A huge chunk of the 3.5 spell list is damage spells in every conceivable variety of energy, range and effect.
Be it resolved that the most parsimonious way to treat direct damage spells at early levels is the good old Magic Missile, in one form or another; some way to set things on fire from a distance (fire is fun); and ... perhaps using Animate Rope to strangle? Any other varieties of the blast'em spell, I fear, will only reinforce the idea of the magic-user as arsenal rather than problem solver at low levels.
The Zonyar Desert
3 hours ago