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The Magic Initiate feat allows you to pick a 1st level spell, which you can cast once per long rest. From the PHB (p. 168):

Choose a class: bard, cleric, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard. You learn two cantrips of your choice from that class's list.

In addition, choose one 1st-level spell from that same list. You learn that spell and can cast it at its lowest level. Once you cast it, you must finish a long rest before you can cast it again using this feat.

Your spellcasting ability for these spells depends on the class you chose: Charisma for bard, sorcerer, or warlock: Wisdom for cleric or druid; or Intelligence for wizard.

From the Sage Advice Compendium's Magic Initiate section:

If you’re a spellcaster, can you pick your own class when you gain the Magic Initiate feat? Yes, the feat doesn’t say you can’t. For example, if you’re a wizard and gain the Magic Initiate feat, you can choose wizard and thereby learn two more wizard cantrips and another 1st-level wizard spell.

If you have spell slots, can you use them to cast the 1st level spell you learn with the Magic Initiate feat? Yes, but only if the class you pick for the feat is one of your classes. For example, if you pick sorcerer and you are a sorcerer, the Spellcasting feature for that class tells you that you can use your spell slots to cast the sorcerer spells you know, so you can use your spell slots to cast the 1st-level sorcerer spell you learn from Magic Initiate. Similarly, if you are a wizard and pick that class for the feat, you learn a 1st-level wizard spell, which you could add to your spellbook and subsequently prepare.

So, if my character is a spellcaster, we know that my character can learn a spell on their spell list, and they can use spell slots to cast it. For classes that have a number of spells known, like Bards, Sorcerers and Warlocks, this is straight forward. But what of classes that have to prepare their spells, such as Clerics, Druids and Wizards, to be able to cast them?

My question is, if I had a Cleric, Druid or Wizard, who took the Magic Initiate feat to learn a spell on their list (which they could then cast with a spell slot), would they still need to prepare the spell in order to cast it with a spell slot, or would this effectively give them an extra "prepared spell"?

If they simply know that spell because of the feat, and don't need it prepared to be able to cast it once per long rest (via the feat), does that in some way bypass the need to prepare the spell to cast it via spell slots? This isn't clear to me after having looked at the spellcasting class feature of such classes.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer to this question answer your question? Can you use Magic Initiate to cast a spell you already know, and still learn another spell? \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 16 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GcL There is some crossover, and the answer does suggest that it does still need to be prepared, but it doesn't back it's assertion up, so I would want more detail in such an answer. Unfortunately, the "bounty that question instead" course of action wouldn't work here as the question isn't the same as mine, even though the answers overlap (that question is about casting a spell you know and learning another spell, nothing to do with preparing spells specifically; hence not a duplicate of this one). \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 16 at 17:24
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The spell is not prepared.

The Sage Advice Compendium addresses this when discussing choosing a spell with the ritual tag on page 3:

If a druid takes the Magic Initiate feat and chooses detect magic as their one spell, can the druid cast that spell as a ritual?

A druid’s Ritual Casting requires a ritual to be prepared. The spell from Magic Initiate is known but not prepared.

The character just gets one casting per long rest. The other Sage Advice passages quoted in the question address casting the spell using spell slots which would require the caster to prepare the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah! That new Sage Advice is exactly the kind of clarification I was after! What's more, although my question talks about Clerics and Wizards, the real character I actually have in mind is in fact a Druid, so that's quite the coincidence. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 16 at 17:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS it seems like they should have put that under the magic initiate section. Seems odd that it was under the section for the druid class. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 16 at 17:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, especially since it's not a situation unique to druids (since clerics and wizards could have the same situation). No wonder I missed it. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 16 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS we need errata for the errata. Errata-ta-tatta. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 16 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GcL: Note: the SAC is not "errata". It's a set of official rulings, i.e. rules interpretations; errata = rules changes. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 18 at 4:00
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No, Magic Initiate doesn't make the spell "prepared".

Magic Initiate is specific about how you can cast the spell it gives you:

Once you cast it, you must finish a long rest before you can cast it again using this feat.

It does not say the spell becomes prepared or can be cast any other way. By contrast, here's how cleric domain spells are described:

Once you gain a domain spell, you always have it prepared, and it doesn’t count against the number of spells you can prepare each day.

Magic Initiate does say you "learn" the spell, which will enable you to cast it if you have a class Spellcasting feature that allows you to cast that spell. But you have to follow the restrictions of your class, which may include preparing the spell normally. The Sage Advice commentary supports this: if you're a sorcerer (and it's a sorcerer spell) then you can just cast it, but if you're a wizard, you can "add [it] to your spellbook and subsequently prepare".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good catch on the "subsequently prepare" bit, that does support the fact that it was intended to be "known but not prepared" (from the new Sage Advice; see GcL's answer) even back in 2015. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Apr 16 at 17:45

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