Like all classes in the game, mages can benefit from three different unique talent trees. These trees represent different paths that a caster can take to customize their character. Arcane, Fire and Frost are the three trees available to a mage.
The Arcane tree is the universal talent specialization that deals in the bread and butter spells in a caster's arsenal. Arcane spells deal with augmenting magic energies and some signature powers in the section include Slow, Arcane Power (which increases the raw damage output of the caster), and Presence of Mind, a power that reduces the casting time of spells to instantaneous. The Arcane tree is great for player versus player leveling in the new experience enabled battlegrounds.
For group leveling, the Fire specialization really gets a chance to shine. Fire specialization works by enhancing the raw sustained damaged of a caster by enhancing the direct damage spells that fall under the fire descriptor. The tree lacks much of the control granted by the other two specializations, and as such, seem to perform best when paired with other players that can provide either battlefield control or a body to soak damage. The key powers in the Fire specialization include Hot Streak, Dragon's Breath and Living Bomb.
When it comes to crowd control, the Frost specialization has no peers. Almost every talent in the tree enhances the mage's ability to slow and lock down their rivals. A Frost wizard doesn't have the tools of an Arcane caster, or the damage output of a Fire wielder, but does the job well by combining both. Frost mages will find game-play easier in player versus player and group play, but also shine at solo play. A well specialized Frost caster, with points in Ice Barrier, Permafrost and Deep Freeze, can keep numerous targets stunned and frozen, while pelting them with ice.
Grinding is a tried and true method of adventuring and involves picking one area of the world, killing everything that spawns, and repeating this process over and over again. In the early days of World of Warcraft, it was one of the fastest. These days, with better designed quests, more quest experience, and better flow, grinding is not nearly as efficient as it once was. With that in mind, sometimes grinding is a great way to level without spending too much brain power. Grinding is also good for gatherers who are planning on building their professions while leveling. If a mage choose to grind as their primary form of leveling, Frost specialization is the way to go.
From the Burning Crusade expansion and on, the World of Warcraft developers have made adventuring through questing much more efficient. Quests flow nicely, group together well, and provide excellent experience points, gold and equipment rewards. In the most recent expansions, raising your character through questing is the most efficient and time rewarding method of leveling, and should be the method used by any mage serious about getting to the maximum level in a short amount of time.
The mage is an exciting class that is fun to play and provides utility and damage to parties and guilds. With three robust talent trees, these casters offer versatility and re-playability. The best way to get to know the class is by leveling one, and the best way to do that is by using a World of Warcraft mage leveling guide such as Dugi's Ultimate WoW Guide.