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I have recently decided to try a new build but have been unable to decide how viable it is.

Artificer & Runemancer - Just can't not play these anymore somewhat sadly.
Warlord - it's just so good
2 Chaos Books
2 Nature Books
2 Sorcery Books
Node Mastery
Halfling Race

This should let me take out Nodes quite early, especially Sorcery Nodes guarded by Phantom Warriors/Beasts with Slingers. Also will not hurt my eventual Hero domination. Just not quite sure how playable it is so will test it out.

LMK if anyone else tries it.
I've tried something like that. The Artificer/Runemaster combo really encompasses many different builds, rather than being a build by itself. I think anything Artificer/Runemaster is probably viable though, because your mana acquisition is not tied to buildings or population.

I've tried halflings and found I didn't care for them, or rather, I like them a lot better as a subject race than as my main race. Other races find halfling domination easy to accept, but halflings also don't get upset if you subjugate them, and they're good farmers, which is useful for any empire. Some people seem to really like playings as halflings though, so it's definitely worth a try. Their slingers are indeed quite nasty.

Node Mastery is pretty good. You'll want to try and focus on getting lots of nodes as quickly as possible to exploit that. I suspect you won't need more than a few cities to win the game, especially with Node Mastery.
Personal favorite is the following.

Node Mastery
2 Life Books
1 Chaos Book
1 Nature Book
1 Sorcery Book

Your first priority is adamantium for slingers. After that, buff the hell out of those slingers, and they can one-shot any non-missile immune creature. For missile immune, they need a couple more shots. Must have spells are eldritch weapon, flame blade, lionheart, and if you also manage to get Crusade, you do end up with 48hp, 70% to hit, 10+ ranged attack that deal enough damage to one-shot skydrakes.

The early game is a pain of course, and if the spell selection hates you, you won't be able to raise increase the halflings' levels.