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Every time Ultimate Magus is mentioned on a forum, someone adds that Versatile Spellcaster would be great with it. I do not see how.

The Versatile Spellcaster feat (Races of the Dragon, p. 101) says:

You can use two spell slots of the same level to cast a spell you know that is one level higher.

Does a Wizard know any spells?
He has clearly some in his spell book, he has some prepared, but what does he know?

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For wizards, knowing a spell means having it in their spellbooks.

(Player’s Handbook pg. 310)

This means that a wizard can take two spell slots of the same level—regardless of whether or not spells are prepared in them or what spells those are—to cast any spell they have in a spellbook, since while Versatile Spellcaster requires spontaneous spellcasting, it never specifies that its benefits solely apply to spontaneous spell slots or spells you know that could be cast spontaneously. In fact, since wizards are free to scribe spells into spellbooks regardless of their ability to cast that spell, this means a wizard can use two spell slots of their highest-available level to cast a spell they could not otherwise cast.

There is also some question of what, exactly, “having it in their spellbooks” really means—or how much access to a spellbook you need to have for it to be “yours.” Does any spellbook you have ever possessed count? Presumably not. Does a spellbook you left home? What if you prepared spells from it that morning, but left the book somewhere safe? Ultimately, none of this is specified by the rules—you will have to ask your DM. But even if they go as strict as I can imagine—requiring you to literally have the spellbook in-hand as you use Versatile Spellcaster—the feat is still extremely powerful.

Note that a wizard need not actually also be a sorcerer (as with ultimate magus) to qualify for Versatile Spellcaster. The spontaneous divination alternate class feature from Complete Champion can replace a wizard’s 5th-level bonus feat with the ability to spontaneously cast divinations from slots prepared with other spells, similar to how clerics spontaneously cast cure or inflict wounds and druids spontaneously cast summon nature’s ally. This feature meets the requirement for Versatile Spellcaster. And since spontaneous divination is already a quite-powerful ability, and any wizard (not just diviners) can take it, Versatile Spellcaster cannot be considered a strong reason to become an ultimate magus. If you were already going for ultimate magus, though, it is a pretty good feat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That glossary entry may be incomplete. A wizard can study, learn, and understand a spell then not put it in her spellbook according to PH 179 on Spells Copied from Another's Spellbook or Scroll. That is, while none of those verbs are exactly the verb to know, they're all vaguely synonymous with knowing. If the DM agrees, a wizard's spells known may be any spell that's been through that process therefore a list longer than just the list of spells that are in the wizard's current spellbook. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 28 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Sure, and that way a wizard can include spellbooks that they acquire with spells already in them, by spending the time to decipher the spellbook. (Which the glossary definition would also include, arguably without spending time deciphering them.) Also, I would suggest that “current” spellbook isn’t really a thing—a wizard is welcome, so far as I know, to prepare spells from a series of separate spellbooks if they like. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 28 at 15:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sort of! A wizard can use a borrowed spellbook to prepare a spell she already knows and has recorded in her own spellbook,… First, the wizard must decipher the writing in the book…. Once a spell from another spellcaster’s book is deciphered, the reader must make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell’s level) to prepare the spell. If the check succeeds, the wizard can prepare the spell" (PH 178). Deciphering a spell, it seems, is different from studying the spell to learn and understand it. (And, by current spellbook I was referring obliquely to the answer's idea of the spellbook in hand.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 28 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Clerics can spontaneously cast Inflict (or Cure) spells. Would they also qualify? \$\endgroup\$ – András Jul 28 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András The game shrugs its shoulders, having conflated at some point spontaneous with without preparation, those two things being actually different (see this question and, for Pathfinder because it continued this mess, this question). I suspect (without evidence but given context) the intent of the Versatile Spellcaster feat's prerequisite is ability to cast spells without preparation therefore for example disqualifying, druids and cleric but including bards and sorcerers. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 28 at 17:21

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