Having read posts by a lot of people, and having started a couple myself, I have often been faced with the following notion:
Magi don't engage in combat. Most never leave their labs.
The first bit is frankly amusing. Looking at AM5's core rules, the number of direct combat or combat-useful spells is quite high. It's not D&D or anything, where there are almost NO non-combat spells, but it is a substantial minority (I haven't taken a count yet, but I'd guess something along the lines of 40% of spells are combat-worthy. Exact numbers to come).
The plethora of combat spells leads me to what I think is a logical conclusion. Many magi spend their lives in the lab, but many others (again thinking of Tytalus, Tremere, many Bjornaer, and the fun-loving Flambeau) do not huddle in towers probing the mysteries of the universe. They are the go-getters, as it were, the people who not only understand power, but let it out of the house to have a run around the block.
Sure, most magi hope they never need to harm a fly, but there are always threats, are there not? Nasty magi, faeries, supernatural beasts, bandits, crusaders, rabid priests getting their God on, practitioners of non-hermetic magic, and the like. One has merely to look at the spell lists and wonder why -- if magi live their lives in their labs and never engage in combat -- are there so many combat spells?
Now my maga I'm playing, a Bonisagus lab rat, knows not a single combat spell. I think she's pretty typical of the maga driven to push magic theory as far as it will go (she's got affinity and puissant, for a total of 7+2 in Magic Theory. Woof!). Not much in the way of Arts yet, and deficient Perdo too. So she's definitely not the combat monkey.
But there are Hoplites and Quaesitores and the like out there as well. There are conflict-oriented Tytalus, the troublesome Tremere, and predatory Bjornaer.
What's bothered me is that I'm noticing a tendency to generalize and make sweeping statements about twelve houses with very different philosophies. I've put up some spells that my character would never use, like the helmet with spikes on the inside spell. Sure, killing mundanes isn't a priority, but sometimes it's necessary. And despite remarks about it being easy, I haven't really seen that, especially given the amounts of damage the body can't take. One good roll with a weapon hit and you're dead.
So pardon this ramble, but I'm still confused on a number of issues (and have slept very little tonight given a failed burglary attempt on my home last night as well as finals in school), so if I'm bouncing all over the topic and seem a little snarky, please take it as the ramblings of an over-tired mind.