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The Cheater of Mystra is a very well-known 3.5e CharOp build. To my knowledge, it dates back to this post from 2004 and almost every description of the build that can be found online is a copy and paste of this post.

However, the benefits of having this build do not seem to be described in much of the literature on the subject. It appears to be something to the effect of being heavily buffed at all times and being able to ignore your own anti-magic field (AMF). But, for fear that the rabbit hole goes deeper than I suspect, I am asking here. What features of this build make it significant among optimised Cleric builds? In other words, why build The Cheater of Mystra?

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A bit of “fastest gun in the West,” a dash of inertia, and some catchy naming

Today, “cheater of Mystra” is nearly synonymous with “Initiate of Mystra,” the Player’s Guide to Faerûn feat for which it is named. That feat doesn’t really require optimizing—it’s just flat-out broken as-is. Hence “Cheater of Mystra” serves as a tongue-in-cheek nickname for the feat as much as it references a particular build.

But that wasn’t how the cheater of Mystra was originally presented: in a lot of ways, the focus of the original poster wasn’t even on Initiate of Mystra, but rather on Divine Metamagic and Persistent Spell. Which brings us to an important point: the cheater of Mystra is an early optimization build. Complete Divine was a new book at the time. Today, optimizers may think of Divine Metamagic (Persist) as a nearly-de-facto cleric class feature, but that simply wasn’t true in 2004. And while it isn’t likely that anyone missed the significance of Divine Metamagic for even a moment, the cheater of Mystra was a fairly early foray into optimizing it.

Likewise the dweormerkeeper—these days, it’s pretty well-known as a broken prestige class, and not particularly associated with the cheater of Mystra (as, truly, it’s broken no matter how it’s used), but in the cheater’s original thread, the dweormerkeeper drew the most comment and discussion. The prestige class was new, and people hadn’t really thought through all the things it could be used for. For many, cheater of Mystra was the first they’d heard of it.

And the cheater of Mystra directly inspired the twice-betrayer of Shar, which did similar things by abusing the Shadow Weave, and had even more convolutions to it. Note that the twice-betrayer of Shar is still an early optimized build, however.

Both builds aren’t really that stellar by modern theoretical optimization standards. There are loads of more effective options out there. On some level, both builds are famous more because of being there first, and having catchy names, than because of the actual result and how well that has withstood the test of time.

But being first matters; this is often known as the “fastest gun in the West” effect. Simply being the first to get into the details of Initiate of Mystra, Divine Metamagic, and dweormerkeeper gave the cheater of Mystra build a huge head-start on gaining notoriety. From there, simple inertia has kept it in the forefront of people’s minds for considering optimization efforts—though again, the catchy naming certainly helped.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good answer. Does this mean that the outcomes of the build are as simple as I suspected? There's no non-obvious tricks to it? You've answered why the build stayed well-known but not gone in to detail on why it was interesting in the first place. It was first, but what was it the first to really do with the tools at hand? \$\endgroup\$ – J. Mini Feb 27 at 10:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.Mini That’s correct, so far as I know. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 at 11:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ As luck would have it, most of the Cheater's original thread is preserved. Now that I have that context, this answer makes me wonder if I asked the wrong question. Did I? I thought that the Initiate of Mystra was about AMF abuse and I expected an answer confirming that. However, the OP's focus is on the DMM buff abuse and the focus in the thread is on Dweormerkeeper abuse. Of course, Limited Wish for free at least once a day from level 13 onward is awesome, as are those buffs. But it's not what I expected. I guess that what I really wanted was a breakdown of the Cheater's many broken layers. \$\endgroup\$ – J. Mini Feb 27 at 21:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @J.Mini So yeah, there’s a difference between what the author of the cheater of Mystra focused on, what people in the thread picked up on, and what has stuck in people’s minds from then on. Cheater of Mystra is, in most people’s minds today, largely synonymous with Initiate of Mystra—because that feat is, really, basically cheating, and the name overlaps. But that’s also because today, Divine Metamagic (Persist) is nearly a de facto cleric class feature—that wasn’t true in 2004, when the feat was still new. Now, we wouldn’t consider that unique to the cheater of Mystra, but then it kinda was \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 28 at 1:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Likewise, dweormerkeeper is a well-known broken prestige class, but the cheater of Mystra is part of why it’s well-known—even if it’s not particularly remembered for its role in the actual cheater of Mystra build. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 28 at 1:00

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