Preface: I was both a 1n and 2n in college, anything I write in defense of the 1n comes from the unbiased perspective of helping the negative win more debates.
The 1nr is the second most important speech the negative will give in the debate. There, I said it, deal with it. You’re crazy Roy!!, the 1nr, that 5 minute 3rd negative constructive? We can all agree that the 2nr is not only the most important negative speech but maybe the hardest speech in debate, but how can that 5 minute third negative constructive possibly be the second most important negative speech after that? The better question is how have people spent so long missing that truism? Hopefully I can convince you all below about the importance of this speech, and then how to more effectively give that speech
Why the 1nr is so important?
First, the 1nr just has as ton of prep. If we assume that the average prep used before the 2nc is 3 minutes, then you can assume the 1nr will have about 14 minutes to prep for their speech (3+8+3). That’s right, the negative has a speech where they have 14 or so minutes to read, analyze and deconstruct an opponent’s evidence. Time to re-read your own evidence, and prep out distinctions between your argument and your opponent’s arguments.
Second, as many of you all might have picked up on, there is no cross-x after the 1nr. Unlike the cross-x of the 2nc where a wily 2a is able to pick apart holes in the negative strategy, the inability to cross-x the 1nr means it is all on the 1ar to point out the problems, logical inconsistencies or lies of the speech. If the 2a embarrasses the 2n, the 1ar can reference the cross-x in the speech rather than needing to really devote time to explaining the arguments, that is not the case in the instance of the 1nr.
Finally, the 1ar gets 3 minutes free minutes of prep during the cx of the 2nc, so “sandbagging” some of the more prep intensive / important arguments to the 1nr also means the aff would either need to take more prep on issues, or just neglect them.
Optimizing the 1nr
Now that we know why the 1nr is such a dangerous tool for the negative, I’ll talk about how to make sure the 1nr gets utilized in an effective manner.
Pre-1nr: All negative teams go into the debate with a certain idea of what the block is going to look like, after the 2ac is done giving their speech the negative should take 10-20 seconds of prep time to discuss what the 2n is going to take and what the 1nr is going to take. After you all have figured that out the 1n should start cross-xing the 2a on the issues they are going to take. This is important for a couple of reasons, first you don’t crap the 2n’s style. If you start asking about stuff the 2n is going to take you might be holding evidence back from your partner who is prepping or might be asking about stuff your partner does not want discussed. Focus that cross-x on what you actually do plan on taking effectively starting your speech during the cross-x
A big point of contention is always about how the negative block should be distributed. Ineffective block distribution is the silent killer for negative win percentages. Poor block distribution makes it easier for good 1as to figure out what the negative is going for and allocate their time on the only viable negative strategy. The most +expected value (+ev) block distribution for the negative is one in which the 1nr takes a position that the 2a had read a decent amount of evidence on, allowing the negative to respond to those card directly. The problem with the 2n taking these positions is that 2nr prep time is extremely valuable, 2ns cannot afford to spend minutes of time reading 2ac evidence, giving those sheets of paper to the 1nr ensures you get evidence comparison + prep time left for the 2nr.
On the college treaties topic back in 2003 I heard about something that really changed my mind on how to optimize the 1nr (I’m sure this was done earlier but one of my first encounters with it). The University of Michigan’s top team was negative in this debate and the affirmative they were debating decided to read a free trade add on in the 2ac. The negative stood up did their thing, and with 3 or so minutes left in the 1nr, the 1nr went to the free trade add on and straight impact turned it. This put the aff in a huge hole. 1st they needed to find their free trade file and get it out, next they needed to continue prepping the rest of the negative block, and third they needed to invest their own prep time after the speech was done to get their free trade house in order. If the 2nc had stood up and impact turned the trade adv some of the “shock and awe” would have been lost, the 1ar would have used the cross-x of the 2nc to get the file out and ready, the 2a would be able to cross-x the 2n on the impact turns. The sandbagging benefit would have been lost completely.
Juke the aff out- I feel like a huge percentage of 2ns give incredibly revealing speeches (like taking states and politics in the 1nr, or 8 mins of the K) they are to clearly telegraphing their moves to the aff. Dividing up the block by giving the 1n a key piece of paper that is viable in the 2nr might make the aff reconsider their 1ar time allocation. If that reasoning isn’t enough think about this, most 1as are 2ns, and since most 2ns go for what / all they took in the block they become less likely to give what the 1nr took any credit in their speech. This is becomes an exploitable play if you know how said 2n/1a thinks.
Obviously this is not a comprehensive list of ways you can utilize the 1nr. Every team has different positions they like to go for but hopefully you all will be able to maximize your negative block’s potential in the future by thinking about this post. The negative should really always have a stranglehold on the debate after the block, the last thing you want to do is let the aff off the hook