the Demoniac|
|Marius was the mate of Calh for several years, finally splitting up when it became clear that Calh did not agree with her 'master plan' to rid the world of those disgusting, do-good woodland creatures.|
|Starting primary skills:|
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|Starting troops :|
|Starting movement points:|
The in-game description "Increases the Attack and Defense skills of any Demons or Horned Demons for each level attained after 4th level." is erroneous in "each level attained" moment, and lacks the speed bonus information. (Description is fixed in HotA ).
Unlike the native terrain speed bonus, the creature specialty speed bonus can affect the hero's movement points in case the creature is the slowest one in the army.
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How Useful is this Ability?
Let's compare Demons to Horned Demons first and then Demons/Horned Demons to Pit Fiends and Pit Lords.
Comparison to Horned Demons
Marius gives Demons +1 Speed from the beginning and also +1 Attack/Defense each when reaching levels 4, 12, 20, 24, 36, 44 etc. Horned Demons have +5 HP and +1 Speed compared with the unupgraded Demons. Thus, with Marius, your Demons can get as good or even superior to Horned Demons at some point. This is important because, when playing Inferno, Demon Farming is a very viable strategy which makes you accumulate huge amounts of unupgraded Demons.
Marius' unupgraded Demons already match the speed of Horned Demons.
Now let's look at the HP increase: +5 HP are about a 14% increase. Marius increases the defense of your Demons with translates to less damage taken from non-spell damage. There are two scenarios to consider:
Note that defense does not help against spell damage.
Remember, that the Attack and Defense both increase at the mentioned levels. That means the Demons will from level 4 onwards do more damage than any Horned Demon and be strictly more resilient than Horned Demons from level 44 onwards assuming no damage from spells. Now, if your huge stack of Demons then becomes the target of damage spells they will protect your more valuable Devils and Efreeti. Also not bad.
Usually greater losses are taken from higher level units which usually have a higher attack anyways. This means scenario 1 is more important for you in critical battles against strong enemy heroes and Marius' Demons will already perform superior to Horned Demons much earlier than level 44. Against neutral creatures, scenario 2 will be applicable mostly because your hero has a high defense value, especially later in the game. When trying to fight without losses, the increased attack is a lot more useful than how resilient your Demons are. Marius' Demons can kill off tougher stacks from level 4 onwards and thus perform better in a no-losses fight. This will benefit especially your midgame.
Comparison to Pit Fiends and Pit Lords
Now, let's quickly compare the increased stats to Pit Fiends and Pit Lords, the next-higher level unit of Inferno. They have 1 more Speed, 3 more Attack and Defense, 10/5 (29%/13%) more HP than Demons/Horned Demons, and do 6-8 more damage (87.5% more). Demons can't ever learn the Summon Demon ability of Pit Lords.
This means that Marius' Demons (especially the Horned Demons) have the potential to get close to Pit Fiends/Lords when reaching high levels with Marius (except the damage output). However, most games will end before these levels are reached. Assuming Marius will reach Level 24 or even 36, her Demons will at least come close to Pit Fiends/Lords. Pit Fiends/Lords are 2 or 2.6 times more expensive in gold to recruit which shows how powerful Marius Demons can get. The increased cost of Pit Lords mostly comes from the gained ability to Summon Demons.
Upgrading to Horned Demons
This does not mean at all you should not try to upgrade your Demons to Horned Demons, but illustrate that Marius' ability is at least somewhat useful when using the Demon Hording Strategy where you will have very many of them. None of the other Inferno Heroes gives you a direct advantage for this strategy. All the boni also apply to Horned Demons so upgrading is always a good idea.
Also: Upgrading Demons to Horned Demons is ridiculously cheap (20 gold per Demon). For one day of earning from a Capitol (4000 gold) you can upgrade 200 of them.
Since you will get rid of Imps/Familiars and Gogs/Magogs to raise them as Demons, you should also have enough space in your army to have both, the big stack of Horned Demons which accumulated from previous battles, as well as the smaller stack of freshly raised Demons from recent battles. Remember that Inferno has a 20% chance to find town portal in its Mage Guild (and Horn of the Abyss allows you to change spells in the Mage Guild for a (hefty) price). Frequently teleporting home to upgrade the Demons may be an option later in the game. Additionally, the Castle Gate allows you to quickly gather all creatures from all your Inferno towns. This makes it easier to get new stacks of Imps and Gogs which you can sacrifice to raise Demons. The last slot is usually filled with whatever unit you find - be it a low-level unit from a non-Inferno town, Imps/Familiars, Gogs/Magogs, a wandering creature that joined your army, recruits from the refugee camp etc.
Increased Movement Points as Side Effect
Another point to consider: The Demons' speed bonus may increase your hero's movement points. If you sacrifice your Gogs/Magogs to raise them as Demons, you get rid of a speed 6 unit. The next slowest unit in your army will probably be the Demons with speed 5 (or 6 for Horned Demons) since all other (upgraded) Inferno units are faster than Speed 6. A hero's base movement points will be 1700/1760/1830 when the speed of the slowest unit is 5/6/7. Thus, with the +1 Speed bonus from Marius you will increase your daily movement points by 60 (when having Demons) or 70 (when having upgraded the Demons to Horned Demons) compared with another hero that does not give your Demons a speed increase.
How significant is this? Logistics is widely regarded as one of the best hero specializations in the game. On Expert level the logistics skill in Horn of the Abyss increases your daily movement points by 20%. A hero with specialty in logistics receives a 5% bonus to this percentage per level. Nothing prevents Marius from obtaining this skill, actually, Demoniacs have the highest chance to learn Logistics out of all hero classes. Let's compare a logistics specialty hero (Gunnar, Kyrre or Dessa) with Marius. Let's assume both of them have Demons in their army as the slowest unit.
Effectively, this means that Marius has the same advantage as a level 4.23 Logistics specialty hero (assuming she goes for the Demon Farming Strategy). When having upgraded all Demons to Horned Demons, the advantage increases slightly to 4.77 levels of Logistics specialty. This is not bad considering it is "for free".
Considering the weak specialties of other heroes of the Inferno town, Marius lends herself as a solid choice for the main hero. No other creature will be as important as the Demons when using the Demon Farming Strategy. The idea behind choosing Marius is similar to choosing Galthran (Skeleton specialty) when playing Necropolis to boost your Skeleton power stack. Skeletons are much weaker than Demons, but have the same speed, so the speed boost is most welcome there as well. Since Skeletons are level 1 creatures, they get significantly more Attack/Defense when Galthran reaches higher levels than when Marius reaches higher levels (for Skeleton Warriors the bonus is 2-2.5 times higher than for Demons).
Being a might hero Marius will have higher attack/defense values than the magic hero class of Inferno (Heretics). This further benefits the Demons. The speed increase of the Demons is likely to translate to increased movement points for Marius, comparable to a level 4 or 5 logistics specialist.
If playing on Difficult/Impossible, one may also consider Octavia as the starting hero who can provide a much needed boost to your daily gold income as the starting hero. Switching to Marius later may still be preferred.