Elder Scrolls V Skyrim: How to Play a Mage
In Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there are many different play styles, a mage is one them. When you begin to play Skyrim, you choose a race and there are five of them that you can choose from when creating a mage.
Altmer (High Elf) - A very common choice for mages. Their ability to regenerate magicka faster for 60 seconds and their bonus of 50 magicka when starting the game makes them the perfect offensive mage.
Breton - Another common choice for mages. They begin with a conjuration spell, dragonskin (an ability to absorb magicka for 60 seconds), and a 25% resistance to magicka making them the perfect defensive mage.
Dunmer (dark elf) - The first two are for pure mage characters, but if you enjoy using a lot of thievery with your mage then you need a dunmer. They begin with a 50%fire resistance (perfect for characters that want to become vampires see werewolves vs vampires for more info), ancestor's wrath (which deals eight fire damage to close enemies for sixty seconds), and starts with sparks (a lightning spell that deals 8 damage per second to health and magicka). They are the only character that fits the "perfect" qualifications for a mage/thief play style.
These are the three that are most fit for magic-based characters. You could also choose imperials or red guards because they have a few bonuses involving their starting skills but overall these are the three races that should be looked at most for a mage.
Playing as a Mage
Once you get into the game you need to make a lot of decisions involving your character; especially if you want to play a mage. The first decision that you need to make is how you are going to fight. Do you want to use a one-handed weapon, a two handed weapon, duel wield one handed weapons, a one handed weapon and magic, wield a bow, or duel wield magic (which would be most preferred for mages, but you can switch back and forth between magic and weapons). It is always good to have a backup plan for if you run out of magicka (for me I always keep an attronach summoned to take hits while I recharge magicka). After you decide your offense, then you need to decide on your defense. You could use normal armor but I suggest that you wear mage robes and use alteration spells to give yourself an armor bonus. After you decide on your offense and defense then you can begin making your battle plans!
Want more details? See the magic guide to skills and perks!
Fighting as a Mage
In my opinion, fighting as a mage is the most difficult but at the same time most rewarding part of being a mage. The trick to successfully fighting as a mage is to plan your favorites menu using the spells that you are going to use in battle. Then, try those spells and make sure that whatever your plan is works with the amount of magicka you have. It may take a long time until you figure out what is the perfect set of spells for your mage but once you figure it out that is when you buy perks (based on what kinds of spell that you are using). My battle plan is as follow: summon a frost attronach, activate stoneflesh (giving me 200 armor bonus with my perks), and then I switch to a destructions spell (based on my opponent's weaknesses. When I get low on health I use healing and when I get low on magicka I allow my frost attronach to tank so that I can give my magicka time to regenerate. Whatever it is you decide to do with your mage, take your time, be patient, and save often.