Heroes V Inferno Guide: Vibes of the Least
Over the course of two expansions, the poor Demons of the Infernal Realm have been smacked around, not only by every major faction of Ashan, but also by the majority of Heroes V players themselves. Since so much has changed for our warm-hearted friends since initial release, and more particularly since nobody else seems to have done so, I have taken it upon myself to once again speak in defense of this most hated and maligned faction. The basic problem being that of all four attributes, Demon Lords have the worst chance of getting Defense.
With the advent of their illegitimate offspring, the orcs, the Inferno is no longer the most might-oriented of the factions. Conceptually, they are the opposite of the Fortress. Whereas Dwarves specialize in highly survivable units that can be buffed in combat, the Inferno focuses on high-damage-potential units that summon reinforcements to gain an advantage. Their Mage Guild focuses on Destructive and Dark spells. Most Inferno troops are walkers; the exceptions are the Succubi (Tier 4 Shooter), the Pit Lord/Pit Fiend (but not the Pit Spawn -- the former two are casters/walkers), and the Devils (Tier 7 teleporters, which effectively means they are fliers). All of the troops are characterized by a large damage range, while the buildings are characterized by heavy sulfur costs (mitigated somewhat by the Resource Silo), large mercury costs, and moderate gem/crystal costs.
The Demon Lord:
The Inferno hero, on most level-ups, will get the Attack Primary Attribute. On the other level ups, the Demon Lord will also most likely get the Attack Primary Attribute. Once that is done, the Demon Lord can occasionally get Knowledge, rarely get Spell Power, and be having a snowball fight with his/her compatriots before getting a point of Defense.
For a faction that relies on beating the tar out of others with their fists, feet, pointy nose things, or weird weapons, the lack of defense will hurt. A lot. On the positive side, the extremely high attack will make sure your troops pack quite a punch when they hit. Since your Knowledge is generally going to be higher than your Spellpower, Dark Magic will likely be more effective for you. Though Destructive Magic can provide some reasonable support for your troops, you'll never attain to the level of Warlocks, Necromancers, or even Rangers backed by High Druids.
The Demon Lord's Racial skill, Gating, is directly tied to Inferno Troops. Each level of Gating gives two tiers of creatures the ability to summon another stack of themselves (e,g, Basic Gating will allow your Demons to summon more Demons, Advanced your Succubi to summon more Succubi, etc.). Increased levels of the skill also increase the percentage of creatures summoned. Tactically, Gating allows you to somewhat mitigate the casualties your army takes by:
- Summoning stacks to block opposed ranged troops. Your real troops will be nice and safe.
- Using summoned stacks to steal retaliation. Every time an enemy hits a summoned stack, that's damage that isn't going to your real troops.
- Clogging up lanes. Keeping a damaging stack from moving where they want to for a turn can give your troops the time they need to wipe that stack out.
And, of course, the basic idea that you'll just plain have more stacks than your opponent increases your options on the battlefield.
Gating is the equivalent of a "wait" action for the summoning unit. The unit summoned takes one turn to appear and will need another turn before they can act. Gating also has four sub-abilities:
Hellfire gives your units a chance to add Fire damage proportional to your Demon Lord's spell power to their physical attacks. Each time this ability triggers, it will drain mana from your Demon Lord. In the case of insubstantial units, if the physical attack misses, there will be no Hellfire.
Consume Corpse has as its primary purpose recharging a Demon Lord's mana and as a secondary purpose preventing a dead stack from being raised, revived, or otherwise coming back to irritate you. It's very useful in keeping your Hellfire going.
Mark of the Damned causes your Demon Lord to automatically attack a designated unit if that unit attacks, retaliates, or otherwise irritates you. This is particularly effective against high-initiative troops or unlimited retaliation troops, and is a good counter to enemy stacks with a "no retaliation" ability.
Urgash's Call is an extremely worthwhile Ultimate, made more so by the relaxed requirements introduced with Tribes of the East. With Urgash's Call, gated units arrive instantly instead of taking a full turn. By the time you actually get the ability, the uses should be fairly obvious. It requires Attack, Logistics, and Dark Magic, so it doesn't make a Demon Lord deviate too far from a strong build. An ultimate skill worth trying for if the game won't be decided by then.
With the advent of Tribes of the East, Demon Lords got access to more subabilities than anybody else. In theory, at least. Since the probabilities of getting offered a particular skill remained the same, you'll have some variety, but don't expect to be getting Mentor any time soon. The following skills are listed in order of their odds of being presented as a new skill upon level up.
Logistics: And it's a good thing, too. Only Rangers and Barbarians have as high a chance to get this skill as the Demon Lord. Some, like the Wizard and Runemage, have almost no chance of getting it. What this means is that on average, an Inferno army will be faster on the adventure map than other alignments. Pathfinding and Navigation are worthwhile depending on the map. Scouting you can probably give a miss.
Of the sub-abilities available to the Demon Lord with this skill, two stand out almost immediately:
Swift Gating decreases the time taken for a stack to use its gating ability. Instead of being a wait-equivalent action, gating becomes half a wait. This is an invaluable asset for the Demon Lord's army. It requires Consume Corpse.
Teleport Assault not only gives the valuable Teleport spell to the Enterprising Demon Lord, but adds an initiative-boosting effect to the spell, usually allowing the Teleported stack in question to act immediately after. The Inferno boasts two slow but tough troops in Demons and Pit Fiends, and they are good candidates for this, but don't overlook the possibility of combining this with a Sorcery character to repeatedly boost the initiative of your Succubus Mistresses and get them into close range. This requires Swift Gating and Pathfinding, which will fill out your three Logistics sub-abilities. Usually, it's worth it.
And interesting alternative comes with Scouting/Swift Mind/Silent Stalker. For the more mathematically inclined Destructive Magic based Demon Lord, you get a boost to that early initiative and the ability to see precise numbers to help determine the exact amount of damage needed to wipe out a given stack. While ultimately not as practical as Swift Gating/Teleport Assault, it can make for a refreshing change of pace.
Snatch and Warpath save/gain you movement points, it is true, but with the exception of Rangers/Barbarians, you're likely to be moving more quickly than your opponent just for having Logistics anyway. It's probably better to avoid them.
Attack: Also a good thing. The Barbarian and the Warlock have as high a chance to get this skill, while Rangers and Wizards are left in the dust (hey, Sylvans have to suck at SOMETHING smile). With a Demon Lord's abnormally high Attack attribute and the plethora of melee units in the Inferno, the increase to melee damage yields large dividends. Archery is great for your Succubi, Battle Frenzy is magnificent with Imps and Demons, and Tactics allows your Cerberi to cross the battlefield on the first turn. Any of these abilities is solid depending on your focus.
Of the sub-abilities, the most common choices will likely be Excruciating Strike to seriously augment your Mark of the Damned ability (requiring the same), and combining that with Battle Frenzy for the Flaming Arrows upgrade to the Ballista. This is partially for the extra fire damage, but mainly because the enemy defense is reduced to zero, skyrocketing the Ballista's effectiveness against high-tier troops.
A novelty of Tribes of the East is a Destructive Demon Lord's access through Master of Ice to Cold Steel. Between this and Hellfire, your Demons will be alternately icing and roasting your foes, with a result somewhat akin to Fried Ice Cream, and just as tasty.
One final mention goes to Power of Speed; a Demon Lord doesn't have a realistic chance of getting Light Magic, so this sub-ability (gained through Battle Frenzy) with its gift of Mass Haste is a welcome boon. Indeed, it meshes rather nicely with the aforementioned Destructive Demon Lord.
War Machines: Only the Runemage has a better chance of getting this skill than the Demon Lord, with the Knight coming in an equal. Rangers and Necromancers are mechanically inept, which is rather nice. The basic skill improves your Ammo Cart, making the already strong Succubi even stronger, and will further improve whichever "path" you decide to take through the sub-abilities.
With Tribes of the East, the most common is likely to be Ballista/Triple Ballista, in conjunction with Flaming Arrows from Attack. This takes advantage of the Demon Lord's large attack value and helps offset their lack of shooters.
First Aid, which gives the Healing Tent the ability to resurrect, is to be highly prized by a casualty-prone Demon Lord. Not only do you have no other means of resurrection, but your defense sucks. The First Aid ability will work wonders restoring your troops. Plague Tent does damage, but with the possibilities offered by your Ballista, why take it? The answer is subtle. The Ballista's damage is calculated as a troops, while the Plague Tent's is a flat rate. Without Flaming Arrows, the Ballista's damage is affected by High Defense while the Plague Tent's is not. If you do not foresee Attack in your future, Plague Tent may be a more worthwhile and dependable option.
Brimstone Rain from Catapult and Hellfire breaks you in to castles. Admittedly, you can gate troops behind castle walls and use them to good effect, but you'll still want Gates and Towers down ASAP; any unit that just has to sit outside will sustain losses in a siege. You can (if you're in a foolish or whimsical mood) go ahead and get Tremors afterward, but keep in mind that the effect slaps your own troops if they happen to be behind the castle wall, making this a two-edged sword at best.
Essentially, this means that any of these paths leaves you free to put down a basic sub-ability in the third slot. Ballista/Triple will leave room for First Aid, Brimstone Rain will leave room for Ballista, etc. War Machines, however you choose to use it, goes a long way towards shoring up the Inferno's weak points.
Destructive Magic: In the original release, a Demon Lord's spell power didn't justify this skill. With access to some new sub-abilities, though, Destructive Magic serves a surprising role for the capable Demon Lord: troop support. The Warlock is more likely to get it, the Runemage ties you, and the Knight and the Barbarian (Shatter) have a hard time reaching it. However, the Demon Lord's use is primarily Troop support. The various initial Masteries affect enemy Defense (Fire) and Initiative (Ice/Lightning). From there, the Destructive Demon Lord has a few options.
Secrets of Destruction/Fiery Wrath (through Master of Fire) give even more bonus damage to your troops; consistent fire damage is added to their attacks. Combined with the defense reducing-fire spells, this spells a significant damage increase.
Alternatively, Searing Fires from Master of Fire will grant a damage bonus to Hellfire when it occurs, while leaving a slot open for Mana Burst to punish spellcasting troops.
Sap Magic (through Master of Lightning) can be a nice shield if you're expecting direct damage from your enemy, and will leave you free to pick up a different mastery as well.
Finally, it bears repeating the Master of Ice will lead you to Cold Steel if you also happen to have attack.
Dark Magic: Having said all that about Destructive Magic, Dark Magic is still, overall, more useful. Oddly, Destructive magic has the higher percentage of popping up. Dark Magic has spells to weaken, slow, harass, control, and otherwise annoy the devil out of your opponent. With the basic masteries granting mass/area effects, the Demon Lord has several paths to choose.
Weakening Strike through Master of Pain is a good choice for those using Mark of the Damned. Any target struck will have Suffering cast on it, lowering its attack power to help protect your poor defenseless Demons.
Corrupted Soil is a rather nice irritant that damages walkers whenever they execute the "move" action. Combined with gated troops clogging up lanes, this can make a noticeable difference in a battle.
Dark Renewal through Master of Curses can help the dedicated Dark Demon Lord against a resistant foe, but is really a niche skill.
Special attention, though, should be payed Seal of Darkness and Shrug Darkness through Master of Mind. Because the Inferno relies upon their troops more than on magic, because those troops have very few resistances, and most of all because the Inferno has next to no chance of getting decent Light Magic -- they're vulnerable to opposing Dark Magic. Slow, Blind, Frenzy, Puppet Master, Suffering, Weakness -- you don't want any of them affecting you longer than they have to. With Seal of Darkness doubling mana cost and Shrug Darkness halving duration (essentially; it cuts Spellpower in half, and Spellpower determines duration in most cases), the opposing Dark spellcaster will be at a quarter of his normal efficiency, which is good news for the troops.
Sorcery: Of marginal use originally, Sorcery has some exciting prospects for the spellcaster in Tribes of the East. Aside from casting spells more quickly and cheaply, Sorcery offers some good spellcasting options.
Arcane Brilliance (through Magic Insight) and Arcane Excellence (through Arcane Training) both do wonders for the Demon Lord's lackluster Spell Power. While you can only have one or the other, the free +2 to spell power should not be ignored for any determined spellslinger.
Given the aforementioned vulnerability of Inferno troops to Dark Magic and the Demon Lord's reasonably high Knowledge, Counterspell (through Arcane Training/Mana Regeneration) can keep the opposing caster on the rocks long enough for your army to do their thing. The only key is being able to ensure that you go before your opponent's spell consistently. Even a couple of blocked spells early on can swing the battle drastically.
Distract (through Arcane Brilliance) can make the spell battle lopsided in your favor without requiring the mana investment of Counterspell, as well as freeing up your Demon Lord for a more active role.
In last place, we put the hard-to-use-effectively-but-huge-style-points Soulfire, which grants a Fireball effect to Consume Corpse. The reason this is hard to use effectively is that a dead stack usually has one of your own troops standing right next to it, having just barely killed it, and half the time will not have opposing troops around it. Which means you might damage yourself more than your enemy.
Defense: This skill itself is almost worthless for the Demon Lord because of the pathetically low Defense attribute of the hero. However, the sub-abilities go a long way toward keeping your troops from dying like flies, with Protection against magic damage, Evasion against missile damage, and Vitality to grant longer life to your Imps and Hounds.
Give Last Stand and Preparation a miss, as you don't want to be defending with your troops, but don't underestimate Hellwrath (through Protection), which enables Hellfire on retaliation for your troops as well as on their normal attacks. The extra fire damage is always welcome, and paves the way for Resistance -- a nice little +2 Bonus for the Defense-poor Demon Lord.
Power of Endurance through Vitality deserves Grand Mention. I may have mentioned this once or twice already, but a Demon Lord's defense attribute sucks. Royally. This is the most direct counter a Demon Lord has to that vulnerability, with a sturdy direct boost to the Defense stat of all your troops. Definitely worth a look.
Luck: As with any might-oriented faction, Luck is valuable if somewhat erratic. Of the primary sub-abilities, Soldier's Luck unlocks the most useful secondary sub-abilities, while Magic Resistance is never a bad choice. Soldier's Luck helps out with Hellfire as well as with Nightmares and their chance at no retaliation.
Dead Man's Curse can give you a luck edge over your opponent, but your troops will take so much damage if they get hit anyway that lowering your opponent's luck may or may not make a difference. On the other hand, Swarming Gate has a chance of DOUBLING the amount of creatures you gate. The value of this is obvious; more creatures is never a bad thing.
Warlock's Luck can help an Inferno Destructive caster in keeping pace in damage despite the generally low spellpower. The catch is that you will also need Arcane Brilliance as well, so plan ahead.
2% (also know as, why bother?)
Light Magic: Given that you won't have the spells in the Mage Guild, the abilities that should interest you are:
Master of Wrath/Blessings: Your troops have a large damage range. Divine Strength and Righteous Might help out immensely with that. Fire Resistance can be a Godsend depending on your opponent, while Storm Wind can help out against Flyer-heavy factions and is available through Master of Wrath, which you'd take anyway.
It's not that Light Magic isn't desirable; it's that the chances are so poor of getting it.
Summoning Magic: In stark contrast to Light Magic, who cares about Summoning Magic? None of the abilities are particularly thrilling with the exception of Fog Veil, which even then requires Master of Earthblood. Even if this were offered, I wouldn't take it; your Spell Power will never be sufficient to do anything worthwhile with Summoning.
Enlightenment: With either Arcane Exaltation or Wizard's Reward to bump Spellpower, this would be welcome for a spellcaster . . . with the understandable limitation that it just isn't going to show up that often. This also means, in a large game, the Inferno is one of the factions least likely to have a strong Mentor, sharing this dubious honor with Knights and Barbarians.
Leadership: Another skill that would be wonderful if it were offered; but Demons do not have the most direct road to High Moral. Of all the 2% skills, this is the one I would be most likely to take if offered. Your troops need the moral to act swiftly. Not only that, but Aura of Swiftness and Gate Master from Recruitment are solid abilities. A spellcaster would look into Empathy (through Diplomacy) for huge casting action. This would be a great skill for Demon Lords if it would just SHOW UP. Not that I'm frustrated or anything.
Your Troops and Where to Stick Them
Your Tier 1 unit requires long-term planning. If you suspect your opponent of relying on spellcasting (Warlock, Necromancer, even Wizard, though Wizards have Mana up their . . . pipes), then you will want to horde these little guys. As in, never even put them on the field. Keep them growing and growing so that you can drain your opponent's mana. In that case, you will upgrade them to Familiars.
If, on the other hand, you have little to fear from enemy magic, look into using them as a highly damaging Tier 1 (assuming a Demon Lord's high attack value) and upgrading them to Vermin, with their higher Defense and potentially higher damage (potentially lower, too, but it averages to better damage if more inconsistent).
With the presence of a Horde dwelling, Demons have the highest growth of any L2 creature, and relatively inexpensive individually (though by no means cheap). Demons don't get a lot of love. This is partially because of their bad breath, but more often because they are slow and not very damaging. In their unupgraded state, their attack power is actually *lower* than an Imps.
However, do not underestimate their durability in the early game. Their Defense of 3 will probably be higher than your Demon Lord's for the bulk of the game, equaling the Hell Hounds, while their Hit Points are just shy of the Hounds'. When it's time to take punishment, Demons step forward.
The only problem is that they step so *slowly*. There are at least two ways for a Demon Lord to remedy this. The most direct is Teleport Assault, while a less direct approach is Power of Speed. With either of these, Demons can serve their primary purpose of taking damage. If you want them to continue in their damage-taking role, upgrade them to Overseers, who gain improved attack, defense, damage, and initiative, as well as a nice little one-shot Ring of Fire ability. On the other hand, if you want them to be a one-shot suicide squad rather than a prolonged suicide squad, upgrade them to Leapers, who sacrifice their Defense rating and a point of speed in order to gain the Leap ability, greatly multiplying their damage and movement in a turn, but also multiplying the damage dealt to them.
Use Leapers if there's a key stack that needs to be taken down quickly. Use Overseers if you need a stack to absorb punishment generally.
These troops seem more fragile than Demons in spite of having the same Defense and higher hit points simply because they get smacked around so much more. Because they're faster, they're going to get retaliated against more, because they do more damage they're more likely to be a target, and because their growth is so much lower, you won't have as many of them. As the first of the Inferno troops to require Advanced Gating in order to gate, you may well acquire them before they can gate in a stack to reduce casualties. The main thing to do to increase their survivability is upgrade them. Either way, they gain the no retaliation ability, which is huge, and gain a three-headed attack, which is also huge. Cerberi have 1 point of damage over Firehounds and 1 less defense. In addition, Firehounds have a Fire Breath ability. What this boils down to is that Cerberi should be used against neutral creatures for their higher initial damage, while Firehounds should be used against opposing heroes, who often tend to have troops in groups.
The only shooter in the Inferno lineup, and very good one, at that. Their dwelling has a fairly high town level requirement, which means you won't be able to field these soon enough for them to aid in initial clearing and expansion. Of unupgraded Tier 4s, Succubi have the best damage range, which combines well with a Demon Lord's high attack. They are also the only troops to feature Ranged Retaliation - Succubi hit by a ranged attack hit right back. The main question is what to upgrade them to; I have noticed proponents of both upgrades. Succubus Mistresses get a chain shot which drastically increases their damage, while Seducers forego that and a point of initiative in favor of a Puppet Master-like ability. They sacrifice their turns to control an enemy stack. If you suspect your enemy of sporting mind immunity, give the Seducers a miss, but if you think they will be relying on a key stack, then the Seducers could very well turn the tables against them. If widespread damage is most important, then the Mistresses are the obvious choice.
The creature list for the Inferno is strangely parabolic; with Succubi in the center, we find on either side a fast unit that deals good damage and tends to get smacked around a lot. With some of the lowest hit points in their Tier, Hell Chargers will die like flies if you aren't careful with them. They also require Expert Gating in order to use the Gating ability. On the positive side, they have a horde dwelling, which means their numbers will be slightly larger than other towns' fifth-tier creatures (with the notable exception of the Stronghold). What helps their survivability is their fear attack, a chance at not only causing no retaliation when they hit somebody, but also causing them to run away and bumping them back on the initiative bar. Of the two upgrades, the Hell Stallion sacrifices a point of defense and initiative for much better damage than the Nightmare. However, the Searing Aura, doing moderate fire damage to those surrounding the Hell Stallion, is often less useful than the Nightmare's Frightful Aura, which subtracts 3 from the morale of surrounding stacks. The ability to prevent surrounding stacks from taking a turn bodes far better for the survival of Nightmares than of Hell Stallions. The time to use the Stallions is against units immune to morale (read: Undead), but otherwise they're more likely to die.
Following the parabolic concept, two places away from the Succubus we find a tough but slow unit that doesn't get a lot of love. In this case, it's not because of their bad breath, but rather their social skills, and the fact that they're only a little faster initiative-wise than Horned Demons and a little *slower* movement-wise. The same solutions apply here that applied there; Teleport Assault and/or Power of Speed. While they are capable of casting spells (including Vulnerability, which is great as a damage amplifier), they are solid melee units in their own right. With the advent of Tribes of the East, the Pit Spawn is often touted as the clear winner over the Pit Lord, mainly because of their 5 higher attack, 2 higher defense, 20 higher Hit Points, 2 more movement points, 1 higher initiative, and reducing all magic damage against them to 50%.
That is a pretty compelling package. Against that, the Pit Lord remains a spellcaster, with access to Meteor Shower, Fireball, and Vulnerability. Not really enough to justify choosing them over Pit Spawn. The key difference lies in the effects of their Melee attacks. The Blade of Slaughter of the Pit Spawn does 2 extra damage (added after all other modifiers) for each creature in the stack. The Vorpal Blade of the Pit Fiend always kills once complete creature in addition to normal melee damage. Therefore the Pit Lord should be used when the opposing army relies on high-tier creatures or relatively small stacks, while the Pit Spawn gains greatly against factions that produce large numbers of troops or rely on a large stack. Overall, the edge would go to the Pit Spawn in case of a tie, with their more generally effective higher stats.
With the initial release, Devils were too expensive, but the price of their dwelling has been downgraded. They actually have very respectable stats for producing damage, with the unfortunate exception of their minimum damage, which is hideously low. That damage range alone makes Light Magic very, very desirable, but as outlined earlier is just too out of reach for the Demon Lord. The Devil also has the distinction of being the only Inferno Unit that cannot Gate (unless you pick up the Pendant of Mastery). If they were guaranteed Gating, they'd be one of the top Tier 7 units; as it is, they're respectable but by no means spectacular.
The choice between Archdevils and Archdemons amounts to personal preference. The Demons are more survivable but slower. The real key, though, once again lies in the special abilities. The raise Pit Lords ability of Arch Devils can turn the tide of a tough battle, being one of the few viable resurrection options open to the Demon Lord. When it's going to the end, a fresh stack of Pit Lords is not to be underestimated. On the other hand, the Teleport Other ability of Arch Demons, which draws any creature in their movement range to a spot right next to them, has a wide variety of tactical possibilities and is more useful at the start of a battle.
The Inferno Unique Buildings
The Infernal Loom grants a bonus to the amount of Gated troops and is available relatively cheaply and early. This should always be built; gating plays an inevitable role in the Inferno game.
The Sacrifical Pit ends up being more of a novelty than anything spectacular; you can sacrifice random joiners for experience, but with an extremely low possibility of ever seeing Diplomacy, the typical Demon Lord won't find that many troops to sacrifice. With the advent of caravans, a modest amount of experience for a Garrison Hero can be obtained, but the only real reason to build this is because it's on the way to the Castle.
To understand the Heroes of the Inferno, it is vital to understand that the Inferno opens differently depending on which hero you have chosen. Therefore, in talking about each hero, an outline of how to play the opening game with them will be included. To begin with, there is the no-brainer:
Seriously, you may feel like you're playing a different faction by playing Deleb. Her opening is so strong that she's often banned in multiplayer, and if you postscript an "Inferno is strong" statement by adding "I always play Deleb," you're likely to be laughed at. With Deleb, who starts with Advanced War Machines, a Fireball effect on the Ballista, and a Ballista, all you need are Horned Demons to survive. The Ballista will do all the work. You're only a few levels away from Triple Ballista, and the next step is to pick up Attack to get the Flaming Arrows. Things will die. Things will die quickly. You can be halfway to your opponent's castle before he's cleared out his mines. You have to work hard *not* to win with Deleb. On the other hand, you can easily become overconfident; a Ballista will not keep you alive by itself, so anything capable of wiping out your troops before being wiped out by the Ballista must be avoided.
From one of the best, we go to the indisputable worst. With his Sorcery, Alastor might have a viable path to Spellslinging, but he starts with Mana Regeneration, which doesn't lead to any useful Sorcery subability. His sole saving grace is beginning with the Confusion spell. Alastor can take on ranged stacks with fewer casualties, and with sufficient levels, you can take on spellcasting neutral stacks with possibly fewer casualties thanks to his specialty. Still, that doesn't help against the normal stacks, and you want some aid against that. Alastor is a large gamble, from being able to cast confusion before the relevant stack can act to getting Dark Magic at all (Destructive Magic has a higher probability of showing up, and several non-magic skills as well.
I originally had a low opinion of Grawl. Destructive Magic was not so hot for the Inferno. However, he actually has some fairly unique opening strategies. First of all, if you have the resources for it, he can learn a level 4 destructive spell guaranteed by the end of the week. That can overcome some fairly large deficits, and if not, a level 3 Destructive spell is by no means a bad thing. The other possibility is doing it doggy style; Grawl not only improves Cerberi, but has a quick path to Searing Fires. The key is to race to the Upgraded Kennels, then use several stacks of Cerberi to trigger Hellfire as much as possible. This way, you can clear many stacks while taking relatively few casualties. The final piece of this puzzle is to get Tactics ability so that your Cerberi are able to cross the field in one turn.
Grok's opening game relies on the use of Teleport to block shooters and an unobstructed path to Teleport Assault to increase the initiative of his Demons. There's not too much more above that; those abilities should carry you to the point where you have a solid army and a movement advantage over your opponent through his special ability.
Jezebeth has a much better opening than Alastor, although they both start with Sorcery. Jezebeth always starts with a Succubus in addition to her other troops, which gives moderate ranged power from the get go. She also starts with a Healing Tent, which can mitigate casualties. You can build her as a spellcaster in the opening, since she has access to all Level 3 spells with her Magic Insight ability, and has a clear path to Arcane Brilliance for +2 Spell Power and a free spell. With a fairly good probability of getting War Machines, she can also be very effective at troop preservation.
Marbas starts with the Defense skill. The key with him is to get Vitality as soon as possible; the extra 2 Hit Points per Creature should carry you through the opening game with reduced casualties. As his level increases, he will be good against spellcasting stacks.
Nebiros, like Grawl, does it doggy style. Starting with Tactics will allow Cerberi to cross the field in one turn; his increased luck bodes well for extra damage, and he has a clear path to power of speed. Get Hellfire and let the Cerberi trigger the fire damage as much as possible. Naturally, Consume Corpse should be used to keep the mana total high enough for all the Hellfire.
Luck and Magic Resistance -- get Swarming Gate as soon as possible, and you will be gating in far more troops than other Demon Lords can dream of. You'll have to choose your battles carefully, but the initial luck can give you an edge until you've established solid gating power.
While the Inferno obviously doesn't have the easy time that those with strong Spell Power or early shooters have in the opening game, they are not without options. Tribes of the East opened up the viability of spellcasting heroes for the Inferno, while diminishing their shine as the Might Attacker's faction of choice.
At any rate, this should hopefully be a useful compilation of information for those revisiting the faction in Tribes of the East. Better late than never!