I have not played the demo so don't know what nations are in it to play, which nation and era did you choose?
If you want to rush in the early game choose whats termed as a "Super Combatant" (SC) pretender. The [url=http://dom3.servegame.com/wiki/Cyclops]Cyclops[/url] is a great example, especially if you give it more earth magic, no independent will stand in your way. Its base 20 protection, plus 1 for every level in earth magic means most indies don't have the hitting power to dent it. This makes initial expansion easy, perhaps at the cost of longer term strategy (especially if your nation has a poor magic diversity, at 80 points just to get another magic path the Cyclops should stick to earth magic only).
A SC pretender I find fun is the [url=http://dom3.servegame.com/wiki/Wyrm]Wrym[/url] with a high dominion and decent air magic. Anyone want a beast with potentially over 400HP regenerating +40 points per combat round spamming 6-8 lightening strikes around it? Not a power gamer strategy but a fun strategy, a giant two headed snake regenerating and spamming lightening is great imagination juice and makes the game fun.
I'd love to stick on Astral magic on the Wrym too so with buffs my giant snake would be ethereal and made of mist, making it pretty hard to hit without magic weapons. Astral makes it a target of [url=http://dom3.servegame.com/wiki/Magic_Duel]Magic Dual[/url] so my 400 HP snake could die due to one spell. Oh the strategy and synergies available in Dom 3, and I have not even spoken of crafting magic items, Elemental developers please take note of what works in Dom 3 and apply
*Can anyone tells me why my hidden urls's are not working? The interweb says I'm using the correct format*