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According to the Epic Level Handbook, in order to qualify for the Epic Spellcasting Feat, one must meet the following prerequisites:

Spellcraft 24 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 24 ranks, ability to cast 9th-level arcane spells. OR Spellcraft 24 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 24 ranks, ability to cast 9th-level divine spells. OR Spellcraft 24 ranks, Knowledge (nature) 24 ranks, ability to cast 9th-level divine spells.

This is later confirmed in page 71:

Only spellcasters who have already mastered the ability to cast 9th-level spells can hope to tread the road of epic spellcasting.

However, in the section describing the Epic Ranger (p. 14, under the "Other Options" paragraph) it says:

If you like to cast spells, think about picking up Epic Spellcasting and one or more metamagic feats.

Why would they recommend Epic Spellcasting for a Ranger?

Unless I'm missing something, for an Epic Ranger (level 21) to have access to Epic Spellcasting he'd have to dual-class to a level 17 Wizard/Sorcerer/Cleric/Druid (that's 38 levels total!).

Am I missing something? Or is this some oversight that made it past proofreading before publishing? (copy/paste error maybe?)

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The Epic Level Handbook is very poorly written. The epic rules generally do not work very well, the epic magic rules in particular work very poorly indeed, and despite being a huge amount of content, it does not appear to have been either well edited or tested. Even on its face, it is very difficult to keep D&D 3.5 functional up to 20th in the first place, as a number of the pre-epic rules run into serious problems especially at higher levels—attempting to go past that is quite an ambitious goal indeed. The Epic Level Handbook does not succeed in fulfilling that kind of ambition.

So ultimately, this kind of comes as no surprise that a basic, simple error like this would find its way into the final publication. That seems fairly par for the course.

On the other hand, the Epic Spellcasting feat is easily, far and away, the most powerful single option in the game.1 People with Epic Spellcasting are very literally playing an entirely different game from those who don’t have it—and it’s a much higher-power game. If you are in a campaign where Epic Spellcasting is attainable, enemies who are using it are so formidable that it basically must be your goal to also attain Epic Spellcasting—you cannot claim to be a peer with anyone who has it if you don’t.2 So even if a ranger has basically no way of easily gaining Epic Spellcasting, jumping ship to a full-casting class in order to get Epic Spellcasting is actually a good suggestion, and as godskook’s answer points out, a ranger arguably does not need to go to such lengths as Improved Spell Capacity and Heighten Spell may be sufficient.3

  1. Barring theoretical abuses of things used in ways their designers never imagined, which obviously wouldn’t be recommended by the books.

  2. I assume, for the moment here, that the goal of both the player and the system is for characters who are both the same level are in some sense “equal.” This is the claim of the whole level/CR system, after all. Obviously this is vague and subjective and offers a lot of wiggle room with people who specialize in different things. But Epic Spellcasting is so broken that we can be sure to be outside even that large margin of error. So if people of your nominal level have Epic Spellcasting and you do not, you are not actually measuring up to what your level “should” be. Hence you “must” seek it to keep your abilities up to the par set by your peers who do have it.

  3. I would still argue that this is a failure of Epic Level Handbook’s editing—it certainly reads as though a ranger can just take Epic Spellcasting, as if the author forgot about the feat’s requirements. If they meant to take Epic Spellcasting via repeated use of Improved Spell Capacity, personally I would expect them to actually call that out when recommending the feat.

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Because Rangers can qualify for it

Improved Spell Capacity gives you spell slots of 1 spell level higher than normal. Taken 5 times, a Ranger can now cast 9th level spells. Depending on the interpretation of "can cast", this is sufficient, but your DM may rule that "can cast" also requires an actual 9th-level spell, which means heightened spell is also required to qualify. With either ruling, by RAW1, the Ranger qualifies, and with their rapid feat progression in epic, you can qualify as early as Ranger 302, and if you're Ranger 20, this is the fastest route for qualifying outside certain fast-progression prestige classes.

  1. The RAW debate mentioned only affects the Ranger's costs towards qualifying.

  2. Due to Epic Spellcasting not being on the Epic Ranger feat list, you can't take Epic spellcasting at Ranger 29, when you first otherwise qualify for it. This leaves you with a free feat to take Heighten Spell, while still being on "schedule".

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