Opening tournament prep

There are many factors that go into how you should prep for the beginning of the year: the size of your squad, how much time you have, what tournament you are going to etc. For the purpose of this series I will assume the following:


1. Your squad has 2-4 people (coaches or debaters) who can reliably be counted on to produce useful debate work

2. You will be making your debut at Greenhill or a similar large TOC tournament

3. You have a decent chance of making it to the doubles (4-2 record or better)

Lets start with the neg. There are basically two ways you can go about this

1. Dedicate your time to organizing and further researching specific strategies to all the cases turned out at institutes

2. Write one or two generics

There is a tradeoff between these two approaches. With infinite time and an army of type writer monkeys there would be no tradeoff and you could do both, but realistically with 2-4 people and given that you have to also do an aff you can’t conceivably do both and keep a high level of quality.

There are quite a few reasons I think approach 2 is superior:

1. People will read new cases- especially better teams. This means that if you don’t have a quality generic you will probably be hurting.

2. People will read new twists on camp cases- see above

3. It’s hard to predict which camp cases will become common- just looking at the last few years you can see that some dominant camp cases (Afghanistan) were popular, others were unpopular at camp but became big during the year (Japan, various education affs on poverty). Case specific strategies are a gamble, you are essentially betting you will get to use the work and in order to get to use it you have to debate that case. Generics are a much safer bet in this regard.

4. Case specific strategies limit your ability to exploit MPJ. For the sake of this point I am going to assume you are well rounded enough to employ both critical and policy strategies. Case specific strategies are (for the most part) one or the other- you have a pic with a policy net benefit, or a specific K of sps deployment for example. Depending on what judge you get, one of those is going to be better for you than the other. When you factor in your judge and your opponent, one of those may be dramatically better for you. The best hyper specific K in the world isn’t going to be worth much when you draw an anti K judge against a team who is decent at frameowrk and cede the political. Similarly you may be kicking yourself when you draw a K hack like Herndon and are debating a team who is ktarded but you don’t have any hippie ammo.


I could go on, but suffice to say- prepare generics. So now that we have decided that, how do you select your generics from the plethora of arguments that were turned out by camps? Well, in order to have broad applicability you need to pick something that clashes with a part of the resolutional wording- this allows you to use topicality to establish competition. This not only makes your arguments seem more “legit”, it also means that if you end up losing competition you will at least have a T argument you can fall back on. So what words in the current space topic could establish competition for you?


This topic is tricky because it doesn’t have a clear mechanism- this is because of the exploration and/or development wording. Whereas say the poverty topic had “social services” as a clear mechanism, exploration and development are both broader than that term, and there are two of them. So while there may be great generics based on those words it will be tricky to be totally prepared based on them. This leaves us with agent based strategies about “United States”.

US generics can be subdivided into two parts- international actors, and some sort of sneaky domestic agent cp like privatization. International actors have an obvious shortcoming- most affs will have some sort of US action advantage (leadership/aerospace). The shortcoming of sneaky domestic counterplans is probably competition. So to pick between the two you should think about your skill set are you:

1. A fast/technical brute strength kind of debater- would you be good going for heg impact turns in the 2nr as the net benefit to your cp?


2. Are you slow/smart- better suited to debating theory nuances to win the competition for a sneaky cp?


These two aren’t mutually exclusive as some debaters, like Roy, have it all. But if you are honest with yourself you can tell which one better suits you. While I said at the beginning that I will assume you are doing work it should also be obvious that if you are less likely to cut a lot of cards/write a lot of blocks that heg bad is probably not the path for you. Once you have picked your counterplan, you need to think of a list of strategic tools you will need. For each of these you want to think not only of what does your 2NC look like, but also what will your 2NR look like? And to prepare for the tournament you should give practice speeches on both of those.

1. Competition- this is the most important part of any cp strategy. This may be as simple as just “cp avoids politics, perm links” but the more simplistic it is the easier it is for the aff to defeat it. When establishing competition you want to think of tricky add ons/disads you can read to the perm in the 2NC and you want to think about sophisticated theory arguments, hopefully buttressed by definitional support, to win the permutations that are threatening to your position are illegitimate. Being able to diversify your net benefit in the block also makes it difficult for the aff to collapse the debate. If you go for privatize with only politics as the net benefit the 1AR can push all in on “cp links” and basically ignore the rest of the debate. To have a high quality generic 2 cards on privatize doesn’t link is not going to cut it, you need to be trickier than that.

2. Solvency- you can obviously assemble solvency blocks for cases you know about, japan can do SPS, china can send people to mars etc. What is more beneficial though is to come up with solvency strategies- reasons the cp alters traditional solvency calculations so that the judge should discount aff solvency deficit arguments regardless of their case. The classic example of this is the states CP- ignore uniformity because the fiat of the CP isn’t assumed blah blah blah. These tricks are effective because they are implicitly a form of argument resolution- while asserting solvency for the CP they also give the judge a way to decide between differing solvency arguments. One example of this for the privatize CP would be to dedicate time to winning that the free market is superior to government action. So lets say the debate goes down like this


1AC: US do SPS, only the FG can dedicate resources needed for economies of scale

1NC: Privatize

2AC: private firms will never invest/returns are too uncertain, massive government program the only way


When you deal with this in the 2NC you want to go deeper than just reading “market solves” ev. One way teams have beefed up this argument on past topics is to essentially combine the CP with the “synoptic delusion” kritik, which argues that central planning is doomed to fail because of the fragmented nature of knowledge. This acts not only as offense vs the aff, its also an epistemological reason to prefer the negs cp solvency evidence over the aff cards. These tricks are great independently, but the more of them you string together the more powerful they become. So a full 2NC on this argument might look like

1. Case specific solvency cards

2. Evidence about why indicts of the market are flawed (either bias arguments or the synoptic D k discussed above)

3. Disad turns/outweighs solvency deficit arguments

4. Explanation of theory/plan spikes in the CP that moot this point

5. Defense/impact turns to this advantage

Then in the 2NR you pick 1 or 2 of these strategies and emphasize them heavily.

These tricks aren’t case specific, so you can read them every round. That also means that you can dedicate more time to practicing them, blocking them out efficiently, and finding the best evidence. For each generic, you should have 4-5 of these tricks prepared. You won’t necessarily read them all round 1, but you want some diversity and the ability to break new arguments in elims.


3. The disad- most of the time this year its going to be politics since there don’t seem to be other great topic disads, but if you chose an international actor like China than you will have a different disad like soft power. For the disad the parts you generally need to focus the most on are link tricks. You need to come up with tricky link arguments that you can use to differentiate between the plan, the cp, and the permutation. So for example “legislation costs pc” with privatize is probably not great because the process of privatization probably requires congress to act at some point. Similarly reading an Obama bad disad with domestic agent cp’s is tricky because you have to somehow win that he will get/take credit/blame for the plan but not the cp. So you need to put in some more thought than just “download thursday file”. So lets assume you select politics and privatization, you need to find links to the differences between the two, not necessarily links to the case. Many SPS links for example basically say “Giant sats are crazy and thus unpopular”. This arguably would still link to privatize. Process links will be easier to win only apply to the plan, so you need to make sure you have the best cards for these arguments in your arsenal.


So for privatize when I prepared it for a demo debate at camp, I basically put together the following links

1. GOP hates big government, prefers private involvement

2. Cost- privatize is cheaper, spending unpopular

Which are both pretty simple, but clear and easy to explain. If I was going to prepare privatize for the year I would want to have at least 4-5 arguments like that, and preferably more. Some will apply better in certain contexts than others. The costs less argument seemed silly to me for SPS because its obviously going to cost a boatload, but when I read the SPS specific evidence for that argument it was extremely good. So while I had the generic evidence, for that particular case I was able to read better specific evidence.

For each of these I would have prepared

-1NC shell

-2NC block that extends/explains earlier evidence and has best extension evidence

-2NR block that begins argument resolution, outlines key warrants, and has prewritten evidence comparison

Which would probably total about 10-15 pages per link argument. This may seem shocking to some of you, 50-75 pages of link work for a generic? The whole camp file is only 100 pages! some of the lazy readers may be saying. This is kind of my point- a well prepared generic is different from a camp generic. It is probably going to take you 2-3 weeks of 3+ hours of work a day to complete this file. So going back to our trusty phillips math, 5 pages per hour, 21 days of 3 hours of work = 315 pages of work. If your generic file is 100 pages, it may be runnable, but it is probably not win a tournament quality. Of that 315 pages I would say probably around 100 pages are “blocks”- and by blocks I mean just written analytic arguments- extensions of evidence, evidence comparisons, theory blocks etc. When extending your generics, they should be so well prepped that it doesn’t require any prep time.

In the next post I will go over your 2nd generic, which should be a K.