Between Charybdis and Virtue

I’m starting a saga with players who are new to Ars Magica and to the hobby as well. We’ve created the Magi and Covenant. We’ve not put the companions to paper yet, but everyone has a good ideal on who and what these characters will be.

The name of the saga is Between Charybdis and Virtue
It will take place on the border between the tribunals of Thebes and Transylvania. (the players really liked this idea when they found it in the Covenants book. I don’t mind it either. Instant drama just add players.)
The saga will start in 1200AD. (More than one player has a concept that involves the sack of Constantinople, mutinous Crusaders, or hiding from some group of Latins or Venetians.)

To start the game I am going to put “Promises Promises” and “Nigrasaxa” adventures in to 5th edition and the right location. My goal is to introduce the players to Ars Magica mechanics one at a time, moving on when they have a working understanding. When the basics have been introduced I’ll remove the training wheels.

My questions to you;
~ What mechanics have proven be the most difficult for new players? Any advice on how to tackle these issues would be appreciated.
~ are there any glaring omissions in “Promises Promises” or “Nigrasaxa?”

Thank you for any insight you can provide.

The problem I have consistently run into with my players are Grog maintenance, spontaneous casting, and new spell design.
As for grogs, my players have a tendency to ignore them as RP options. My players tend to use their attention on designing spells and magic items when they are 'playing' grogs. I find myself having to step in and RP the grogs when the players miss the queues.
The problem with spontaneous magic is a simple one. The players continually fail to realize the difficulty in spontaneous spells, forget the balcony, or double the level instead, and get penetration wrong. They can get frustrated at not being able to do things that they consider simple, like the Mentem specialist who can't spontaneously read minds. This will get solved in time and practice.
The problem I've run into with new spell design is related. They want to design a level 25 spell, but with a lab total of 33, they get annoyed at it taking 4 whole seasons. Again, I feel this is something that familiarity with the system will fix.

As far as advice, I'm a new Storyguide to the system, with new players. If I had to start anew, I would have the players each design a grog, and start with an adventure where the grogs are all seeking hospice or succor in the covenant. Get them to appreciate the grogs. The other problems I ran into I think are just getting used to the system. If also suggest getting some way to keep track of seasonal activities, since I have a player who habitually forgets to do anything in Autumn. I'm using a wiki/website, Obsidian Portal. I'm also giving my players bonus xp in language when they help upkeep the website with adventure logs.

One of the things I have found helpful with new players is to have a fairly well-scripted story that includes notes to me, the SG, that I can use to prompt the players about possible spontaneous effects. For example, the following was a description I wrote for a scene in which a magus, his grog, and one or two mundane characters (who might later become companions) start the search for an the mother of one of the mundanes on the edge of a magical wood:

During the scene, the novice players came up with some ideas, and I was able to suggest the spell-casting options, then role-played the way they wanted the scene to go. I did this for the first several adventures and for lab work possibilities to help them get their feet wet. Now, they are much more able to think about their options on their own. Much of the game still involves discussion about what's possible, but then the role-playing begins and the scene unfolds the way the players intend.

Regarding the adventures, I would recommend not making the Code so harsh as they suggest. In Promises, Promises there is this Guernicus guy who basically barges in and commands the magi to retake a stone or else be excommunicated from the Order and Marched; that's far too forced, in my opinion. I would recommend instead using a Redcap to advise the PCs ahead of the Quaesitor coming with no Hoplite in tow, and that the Hermetic Crime be one of selling a permanent magic item to a mundane (without an intermediary) which is a Lesser Crime which will incur a fine and (perhaps more meaningfully?) bad-tempter from the Quaesitors rather than the "we'll kill you all if you don't fix it!" that is implied in the adventure.

I really like the first part of Nigrasaxa, it's a classical faerie tale. Keep in mind that in Fifth Edition faeries were changed, however, to want sometihng - by Fifth Edition logic, the faeries that took the child did so because they wanted some kind of thing from her or her parents, like the girl's participation in their games, or their father's brave adventure to free her, and would not consent to offers of a different kind. Decide if you want to go this route or not; for my part, the adventure's suggestion of original art works just fine.