I don't have flame atronach yet. I might have to pick it up and give it a try. Did you get it from wizard in Dragonsreach?
Pretty sure, yeah, though I've seen it pop up a couple of other places as my level has gotten higher. It's basically like having a second person to cast firebolt for you, except they have unlimited mana and much better aim. If you have that and the "impact" perk (which causes most enemies to stagger when hit by a dual-cast spell), you can fairly easily keep most enemies from ever getting anywhere near you.