This contains complete spoilers for everything that happens in the Mage's College quests in Skyrim.
I cast a little Destruction magic in my spare time, because it's an easier way to get around guys who use shields.
Everyone said I should check out the Mage's College, so, I did. I solved some small student problems, and did an underground quest in some tombs where I found a great big spinny orb. Everyone seemed really impressed by the spinny orb.
I wandered off to do some other things.
Later I thought it might be nice to visit my friend the other Khajiit at the college and see if he would travel with me, so I checked in at the college for some work. They wanted me to get some books, which had information about the big shiny orb thing. So I did that. No worries.
So now I'm the Arch-mage. I would say I'm not sure how that happened, but, ever since you're sent upstairs to see the sitting Arch-mage's room and see all the pretty alchemy ingredients and shiny trinkets that are marked "hands off," it seems inevitable that this can somehow be your own room some day. The funniest thing about being the arch-mage is I'm not that great a caster. I purposely skilled up Illusion just to get silent spellcasting, and I'm an Adept level at Destruction from lobbing fireballs at dudes. I have a couple heal spells, because you need that, and I generally know a lot of spells because I can't be stopped from clicking on books I find in the world. But I'm not really what you would call a wizard. I haven't spread out my magic perks much, and I don't use the spells all that tactically.
For one of the college missions, I ran around in robes that I found on a necromancer. They had a bonus to casting Destruction, and, I thought, looked rather fetching with their emblazoned skull pattern. The problem with this plan was that I really had no mage armor or defensive spells to speak of, except for the beginner-level Ward, and every creature in Boatmurdered was gnawing me to death. I survived by virtue of Resist Poison vials and lots of quicksaving. At one point I almost resorted to setting the game on God mode because I was so frustrated.
Today I thought: well, screw that, and instead went and put on some actual armor, loaded up on enchanted weapons, and crafted myself a Glass Sword, then set about completing the rest of the story.
Lo and behold: Bethesda, as it turns out, is like your dick Dungeon Master. The final mage dungeons truly are the ultimate challenge for a Mage. For someone who is specced as a thief primarily, it turns out they are not so tough. What would be a hard challenge for a mage, asks your dick DM. I know: I'll put an enemy in the dungeon that periodically drains your spells. Then I'll give enemies weapons that drain your spells! Some of the monsters will have high magical resistances. Combine that with a couple of big arena-type rooms where you're forced to move forward, instead of being able to kite enemies in to defensive Rune spells, and that would make things really tough for a magic-user.
The thing you'd think would be most thematically appropriate would be to take another college mage with you, study some new great spells, put on your robe and wizard hat, and venture forth. I hired a basically pure fighter, gave her a magic axe, then put on Glass Armor and packed some invisibility potions. I defeated the undead magic-draining lich of high mucky-muck by standing on a tower and lobbing him with about forty cheap arrows. I even sneak-attacked a Skeletal Dragon to death.
The final boss of the story arc is telegraphed from 600 miles out. He's an elf named Ancano and it is barely a spoiler for me to tell you you have to kill this man. The moment he showed up, I knew I would have to kill him, because:
A: Every single person you talk to at the Mage's College has a question allowing you to ask them something about Ancano, even if you literally never met the guy. Then they can tell you he is suspicious.
B: The dude looks like Raistlin.
Remember how I said the enemies in the final mage dungeon have weapons that drain magic? You can take those to an enchanter and learn the enchantment yourself. Then you can enchant whatever you like with it. If you're really bold, try two: one for each hand. I enchanted a vampiric dagger, and hacked Ancano with it until he was out of blood. Upon doing this, the college made me Arch-Mage.
Here is a list of the mage-like actions I undertook to become Arch-Mage of all Skyrim:
1. Cast a few Novice-level elemental spells, to bypass magical puzzle locks.
2. Enchanted a dagger.
I now look forward to beating the rest of Thieves' Guild story by charging in with a greatsword like Conan, and beating the Fighter-oriented Companion quests by lobbing fireballs. Because I bet those quests have a lot of guys with shields.
And I am, undoubtedly, the best mage in Skyrim.