Let me preface this post by stating that I strongly acknowledge that those individuals who work to make it possible for me to spend hours a day clicking a computer mouse deserve to make a decent living.
When helmets and artwork were introduced to classic Travian, I resisted the temptation to buy CP and resources. I proudly displayed in my profile the following statement "Helmets and artwork are for wimps. I earn my CP the old fashion way, I steal it." Being a teut and building 200 maces in 3 days would guarantee a top finish. But I have become lazy, and it seems that in general most top players have as well. $90 on 3k gold up front makes it too easy to rocket to a position that, should you know how to actually play the game without any cash, that you will dominate those who don't have the $90.
This is my apology to those who are just learning how to play. 6-8 years ago you would have had the opportunity in a 12 month server to learn all that you needed to to become a top player. Now you have to deal with the lack of information in the wiki, the lack of forum guides and off site alliance forums with guides on how to play, and with the fact that those who know how to play (and those who don't) being able to buy everything in the game.
Please don't lose heart. Go into chat and demand that the experienced players tell you how to be a strong player. There is no secret formula. A consistent and moderate effort can make you a vital part of any kingdom. All of the advantages that you gain now from hero adventures, free card games and hideouts/camps make it possible for an account willing to learn to actually be a game changer!