So you want to win the TOC Part 2- New Affs

Its been about 15 days since the first post in this series, so you and your partner should of been able to write a new aff in that amount of time. Now the question is: how do you not blow it?

What do I mean by blow it- well there is a tendency by people who read new affs at big tournaments like the TOC/NDT to just mess up, lose on somethign simple or stupid, just plain blow it. First lets go through why I think this happens.

Before the first tournament of the year you wrote an aff. You probably went through these steps

A. You took all the camp files on a particular aff and consolidated them. Lets say 5 camps wrote your aff, at each camp there was a lab leader and 5 kids (conservative estimate) who worked on the aff for 1 week, at 4 hours per day. 6 times 4 times 7=168. So conservatively 168 hours of work had gone into the aff before you even looked at it. Now lets say it takes you 2 hours a day for a week to compile it and write your 1AC, brining us to about 180 hours. Then you spend another 5 hours writing 2AC blocks, for 185 total. At this point almost 7 whole days of work have gone into producing your aff for the first tournament.

Now lets say you read this aff at 5 tournaments. You get 3 aff debates per tournament, which we will say are 2 hours a piece including pre round prep, which is another 30 hours. And lets say you do 2 hours of work updating your aff each week before the tournament, 5 times 2 is 10. So we add 40 to our original 185 and get 225. So at your 6th tournament you have spent almost 10 whole days getting to know your aff. You would probably know it pretty well right? Have a lot of blocks, not need a lot of 2AC prep,evidence would be highlighted well, organized etc.

Now lets look at a new aff you are breaking. Lets assume you want a 300 page aff and you only produce 5 pages per hour. You and your partner will be able to right that aff in the aforementioned 15 days. So the 2 of you have put in 60 hours of work on it, and you bust it at the TOC. Do you see the discrepancy here? 60 hours vs 225 is a HUGE difference. And that assumes you write the aff yourself, not have a coach do it for you.

Which brings us to Phillips Law of Breaking a new aff- no matter how much you think you have prepared for it, you aren’t prepared enough. Breaking a new aff and running it well is really really hard. You might not have had any practice debates, you might not have all the 2AC’s organized for battle conditions, cards might not be highlighted etc.

And therein lies the flaw of the 2 hour a day system I explained in the first post. That was exclusively about evidence production. It didn’t work any time in for other other prep work. And that is why many teams blow it at the TOC-they are so obsessed with writing as many new arguments as possible that they don’t spend enough time doing the prep work.

But even more importantly than this- new affs are RARELY of the same quality as the aff you compiled at the beginning of the year. There are a few reasons for this

1. If the aff was big in the literature/had lots of good articles odds are someone would of found it. Most end of the year new affs are a stretch

2. You researched it yourself- instead of 30 people researching it across the country in different libraries it was all you. This means the odds you got all the best cards are lower.

3. You had to anticipate the negative all by yourself instead of getting the benefit of seeing dozens of camp debates and more throughout the year. You have to try and guess what the neg will say.

So how should you properly go about preparing a new aff? Here are my top 10 tips, others may chime in the comments with more

1. Why are you writing a new aff? If your current aff is a K aff with a patriarchy advantage, what is accomplished by busting a new aff with a racism advantage? Your new aff should be sufficiently different that it gives your opponent a “new look”, it should keep them guessing and try and neutralize as much of their pre round prep as possible. If your new aff doesn’t have good answers to the states CP and you are reading it against a team who often goes for states, what is the point? The new aff should have a strategic theory behind it. The flip side of this is you don’t want to take it to far- it doesn’t make sense to write an aff vs a specific team since the odds of hitting them are low- your new aff work should be directed at ideas that are viable enough to stand on their own, not require a certain other team or a certain neg strategy. If you can’t explain why your new aff gives you a strategic benefit other than “its new” then stick to your old aff because the preparation disparity probably outweighs the newness.

2. How to prep- you should not run an aff at the TOC that you did not have totally finished at least 1 week ahead of time. Unless you are just amazing as a debater it is going to be difficult for you to just pick something up and run with it. Since you will need at least 10 hours of highlighting/block writing to get the new aff even close to finished you need a lot of lead time, so you/your coaches need to get it done early. You should have practice debates- if you don’t have other kids on your team debate yourself. Find local schools in your area and agree to debate each other since the odds of you hitting at the TOC are low. Confidence = familiarity + time. For every 2AC block you have for your current aff, you should have one for your new aff.

3. Link Turn- the most powerful tool of new affs is specificity. For all the topic generic neg arguments you should try and anticipate specific turns you can read, or add ons that function as link turns. Running a new aff and then impact turning politics is rarely the right course of action because it moots the newness. Sometimes you will have to given the neg strat, but it should not be the go to. If your new aff has terrible politics link turns, what is the point of reading it against a team that mainly goes for politics? If your new aff has no specific trick to answer the cap K why read it vs a team who mainly goes for the cap K? Teams when facing a new aff with either bust a new generic, or fall back on what they know.

4. Internal link diversity- having a new aff with a jobs advantage, and then 40 jobs add ons is dumb. If the CP solves jobs, or the DA turns it you are hosed. A new aff needs to have diverse options so it can respond to a well prepared negative. One of the best things you can do if you are going to write a bunch of new affs is have a lot of generic add ons that apply to all of them. MSU was exceptional at this on the college china topic, they read a lot of new affs frequently and it worked for them because they had a lot of “pressure” add ons that could apply to any of them since it was the topic mechanism. This doesn’t mean “don’t have specific add ons” – it means you need to have both. Having a ton of diverse add ons is the best way to prepare for diverse negative strategies including the multi plank CP. REPEAT- add ons are how you beat multi plank CP’s. It doesn’t matter what the status is because if they kick parts you can still go for the add ons. An add on the CP doesn’t solve is 100X better than a DA to the CP for this very reason.

5. Anticipate the agent issue- a classic response to a new aff is either an agent CP or aspec. You should of thought this through ahead of time and prepared for it.

6. Impact turns- one of the easiest ways to beat a new aff is to impact turn the advantage because that usually eliminates any “trick” value the aff has. Whatever your aff is you should be ready for this, but especially if your advantage is mainstream like econ/heg/federalism etc. You have got to be ready for this strategy. Similarly if your advantage representations are mainstream you need to be ready to defend them- k’s that move the debate away from the plan obviously moot the advantage of having a new plan.

7. Reduced reliance on theory- its an unfortunate fact but most judges let the neg take the gloves off when it comes to theory vs new affs- multiple CPs/absurd pics etc- it is very difficult to beat these on theory when you are reading a new aff, so don’t plan on it. This brings me to

8. Don’t have any of the topic words in your plan- new affs getting beat on word pics about topic words is a classic at these tournaments. Also be prepared for the flip side- not having the words means you will link to the euphemism CP that was ridiculously popular on the SSA topic. Pick your poison and be ready to defend it.

9. Don’t be unidimensional- having a sick new K aff ready won’t help you in the octos when your judges aren’t K friendly and you are locked aff. One way to get maximum mileage out of a new aff is to have many versions of it that you can use in different situations. So not only do you have a new aff, but you have 2 or 3 sets of advantages you can use depending on the circumstances.

10. Straight turn things- its time to cowboy up. If you have ridiculous case specific politics turns vs a multiplank CP strategy but you also read defense allowing the neg to kick politics and go for a different net benefit- WHAT WAS THE POINT? The time for waffling has gone. If you write an aff with a strategic purpose you need to execute it.

12 thoughts on “So you want to win the TOC Part 2- New Affs

  1. Ellis

    Awesome post. Do you plan on writing a part to this series specifically about answering new affs? Roy will comment about how all new affs are terrible and all of us are bad at debate, but the specifics of the article on things like managing prep time, picking a strategy, 1nc size etc could be really helpful.

  2. Roy Levkovitz


    Get better at debate, use less prep time in speeches that require less prep, read args in the 1nc that could make sense in the 2nr. Versus non topical affs go for T, don't do that versus topical affs. Make sure the 1n doesn't audible out of the 2n's orders also

  3. Roy Levkovitz

    Clarification: The 1nr doesn't have to take aspec. If you feel he/she is not capable of doing it justice please take it in the 2nc, even for 8 mins if necessary.

  4. Ellis

    But what if they spec their A???????
    Ok I'm taking a 3nr comment hiatus lest I become Layne

  5. Malgor

    aspec = for chumps.

    there is one benefit of going for aspec against new affs at the toc-you'll get to sleep in on out round day.

  6. David Petersen

    Maybe one to add/think about is attempting not to be biased. If you have spent two hours a day for the past couple of weeks researching this affirmative there is a chance you will have become either irrationally attached to the argument and therefore refuse to admit you are wrong or just have been exposed to so much of the literature on one side that you just believe the correct side of the debate is your side.

    How to avoid—
    1) If time premits write a negative to your new aff—-case negs are not gigantic files and it serves two purposes—-first it allows you to understand your affirmative better and how it interacts with the arguments that it clashs with—-second there is a chance this new aff you wrote was also written by someone else—-this like first but also lets you find out if there are any doomsday strats to your aff
    2) Talk with your partner/coach/teammates about the affirmative idea before and after you spend a bunch of time working on it. Not only does this allow you to get an idea of what kind of arguments people think of write away when being confronted with this argument (like the other team you break the aff on) but it allows you to also understand how someone judging a round (this pertains more to talking to a coach) will understand the affirmative assuming this is the first time that judge has seen this new aff. Even if the judge has seen lots of rounds on the topic and is very involved on the topic chances are they do not understand every intricacie of your new affirmative. Don't assume your judge will understand something that you take as trivial because you read the entire article your solvency advocate wrote. Talking with a coach after finishing the aff will help you understand how much explanation you have to do in order to effectivly beat an argument.
    3) Don't be afraid to admit your aff has problems/places of weakness. Run to those places and protect them.

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