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A Mage's primary mode of damage is through magic, meaning that they avoid melee combat at all costs so as to be able to cast magical spells. They can do direct damage, but truly shine with their ability to inflict various types of AoE damage, buff groups, control crowds, conjure water and food and open portals to capital cities for themselves and party members. However, they cannot heal and are unlikely to stay alive very long under fire.
If you're considering playing a mage, you'll have to ask yourself a few questions, first:
These are all things a mage will deal with. It's not the hardest role, but can be very enjoyable both in single and group play. Mages are not as popular as priests or warriors when people need to set up a group, but can be the third choice in certain instances once the warrior/priest combination is brought together.
If you're a power-player, you'll want to consider the various Racial Traits when choosing what race to play. Click Mage races for an in-depth discussion of various races that can be mages. You might also consider the racial stats, but after the first 20 levels or so these become largely irrelevant, as the items you've gained will far outstrip any racial bonuses.
For more casual gamers, there's really no major difference between the races - choose the race that you want to play, whether for its looks, its voice, or because its simply good fun!
The easiest way to progress through the early levels is to simply do any and all of the quests you can find. Not only will you breeze through the first 5 to 10 levels, but you'll get useful gear and precious money. Money is particularly important so you can purchase your spells.
You will spend levels 1 to 5 in your starting town. Make sure you get all the abilities and spells you can from your trainer. Between level 5 and 6 you'll find yourself heading off to your second town and a new trainer who can teach you various things. At the second town, repeat the process - do each and every quest you can find. It's important to keep up with your abilities and your gear. Now is also an appropriate time to start thinking about what profession you want. You can choose them once you reach level 5.
You're initially equipped with a ranged attack, Fireball, and a self-buff, Frost Armor. With 10 , you can purchase Arcane Intellect. Keep both Frost Armor and Arcane Intellect active on yourself at all times. And feel free to cast Arcane Intellect on others as a friendly gesture.
Open combat at maximum range with Fireball. Keep spamming until the mob is dead, attacking with your staff if necessary. For trolls, activating Berserking as often as possible to supplement your spell damage.
At level 4, you can learn Frostbolt and Conjure Water. Conjure Water helps eliminate the need for you to purchase mana regenerating items. Open combat at maximum range with Fireball, chain casting another before combat actually begins. As the mob approaches, cast Frostbolt to keep it at bay and finish with another Fireball.
As a general rule of thumb, prefer Fireball over Frost Bolt for DPSing. Always open with Frostbolt,to slow your enemies, and use Fireball to DPS and damage them while they slowly make their way toward you. If executed properly, a mob should be dead by the time it reaches you, leaving you without a scratch. If a mob starts to run away, use Fireball to finish them off.
If, however, you find that certain mobs are reaching you while they still have too many health points remaining, alter your tactics slightly. Pull with frost bolt, then cast fireball, then cast a second frost bolt to renew the slowing debuff on the mob, then cast fireball again, alternating between frost bolt and fireball until the mob reaches you. This won't do as much damage-per-second as chain casting fireballs will, but it will give you a lot more casting time before the mob reaches you.