Incoming judgments! I respectfully ask that you wait until I post the all-clear so that I can lump these all together.

This is going to take a few posts. I tried to keep the formatting consistent between entries, but I may have slipped up here and there, and I'm a little too burned out to care right now. I'm like 99% certain that the number of line breaks between categories (and between category title and actual words) is inconsistent. You can all just deal.

Hae Wyre: 12.5
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I spent a good amount of time fiddling with a way to gain cheap access to Portable Holes and/or Enveloping Pits and then weaponizing Deep Pockets. I gave up before you did. Let's see if you succeed where I failed!

Originality: 5

Just—just take your damn points and leave me alone. I'm not waxing poetic about this one. You had your desired effect. Take your points already.

Power: 3
Man, you're going to make me work for this one, aren'tcha? That's on me, I suppose. I tend to stay the hell away from explicit portal-based stuff because I've never had a GM who's willing to put up with a character who can casually plane-hop to arbitrary (or, just as bad, random) planes, and I've definitely never been such a GM, so I kind of soft-ban those abilities in my own head. Doesn't mean they don't exist, I s'pose, so like I said, this is on me. Gonna do my best for ya.

That Portal Dissonance ability seems absolutely murderous towards your GM. It is weapons-grade shenanigans. The intended effect is shenanigans. I'm kind of in awe of how obnoxious it is. I'm not saying that this is, per se, a bad thing for this build, especially while grading Power, but I'm a little staggered with just how much chaos this can impose. Hell of a thing to build around, I suppose; may as well go big or go home.

You've made enough of an argument that you're going to make portals very annoying for everyone who isn't you that I'm fairly convinced that you'll pull something off. I guess I'm struggling with trying to figure out what you're actually accomplishing. I'm fairly certain that it's something. But I'm really not comprehending exactly what. I don't mean that I don't understand how your abilities work—I'm pretty sure I've got a handle on that. I mean I can't figure out exactly what your playstyle actually looks like. You are, to use your phrase, "really weird."

I'm a little unsure of if Cataclysm of Flesh will work with Portal Dissonance just because nothing is actually going through a portal after the initial bang. To use 4e terminology, it's clearly a burst, but it's not a zone: a critter who wasn't in the area of the initial use of the ability but who then wanders towards where you invoked the power won't be affected by it. You may have torn "a hole in the fabric of the planes," but the ability doesn't say that you can then stick your hand through that hole and waggle it around in Xoriat. It's like Slow, not like Sleet Storm. So I'm not sure that you can then target it with PD, and I'm not sure that it would do anything if you did. Now, make no mistake, it's still a truly horrifying save-or-lose ability, especially because I've read through it multiple times and cannot seem to find a use limit on it, meaning that, portal BS or no, you can apparently just spam this sucker. So it's not exactly useless or anything. (Also, they totally used the wrong word in the middle: "affect" can be a noun, but in this specific case, they wanted "effect." C'mon, WotC!)

I would be extremely wary of treating Rope Trick + BoH/equivalent as the same as Portable Hole + BoH. The spell doesn't actually say what happens. All it says is "it is hazardous" to mix extradimensional spaces, but it doesn't say what actual hazards you might be facing. Meaning that it's entirely up to the whims of the GM. When you're already based around weapons-grade shenanigans with extradimensional spaces and portals and stuff, inviting the GM to start ruling that problems occur with extradimensional spaces seems like tempting fate, and not in a good way. I don't think that would end well for the player in the long term.

Shadow Well and Precipitate Breach, while a little late coming online, are both very solid choices here. They both do seem to be good candidates for using Portal Dissonance to force unwilling things into your Deep Pockets, and using Transdimensional Spell to then poke at them is clever. I don't like that it takes until ECL 18 for you to be able to actually have the ability to apply Transdimensional Spell to anything damaging other than Sound Burst (or maybe Shadow Conjuration? Maybe?), but it's still reasonably clever.

How well do you hold up outside of using your planar meddling? I have no major complaints about your choices for Bard spells, so you've at least got a little bit of that as a baseline. I would have liked to have seen the Three Core Gs (Grease, Glitterdust, and Glibness) just to buoy up the baseline a little more, but you can probably find uses for much of what you did pick, so that's good. You're right that you're very squishy early on, but at least you have some marginal utility from your baseline abilities. Not the most skillful bard I've ever seen, of course (you're pretty much spending your whole allotment of skills on long-term prereqs rather than on a strong foundation of "typical" Bard skills), unfortunately.

I think you've basically beaten me here. I genuinely do not know how to judge this dish that is in front of me. I have spent far longer staring at this than I care to admit, and I cannot convince myself that I have a good understanding of what this character looks like in actual play. That is not typical for my Iron Chef experiences. I usually feel pretty confident about that, but that is just not happening here. I give up. This is getting a 3. You have an acceptable, though not bulletproof, selection of spells even if your portal stuff isn't immediately relevant, you have some late-game ability to force your portal stuff to the fore no matter what, and you have an obnoxiously spammable save-or-suck in that Cataclysm of Flesh ability, even if it doesn't do what you said it might. You'd have scored higher if I were less bewildered by what you're trying to accomplish, if you had more skill-based utility, and if you had more resilience early on and more slots in the late game.

Elegance: 1

I am not convinced that Widen does what you say it does. I don't think "volume held" is exactly the same thing as "area of a supernatural effect." It's a staple feat (alongside its sister feat Extend Supernatural Ability) when optimizing bizarre and unique or semi-unique abilities that these secret ingredients offer, but I'm not buying the explanation this time. Not the biggest black mark I've ever made, but I don't think this works as advertised.

Something something Extra Spell probably doesn't work that way and even if it does it's questionable something something.

Basic legality check: You're roughly a million points over budget at level 1 (you spend 48, when you correctly point out that you have 36 available), which I think is perhaps the single most egregious skill point accounting error I've personally witnessed in Iron Chef. (Did an early draft have, um, 22 INT somehow? Venerable gray elf with Nymph's Kiss?). Since many of the points you spend at this level are used as prereqs later on, this has bad implications for your long-term legality. You fail to call out Open Lock as cc at level 4, but that's trivial and I'm not actually penalizing for that alone. (Backing up to add that apparently you get fairly lackadaisical with calling out what is and isn't cc, but that's not your gravest sin in this category; I'm not penalizing for it, but I am requesting that you be aware of that in the future. Moving on.)

(Still on legality; line break for sanity): Level 6 is problematic for a pile of reasons. Search and Disable are not class skills for you at that level. First, you spend skill points before choosing your feat, so you don't have the Kobold domain when you dump those 9 points. Second, even if we gloss over that (I've said that I do hate that rule with its specific interaction with exactly this, and you'll notice that it's about the only explicit houserule I've added to the E6 competition that's different from the houserules Helio adds to this one—that said, Helio has not imposed such a houserule here, and it is RAW), the Kobold domain makes Search and Disable in-class for your Cleric levels. Which you aren't taking at this level. You're taking Bard. Not Cleric. There isn't a general-purpose rule that I can find that says that a non-Cleric who gains a domain gets to shuffle any effects of that domain that key off of Cleric levels onto whatever arbitrary levels they choose. Your attempt is clever, but unfortunately, I think it's too clever by half, and I think you outsmarted yourself. So you're over budget on your skill points once more (you spend 9 points in-class that should have been spent cross-class; that's an overage of 9). And now you have more ranks in Search than is legal for your HD, which makes your qualification for Hoardstealer seriously problematic (your max ranks in Search at 9 HD should be 6, which is short of the required 8).

(Still on legality.) You also don't qualify for Cataclysm Mage. Bard 6 is not sufficient to cast 3rd level spells; you need Bard 7 for that. That's also highly troubling. Back to skill points for a minute: You're over budget by 1 at level 7 (you even admit that DD is cc for you at that level, so I don't think we can chalk that up to you thinking that the Kobold domain turns Cataclysm Mage levels into Cleric levels). At level 8, you have 9 ranks in Perform (but didn't mark it in red), and then you're "up" to 8.5 points at level 10. I'll chalk the extra rank at level 8 up to an editing error, I suppose.

(Still on legality.) You underspend by 2 points at 13. Underspending is significantly less bad than overspending, but it still happened. You then overspend by 2 at level 15 (Perform isn't a class skill!) Your feats appear to be legal.

Okay, I think we're done combing through legality for new data, but that's still a lot of illegality. There's part of me that wants to hit you with FTQ for the Secret Ingredient, but I think we'll assess this in Elegance rather than UoSI. In short, there's too much that's illegal about this character for me to award any points in Elegance. I'll judge the other categories as though your class structure is legal, but you're really not legal, and that's super inelegant. Sorry mate. Not much sense in me continuing to look at this category, to be honest.


Use of Secret Ingredient: 3.5

It's a Deep Pockets build. I think. I think? I think. The build stub of my own I spent the longest working on was attempting to weaponize Deep Pockets by forcing enemies into a Portable Hole or Enveloping Pit and then using Deep Pockets on their pockets to invoke the BoH + PH clause, and this seems vaguely similar. Very different, but I believe they spring from a similar source. So that's a mark in your favor. The star of the show is Portal Dissonance (and, like, Sublime Chord), but I guess I didn't expect Hoardstealer spells to qualify anyone for Ultimate freaking Magus, so I guess that's something.

We can stop pretending that you care about literally anything else in the class, though, can't we? I think we can. Five levels. Oof. That's a small number of levels. Would more levels have helped? Not necessarily; you're already lunging straight for shenanigans, and you don't bother to deny it. There's some refreshing honesty there, I suppose. It's not necessarily correct to say that you'd be more Hoardstealery (or better at your primary goal) with more Hoardstealer. But that is a painfully low number of levels. You technically advance the spellcasting to the end, which would matter a lot more if you told me more about why you care about your Hoardstealer spells or even if you had meaningful ways to spend the slots on something. I see Bard and SC spells doing your heavy lifting. (I mean, let's be honest, Bard spells and SC spells are straight up better than HS spells, and we can't deny that. But the fact remains that your HS spells do not seem to form an important part of your strategy, at least according to your write-up.)

I do want to acknowledge that this build seems to rely on Deep Pockets. I think it relies less completely on Deep Pockets than the other intense Deep Pockets builds this round (namely Gordon and Paulie); you've got enough other insane portal-based crap in here that Deep Pockets seems like one trick among many rather than an immovable and load-bearing part of the build. Still, Deep Pockets does give you a nice expendable place to stick folks if you can coax them or force them through some other random portal.

I appreciate that the reason that Hoardstealer is here is its one really unique ability. That's good. You did actually manage to use Hoardstealer to qualify for something else, which is also good. But you didn't really go as far as I expected with Ultimate Magus, especially with Sublime Chord on the table; why is UM actually more interesting than just more Sublime Chord? You get Persist at 20 if you burn one or more of your highest-level slots, but what are you Persisting that's worth the cost at 20? You have so few legal targets for Persist! Using the SI to qualify for stuff is only especially meaningful if that stuff is cool. UM is cool, but it's not the star of the show today. So I can only give partial credit for using HS to qualify for it.

My gut says this is a 3.5. It feels goddamn crazy to give above midline to a build with just five levels in the SI, but you actually do rely on the class's only unique feature, which means that the build wouldn't be the same with just more of its non-HS classes. That's the most important part of UoSI to me, and that pushes you above baseline. You'd have scored higher if you explained why the HS spells matter for reasons other than simply existing as prepared spells, if the skills associated with HS (both in terms of prereqs and in terms of skills that are in-class for HS) mattered more to you, or if you had done anything at all with the other class features.

Final Thoughts:

I love this build so much. I also hate this build so much. It is extraordinarily difficult to judge. It's diabolically clever, but it's so shenanigans-y that I can't wrap my brain around what it actually looks like in play. Like, at all. This may be the build that broke me the most. Yer a mad genius of some stripe, but this may have gone too deep into crazytown.



Splash Gordon: 15
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The second I saw 11 levels in Truenamer, I knew that Rebuild Item shenanigans would be on the table. Let's be honest, there's basically exactly one reason to take exactly that many levels of Truenamer. Let's see how you do with your item rebuilding.

Originality: 4.5
I love flask-hurlers. It's an archetype that's always appealed to me on an instinctual level. I must give you kudos for pointing out to me that PMC can arguably be used to make acid. That's a pretty nice trick for a low-level flask-hurler if you can deal with the casting time and the duration, and I like you pointing out things like greensickness as another way for a low-level flask-hurler to get something nasty bottled up on the cheap.

From me, at least, you're not getting Originality points solely for bringing in a Truenamer. I mean, I kind of feel like that should be obvious (they're not new to me in, like, any sense, including in Iron Chef builds), and given that what you do with it is pretty much an extension of my discussions of Rebuild Item, well, you know where we're going here. But that said, I want to applaud the line "[m]ost notably, Hoardstealer doesn't have Craft as a class skill, and Truenamer does." That exemplifies how incredibly haphazard the skill list on Hoardstealer is, and it actually make me laugh out loud. Using Truenamer as a way to get around a skill limitation on the SI is sufficiently novel that I'm going to consider it original.

And I suppose I will mention here that I had toyed around with the idea of using Rebuild Item in conjunction with a weaponized Deep Pockets, but I gave it up for taking too many levels (I was basically planning to rebuild Enveloping Pits), so that's cool. I like seeing people go all the way with ideas that I gave up. I'm willing to call this a 4.5. I wasn't totally blindsided or blown away, but there were enough clever and unique elements that I'm willing to reward you.


Power: 3
Okay, so I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that your "glass cannon" trick is really clever. I mean that sincerely. I might even be willing to buy that some parts of it work. I'm not buying that it does three or more digits of d6s (if complete immersion in acid only does 10d6—see DMG pg. 202—you ain't getting 300d6 with the equivalent of 300 flasks of acid unless you somehow have the ability to make 300 attack rolls at once, which you don't), but it's still clever and I want to acknowledge that. Even if it's not an instant kill against anything not immune to acid, which it shouldn't be, I'm willing to buy that it at least hurts like total immersion to acid, and I like what you came up with. (Read the rest of pg. 202 of the DMG and you'll see that you might also force a DC 13 Fort save vs. taking 1 CON damage and then 1d4 secondary CON damage, too! But you'll probably also have to make the same save when you're setting up.) The poison is a little bit sketchier when talking about massive exposure to many doses at once. I genuinely don't know how to rule that. I don't think I can take "splash weapon of 300 doses of BLE = 300 separate full-strength exposures to BLE, so roll 300 Fort saves and take damage for each one you failed" on its face, but I don't have a handy RAW reference like the rules for total immersion to acid, so that's asking me to move away from judging and towards GMing. Thankfully, I don't have to make a final ruling for an actual game, so I'll leave it at "somewhere that's likely deadlier than a single dose but less deadly than 300 doses" and accept that it's pretty nasty (and clever) but not that it's an instant win bomb 1/day.

I will say that you are impressively optimistic about your chances to muscle past the Law of Resistance when using 300 instances of Rebuild Item per hour. I've personally never built a 'Namer with that much TS oomph. That's getting into "turn into a Garbler" levels of TS. Of course, while that's probably the most amusing nit to pick out of your scheme, it's not the biggest problem you've got. But I think I've covered that enough in the previous paragraph.

Anyway, we talked about the good news. The bad news is that Rebuild Item has some limitations that you don't seem to have taken into consideration. Namely that you need to touch the item in question, and you only have one round to do it. That does not seem to play nice with the idea of launching a Deep Pocketized acid flask across the map, and you mentioned that there's some splash damage to be aware of, so I think you do indeed want to be pretty far away from the action. So I'm not very cheerful about your chances of actually rebuilding your Deep Pocketized thing. Darn shame, but if there even are any ways to cheese around RI's range and its timing, I don't see any such techniques in this build's write-up.

Let's talk about your utterances a bit. I won't argue with most of them. They're pretty solid. I feel like there's a teeny-tiny bit of cargo cult following here in your choice of Hidden Truth when you don't have any meaningful ranks in any Knowledge skills (okay, eventually Arcana, but you wait for a while), but even if you're just taking it because I told you to take it as your first level 2 LEM, it's still pretty darn nice on its own, and it does let you count as trained. But what sticks out to me is Silent Caster. Why Silent Caster? That's a truly baffling choice. Most of your other utterance choices are pretty spot-on (well, okay, Vision Sharpened is also a little weaksauce by ECL 13, especially without Quicken, so I probably would have gone with Temporal Spiral instead), but Silent Caster sticks out like a sore cliché. You know it's garbage for stealth without some way to make the act of uttering not be noisy, right? I guess you could technically try to use it to interfere with an enemy caster, but I don't love your chances. (Why yes, you did get the one judge who's going to pick apart which specific utterances you chose. But you probably chose to make a 'Namer after you saw I was judging anyway, so here we are.) The bright side is that most of your utterances are legitimately reasonable picks, and I don't want to obscure that too much. I mean, yeah, there aren't many good utterances in the game so this is pretty much just a matter of sticking to a relatively narrow path, but I'll take what I can get.

One of the reasons that I say that I don't love your chances is because I'm not super impressed with your TS mod. Ranks and INT aren't even really a minimum. Full ranks and good INT is actually somewhere below what I'd call the minimum. On this build? No Skill Focus. No way to craft items that would help. No Paragnostic Assembly. No Marshal or Naen sigil or luck rerolls or anything like that. Best you can hope for is purchasing an AotST and maybe a custom competence item. I want to assume some level of competence, but let's remember that Truenamer constitutes an outright majority (not even a plurality but an actual majority) of your levels, and you kinda owe some back taxes here.

You wasted 2 of your Skill Mastery slots. Neither Truespeak nor UMD play nicely with Skill Mastery. They're legal to choose, but it does nothing, because it's a clause in the skill itself rather than stress or distraction preventing taking 10. It hardly matters at ECL 20, but still, you coulda done better. I'm not directly penalizing (I mean, the fact that we're looking at ECL 20 is the biggest factor here), but it isn't helping.

To take a look at how you're filling your Glass Cannon and your other flasks, I think Hidden Talent is an excellent start but an uninspiring finish. I've never seen an encounter where you can manifest something like that in combat (a 1 minute casting time means that you aren't a character, you're a flag to be captured) without some kind of speed reduction. Out of combat, it's only 2/day, only lasts for 1 hour per casting, and you only get 1 cubic foot. You can cause a lot of havoc with 1 cubic foot of greensickness (let alone BLE), make no mistake, but it won't last all day, can't be stockpiled, doesn't scale, and basically shouldn't be your only source of juice (which in this case is closer than usual to being literal juice). You invest in Craft skills, but the downside is that mundane crafting takes for-bleeding-ever. I'm not seeing much of a way of mitigating this in the text of your write-up. I like Treasure Dowsing as a way to help find raw materials, but the crafting time is still truly punishing if you're doing this sort of thing by hand. I did see a mention of Water to Acid, which I suppose you can UMD if you can get your hands on the right sort of item. (You can't put WtA in a skull talisman because it doesn't target one or more creatures.) Where I'm at is that I think you've put together a decent start when it comes to identifying some of the problems you're facing, but I'm not convinced that you've presented an actual solution to many of the problems you're facing. (This is kind of similar to how I feel about your Glass Cannon in general, for what that's worth.)

Overall, I think that if this build were being played at an actual table with an involved GM who's at least partially receptive to what you're trying to pull, you'd be able to make some, but not necessarily all, of what you're presenting work. I don't think that everything you've presented to me works all at once, and I don't think that much of it works quite as effectively as you're claiming. That said, I like that you're reaching for the stars, even if I don't think that you fully succeed. I'll allow at least partial leveraging of your weird goals and a semi-solid baseline of utterances to get you up to the midpoint of 3. You'd have scored higher with more reliability (higher TS, scaling tricks less dubious than your Glass Cannon, etc.), slightly better utterance choice (dat Silent Caster is just so awful), and a clearer discussion of how you're leveraging the spell slots (especially the lower-level ones) and the other nominal tricks from Hoardstealer.


Elegance: 2.5

Baseline legality check: Skills are almost legal, but technically you pick skills before picking feats, so Hide and MS cost you the full cross-class amount at level 3. This is dumb, and it's one of the things I explicitly houserule away in the E6 Appetizer competition, but it's still a thing. You don't meet the prereqs for Quick Draw (BAB +1) when you take it, so that's going to cost you a bit. (The fact that you don't seem to have any other Fighter-legal feats in your build with easier prereqs—which could theoretically be shuffled in—is not helping. EWP wouldn't work for the same reason.) Your other feats and classes seem to be legal (you meet the CL prereq on Craft Skull Talisman from Truenamer, though technically you advance feats before advancing class features, so you don't have CL 6 on Hoardstealer before you pick CST).

Why +6 ranks in UMD at ECL 7 when UMD has been a class skill for literally your entire career? Confusing. It's almost a one-off for your "giant lumpy investments" (plus or minus a few Truespeak binges and a weird sudden renewed interest in Hide/MS at the tail end of your career), so I'm not going to directly penalize for it, but I will call it out as weird. I could understand it if Truenamer didn't give UMD, but it does. It's, like, the one decent skill 'Namers get other than TS and Knowledges. Huh. Anyway. Moving on.

Choosing Recitation of the Sanguine State is a nice touch for someone trafficking in poison. It's the little things, sometimes. Might make a difference with the inhaled poison effect of being sufficiently close to a giant pile of acid, right?

You basically don't have any game elements with feats as prereqs, which is actually pretty surprising. But that means that by definition you don't have prereq feats clogging up space for half your career, so that's nice!

Your class progression mostly makes sense, and I don't really have too many interesting things to say about that.

I will never understand why half-drow is so bloody common in Iron Chef (you'll notice that this is Elegance, so I'm obviously not taking off points in Originality or anything). It doesn't hurt you at all, but I fail to see it helping you much. I guess an effectively blank race at least has no penalties. I understand that some folks might limit the ACFs in DotU to drow only, but I say that's bunk (they're just ACFs, not racial sub levels), so your choice of race hasn't affected this particular judgment much at all. You did fail to tell me what book it's from, which isn't the best look on you, but I don't feel like crucifying you for it, especially because you do mention "the DotU update," which is almost an in-line citation, even if it's an almost unintentional one.

Even if I don't think you address the critical "must be touched" flaw, pairing Rebuild Item with an intentionally destroyed Deep Pocket is clever enough to be at least a little bit elegant. (I'm perhaps biased because I had a similar idea, but still.)

Using Guerilla Warrior is a clever way of solving Hoardstealer's stealth problem on a race that doesn't qualify for Able Learner. Taking Truename Training at ECL 15 is honestly weird (I've never seen it that late before, and I think I'm unlikely to see it that late again anytime soon), but I guess it saves you 5 skill points in the ECL 16-20 bracket. Not the strongest return on investment I've ever seen in my life, but I guess I've seen worse choices. GW matters a lot more for you than TT. Especially given that you get a bump to your INT mod right when TT starts mattering, so you could have saved the feat and basically just kept on as you did. But at least I like GW.

Overall, I think the nice little touches you have mostly cancel out the quibbles I have other than the ones based on legality, but I have to penalize for the illegal choice of Quick Draw, especially since that's not something we can fix by just changing the order of your feats. Call it 2.5. Would have been about 3 or maybe even 3.25 without the Quick Draw incident, but it's 2.5.


Use of Secret Ingredient: 5

You zeroed in on Deep Pockets, just like I did. I like that. Using the SI's unique abilities is one of the things I like to see the most, so that's good. And even if I don't agree with everything you're presenting (I don't accept that dumping the equivalent of a zillion flasks of acid on someone does more than immersing them in acid, and I don't think you're likely to be in position to fire off Rebuild Item after launching it across the field), that's more a question for Power, and the amount of effort you spend on making your Glass Cannon a sight to behold shows me that you're really putting your heart into optimizing Hoardstealer's one really unique feature. It would have been nicer if I bought all of your arguments, but I cannot and do not accuse you of failing to try. While your arguments about Shrink Item and about using veins of sulfur for raw materials have some downsides that I addressed in Power, once again, you seem to be genuinely trying. Everything points at optimizing something that only Hoardstealer gives you, and removing Hoardstealer from the build kind of causes it to collapse (well, okay, at least to turn into something entirely unrelated). Even if effort without full results doesn't net you perfect marks in Power, I'm willing to give you an actual A for effort in UoSI. Have 5 points, Gordon.


Final Thoughts:

When I said in my criteria that it's sometimes okay to fall short of the ideal as long as I saw you reaching for it, this is the kind of build I was talking about. I don't think your tricks work the way you say they do, but dammit, you're really making an effort, and what you came up with was entertaining enough that I think the partial results are sufficient to have earned a solid score. Well done.



Buckethead: 13.75
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No bonus or penalty for this: I didn't quite understand where you were going with your fluff. It felt, um, fragmentary? I felt like I was missing the context for who we're talking about or what was implied. But I meant it when I said that I wouldn't penalize for fluff. Let's move on to what we came here for.

Originality: 3.75
I almost never expect to see Druid in Iron Chef. This is in no small part because bringing Druid into a build is extremely dangerous (the chef generally has to contend with the implicit or explicit question of "so, why did you bother bringing the SI into a perfectly fine Druid build?"), but still, I didn't see it coming, so that looks good for you. Arcane Hierophant is way out there, too, pretty much for a similar reason. You don't do too terribly much that's unusual for an Arcane Hierophant, but the fact that you brought in the class at all is noteworthy. You managed to make it have a reasonably intuitive fit with the SI (which I did not expect), so we'll call this above average. Maybe 3.75? That seems about right.

Power: 4
So that's what, about 11 effective Druid levels? Not shabby. I mean, yes, that's probably (read: 100% definitely) weaker than 20 effective Druid levels, but that's still an awful lot of Druid oomph. I can't complain too much about many of your feats, though I wonder if it would have been possible to save the feat on Nightbringer Initiate by taking the first Halfling Druid level and just carefully timing when and how you invested in Hide/MS? The loss of SNA isn't trivial, but you do get a trick or two to make up for it, and a feat is a nice benefit to save. Maybe you ran those numbers and didn't like the results, and maybe you didn't run them at all. I just wonder. Anyway, KD is kind of trivial by ECL 18, but as I said in my criteria, most things are pretty trivial by that level.

FYI: I am indeed ignoring your proposed progression of Hoardstealer spells beyond 10 effective HS levels (CL still applies, like you said), but to be honest, that doesn't really affect your power terribly much.

Hoardstealer basically adds the arcane keyword to you, which I suppose is something. You make some arguments about Treasure Dowsing being useful; I'm not sure if RAW supports how burrowing works with intentional excavation of minerals, but you know what, it's clever enough that I'll call it somewhat interesting and recognize the effort. The stifled Druid progression in the middle of the build is necessarily disappointing, but enabling entry into AH and therefore ending up with a much more tricked-out companion than you'd otherwise get is definitely clever.

I'm a little confused by your skills. I don't quite get the maxed Move Silently with the near-minimum Hide. I can see a bit of ground being made up from being very little, but nowhere near the level I'd expect if I wanted to be primarily stealthy. You mention scouting quite a few times. Druids, especially halfling Druids with Undersized WS, are pretty good at that, but I do note with some sadness that you have very little meaningful investment in the perceptive skills, which is definitely a downer. You have some moderate investment in some face skills, I suppose, and eventually enough UMD to matter, but I'm not seeing much of an actual focus for your skills. I'm still seeing the utility from your WS, but I think it would be more impressive with more solidly defined skills. That would have really sold me that Hoardstealer is harmonizing with the rest of the build. You're still more harmonious than some of your competitors, but not quite what I was hoping for.

Hoardstealer slows you down, but at least Arcane Hierophant tacks on an inherent consolation prize to every Hoardstealer level, making it so that it's not a complete lack of progression. Now, advancing the familiar-style abilities of your companion is still a far cry from, you know, advancing your Druid spells or your Wild Shape, but the fact remains that you brought in a very different base class and managed to make it at least be advanced a tiny bit by Hoardstealer, which is more than we can say for every dish this round.

Overall, I still think I have to respect this build's power level. Druid spells are hella strong (I may be a minority here, but I like the Druid list way more than the Cleric list, especially at low levels and the mid-game), you have a very interesting pet, you have crazy utility from WS, and the SI levels slow you down more than sandbag you entirely. That's a 4 to me. You might have scored higher with a clearer focus on your skills and perhaps a little bit more discussion of the utility of Hoardstealer spells beyond Dim Door.

Elegance: 3

Basic legality check: You underspent your skill points during your Druid levels because you seem to have forgotten that Education made K: Arcana a permanent class skill for you, and you underspend during Hoardstealer when you take K: Nature as cross-class as well. Better to underspend than overspend, I suppose. Unfortunately, you seem to overspend at level 7 with no obvious explanation or mitigating factor. You seem to otherwise be legal. To be so close to being legal but to fall just short is really heartbreaking, and your underspending was consistent enough that it worked against you overall.

That one level of Concentration at 12 kind of drives me crazy. Why wait for so long? Why bother with a single rank? Why stop there? Similarly, the cowlick token investment into Spot/Listen at ECL 18+ is kind of weird as well. Why bother? Those are some hardcore cowlick ranks. All I want is a token line or two in your write-up telling me why you threw in those weird and otherwise lonely ranks when you did, but I didn't get that.

Taking Antiquarian and Education and then not taking any ranks in K: Religion is a little disappointing. I almost wonder if you'd have gotten more mileage out of being able to find traps prior to ECL 8 than you're going to get from an occasional +1 on Appraise checks and the ability to roll a special K: Religion check that you aren't allowed to succeed on because Antiquarian doesn't have an exception to the DC cap for untrained Knowledge checks. Okay, actually, that's a lie. I don't wonder. I'm pretty sure I know exactly which would have been more favorable to you, and it's not the one you chose. (Yes, this all matters. Every single choice you make should matter.) This is especially true considering how little you advance as a trapmonkey after entering Hoardstealer; the bulk of your actual investment in trap-related stuff comes at the beginning (so if your goal was to "maximize the use of the SI's features," I don't think you really succeeded there). Don't bring in stuff that doesn't matter, especially if you're trading something away for it. Levels 1-7 still do exist. (Iron Constitution is inoffensive, but that's mostly because both Iron Constitution and Resist Nature's Lure are pretty trivial in the first place. But even so, I can see you getting use out of Iron Constitution that I don't see you getting out of Antiquarian.)

I will be entirely honest with you: I tried three separate times to read through your "wild shape overview" spoiler, and my eyes kept glazing over in the middle. I respect trying to do the legwork for me and show me the stats of what you plan to turn into, but to be honest, that was too much info in way too dense a format for me to really get a full understanding of exactly what you wanted me to glean from it. I still understand that you've got some dynamite utility from WS and especially Dragon WS, but I don't get what you're saying in that specific block of text. Make it a table or something. What you presented is kind of like reading a phone book.

I liked the level-by-level breakdown of "here's what new at this level and why you care." That's good stuff.

The overall class structure more or less makes sense. Rogue at 1 for skills, Druid until you qualify for the SI, Hoardstealer until you qualify for AH, AH until you get (Medium) Dragon Wild Shape, more HS until you stop gaining unique features, then finish with AH. Clean, smooth, logical.

Nightbringer Initiate is a little weak. You use it to save a total of 4 skill points over your entire career (1 at ECL 5, irrelevant because of the sub level at ECL 6, and then 3 at ECL 7). It would have made more sense if you hadn't had the Rogue level already increasing your cap. I mentioned this in Power, but it didn't really ultimately affect your Power score, so please don't accuse me of double-dinging you. It's a little less than elegant, though, don't you think? I'm not saying that you should have taken Open-Minded instead (I know that spreading out when points are spent is very relevant at the level/s in question), but Open-Minded would have technically netted you more skill points. That seems a little bit of a low return on investment. You do mention Enervation, but it's not like Druids are low on excellent level 4 spells. I think you could have chosen something slightly more elegant.

Overall, I'm willing to put this smack dab in the middle. The quibbles I have are pretty minor, and I'm willing to let the very clean class structure and mostly very readable layout cancel out the single (heartbreaking) illegal skill rank and the weird cowlick skill investment.

Use of Secret Ingredient: 3

Let's start with a feature-by-feature breakdown.

You trade away Trapfinding from your Rogue level with the clear intention of picking it up with Hoardstealer, but since you only get minimally better at dealing with traps (4 more Search ranks over 8 class levels / 10 character levels? Sorry, not impressed) after entering Hoardstealer, that isn't much and you really don't show it off. I don't think I'd have even called it out if you kept Trapfinding from Rogue, but the fact that you clearly altered your build specifically to have HS be your source of Trapfinding adds it to the conversation, and you didn't follow through.

You mention that darkvision applies in WS, which might matter. It's not much, but I suppose it's something.

You ignore Trap Sense.

You mention Deep Pockets once or twice but don't do anything new or interesting with it, basically all but ignoring it.

You argue that Treasure Dowsing combines well with a burrowing WS form for extra loot; that's goofy and may or may not work, but points for trying. (Sincerely.)

You barely mention the spells at all, but you use the fact that Hoardstealer is an arcane casting class to enable AH and to make your big burly pet smarter/more interesting, which is not nothing. The fact that Hoardstealer was only partially dead weight instead of entirely dead weight compared to your T1 casting baseline is something of a rarity.

You get a little bit of utility out of Hoardstealer's skill list, but you mostly pick skills without super-high bonuses for Skill Mastery, so I'm not convinced that it's something that's really critical to you.

What you care about the most out of the SI seems to be basically having something to advance with AH, which I suppose isn't the worst avenue of optimization I've seen. I do appreciate that you make an argument about doing something with Treasure Dowsing that most folks can't/don't, and I still do have to admit that it's clever to get AH involved. Still, I feel like you kind of dropped the ball in the skill department, you really only mention AH's actual spells by name once, and you don't do anything with Deep Pockets. I'll plop this in the middle and give it a 3. You would have scored higher if you had made a cogent argument about Hoardstealer's skills letting you do things (perhaps especially in Wild Shape) that you couldn't have with just Druid and if you'd done more with the spells and Deep Pockets.


Final Thoughts:
There was a lot to like here! Your biggest stumbling block was likely the skills, since I really can't figure out exactly why you made all the choices that you made in that department, and that made the SI a bit less of a good match with the rest of the build. But you managed to bring in a T1 caster that didn't entirely fight with the SI, and that's noteworthy.