elf+thief, orc, maybe bone, archer|catapult, maybe dust (mostly things that don't need energy if possible) If that results in casualties I would try and experiment substituting Bro/Satyr/Horse/Plant instead of some damage. On rare occasions I might try to entrench with 4-5 healers: bro, orc, satyr, plant, faith [or bone, or horse, or dusa, or bard, or...]. Timing out is not a bad thing in expo. Might wear out one of them, long as I'm full health, it's progress.
The tilt isn't that significant. Check out your opponents' runes for things like Starting Energy and Movement Speed. Compare that with your own. If you are not keeping up on these factors it will manifest as you describe. Oh and KK now counters KK even after he fires, so being first isn't that useful.
Ludicrous adds +20 levels to the opponent when the battle starts. Personally, I don't think it matters much, but if you think 5-10 levels is significant, drop down to "Insane" difficulty. IMO Insane is easier than Hard because you can use the war modifiers to your advantage (if it's a relevant mod).