Category Archives: Affirmative Strategy

Throwdown- Pics Bad

Throwdown with Scott Phillips

Throwdown with Scott Phillips

This post will be in more 1AR form than nuanced explanation.

Extend our offense- pics artificially inflate bad disads by creating any risk of a link analysis which skews research and pre round prep focus. We’ll defend the whole plan, but forcing us to defend isolated parts in a vacuum is unpredictable and doesn’t reflect real world literature. There is no logical limit to pics- they can change the scope or implementation of the plan in unpredictable ways.

AT: Fix your plan

-no plan is immune to pics, you can’t just “fix” it. Fixing involves making the plan as vague as possible like “provide water africa” a la the hooch 2 years ago that are bad for education.

AT: You were just defending consult

-This is a blog about switch side debate.

AT: Who runs these 1 penny counterplans

-Lots of people run CP’s like grandfather 10% of the permits that the aff is never prepared for, they have solvency advocates and people win on them.

AT: Solvency Advocates check

-Empirically denied- judges are unwilling to firmly hold the neg to this standard- just having a link card is usually good enough. Proliferation of internet blogs (and law review footnotes) allow cards to be found for anything

AT:If solvency advocates exist and net benefits exist, then maybe it’s a real question in the literature.

-“real question” does not equal- far and good for debate. There are lots of “real questions” like how are we going to pay for this that in debate we chose to ignore

AT:The counterplan tests whether the Aff would be a better idea if done slightly differently

-If your disad is not enough to outweigh the case, it sucks. Why should we give the neg a mechanism to make crappy arguments round winners? Sounds a lot like you are defending a K JC…

AT:The damage to the 2AC strategy is done? What strategy are you talking about?

-a good 2ac will not read offense solved by the pic because that would be a waste of time, if the negative then has the CP go away due to theory the aff is left without some of their best arguments

AT:Reciprocal – they inflate the solvency deficit to the same degree. If you can’t win that this outweighs the disad it means either the CP isn’t competitive or you deserve to lose.

-This is false- its easier to construe a net benefit with an impact “including roy in the HC provided by the plan is unpopular” then it is to win a solvency deficit “providing for roy is key to solve”.

AT:A strong 1NC barrage of defensive case arguments and DAs that turn the case accomplishes the same effect

-Yes it does, it takes 10X as much time as reading a 1 sentence cp text which makes it different

AT:This argument also justifies banning all CPs because they force you to make certain solvency deficit arguments and not others

-False, you can use your whole plan as offense against non plan inclusive cps

AT: This neg ability to focus on a specific part of the plan is justified by the aff ability to set the focus of the entire debate

-It does not logically follow that because the aff picked X the neg gets to pick a subset of X-this is a claim without a warrant

AT: See above – aff gets to choose their side in almost every PIC debate. “penny saved” counterplans aren’t viable because the neg can’t win that the DA outweighs the solvency deficit

-This is empirically denied- gfather example above, font pics, word pics, exclude a state, exclude a sub group like natives the list goes on an on

AT: Roy’s counterplans are stupid for reasons other than that they’re PICs, they’re either only textually or not competitive. This logic is the equivalent of banning DAs because you think politics is stupid

– you are hinting at some standard for competition that “only allows the good ones” but you conveniently leave it out because it doesn’t exist. This is the classic problem with PICS, one out of 100 is good/fair/the center of the debate about that aff- the rest are nonsense.

AT: “Using a different mechanism” is the same as a PIC+an additional plank

-No-  USFG do cap and trade vs Japan inject iron oxide into oceans. I think you are trying to say “including the agent makes it a pic” which I think is arguable- it includes none of the plan ACTION. I don’t think if a cp that has a different agent doing a different action includes 1 word or 1 letter or is in the same font as the plan that makes it a pic.

AT: the alternative energy PIC is an example of a “different mechanism” CP.

-Its the exact same mechanism, it just uses a different name


Running the net-benefit without the CP is overly constraining – proving that the plan is sub-optimal and that a viable, competitive alternative exists negates the aff. To answer this statement you’d have to argue neg fiat bad, and that (or even just no PICs) would regress us to 1960s, Greg Varley era debate where the aff always wins.

-It “overly constrains” bad arguments with low probabilities, true. PICS bad does not logically rely on no neg fiat, you have no warrant for that claim.


(to use a real world analogy, the argument that the fact that the plan is an improvement over the SQ is a sufficient reason to merit adoption would hold no water. see the health care debate – rational policymakers don’t adopt policies if better alternatives that are smaller than the plan exist. If the public option PIC succeeds, Obama loses.)

-Yes look at the real world- these kind of minor counter proposals suck and guarantee nothing ever gets done. But more importantly there are constraints in debate like the topic and time which make this model a bad one to import.

Early Tournament Success

If you are a 2A going into the first tournaments of this year you have a pretty good idea what you need to prepare for: cap k, coercion k, pov k, politics, states cp, agents, a few T arguments. Compared to last years topic where there were 20 different oil disads, 20 more natural gas disads, and a million other topic specific arguments this list is pretty manageable. Not having a 2ac ready for these is basically inexcusable. Most negs will not have put in enough time to come up with totally new args from camp to the start of the year. Others will have trouble coming up with new arguments thinking if they weren’t turned out at a camp then they can’t be important. It’s certainly possible to win on the neg with just this list of things, but since the majority of aff prep time will be organized around preparing for this argument set you improve your odds by working outside of it.  So this post will be about neg prep for the beginning of the year, and a follow up will deal with the aff.

1. If you plan on relying on the stock neg args listed above, you need a “trick”. Something to catch the other team unprepared and or neutralize the prep they have put in ahead of time to get ready for them. Some examples of this could be

-impact turning advantages states don’t solve for- many aff answers to states fall into stock categories like “international perception”. If you prepare a 2 minute impact turn block to 5 or 6 of these that you can read in the last 2 minutes of the 1NR not only will you catch the aff by surprise, but you will have an independent net benefit to the CP that the aff can’t make defense against (since it was their arg).

-tricky link/uniqueness arguments to supplement politics- affs are going to have spent a lot of time coming up with case specific link turns you probably won’t have answers to. So you need to have generic link/uniqueness shields to insulate yourself from them, or come up with new scenarios the aff isn’t ready for. These things seem obvious in the abstract, and people reading are probably thinking “oh, brilliant, new politics scenario, like I didn’t think of that already”. Yet you rarely see any of these arguments run.


So what are some new arguments/strategies you could come up with? Well first, you should have specific strategies against the big affs- immigration, internet etc. So your new negs should anticipate what kind of cases you would need them for- i.e. what kind of affs will you be unprepared for.  For the most part these affs will be

-smaller- a huge aff would have been discovered already

-target a specific group- there are not frequently small affs that apply to everyone- the aff will try and pick something small that has a fed key warrant so things like prisons, military bases etc

-have some kind of uniqueness trick- for immigration the fact that immigration reform is being debated complicates the uniqueness for a lot of disads. Similarly any kind of targeted healthcare aff can use the overall debate about HC reform to non unique a lot of negative arguments. The advantage to these smaller trickier affs is beating disad links down to almost nothing so that a relatively (in debate terms) minor advantage can outweigh them.

Your first line of defense against these kind of affs is T.

1. Subsets- though a lot of judges will say they hate these kind of arguments (usually based around a definition of substantially or the classic “in means throughout”) the number of rounds won by T subsets is staggering. It wins so much because it has a lot of truth behind it- it is really hard to be neg vs a million small affs. Now obviously when you debate it you will want to be more nuanced than this in your explanation, but a good subsets violation will take you maybe an hour to fully block out and will serve you well. Related but separate- T args about substantial increases are similarly mocked but often successful against truly small cases. These arguments work because there are only a small number of things the aff can say, so if you block them out you can out tech the other team easily. The aff can basically say

-large affs aren’t viable- they lose to pics, are extra topical, don’t have federal key warrants etc

-small affs arent that bad- lit checks, they are good for education to learn about XYZ group (this is the argument most frequently deployed by small K affs),

-your definition is bad/out of context

Those are the main aff args. Against them you have to leverage

-neg ground/limits- too many cases means you can’t prepare, they are too small which creates uniqueness problems for everything, encourages case of the week lame affs that aren’t good for education etc.

2. The second kind of T arg, and one you should prepare for anyway, is the T double bind. What I mean by this is take any word in the resolution and prepare 2 T arguments about it that are the exact opposite of each other. So for example, you could say “social services” are face to face interactions with a social worker, and then have your other one be social services are infrastructure development. That way the aff will always have to violate one of them. The process of writing this kind of double bind is good because you have to think through each argument in depth and prepare all the arguments for both sides. While this may take you a few hours, it will guarantee that in the debate you are more knowledgeable about the issues than the other side and ready to pummel them.

Next, against these kind of small aff’s Kritiks are usually pretty money. The reasons for this are kind of two fold

1. The aff often stretches credulity in constructing their advantage claims- this lends a hand to the neg on any reps K that questions the truth value of the affs claims/indicts the idea that policy makers use false representations in order to justify policies.

2. The alt debate is easier- vs a huge heg aff it is really difficult most times to explain how your alt would do anything to remedy the advantage- mainly because your alt is going to be like hands across America which doesn’t help us kill terrorists. These smaller affs, however, are usually about a certain group getting jacked- well your K nonsense alternative certainly wouldn’t agree with people getting jacked like that- so naturally you can say your alternative does something about this issue.

3- to a lesser extent- the sort of “turns the case” args are better. The classic example of this is affs that do something to help Natives and then claim a colonialism advantage- generally they do something that makes intuitive sense- however the K cards indicting this process are always super good because every one who ever did something colonialist justified it in the garb of doing something intuitive to help the oppressed group.

If you don’t want to read a K, you will often need to employ a uniqueness counterplan to help out your disads. At camp a few people were employing the “ban social services” cp. This is basically the hatchet when you need a scalpel approach. Affs- you should invest 30 minutes to cut a few disads to this style of counterplans- a few quick cards on different social service projects that are good ideas. So how should you run a uniqueness counterplan intelligently? Well there are basically 2 ways to do it

1. The precedent CP- this cp does something that prevents future social service expenditures- so if the aff arg is “SS coming in future” the precedent cp is a good way to stop them- examples may be line item veto or some kind of court action (which directly establishes precedent)

2. The Rollback cp- this is what you use when the aff has a specific program that passed in history- so the aff gives hc to natives and says “this other bill that also gave a different kind of native HC passed a year ago” or something like that. The rollback cp just repeals the specific things the aff is talking about to try and cushion your link U a little bit.

The biggest problem with the “ban all ss” cp is the permutation. So lets look at an example

neg DA- the f99 T-rex will get funded now, buying inhalers for prisoners with asthma will trade off

aff- non unique and no link- the plan costs 5 dollars, we just gave 20 dollars to foodstamp programs

neg- CP- repeal all social services

Aff- permute – do the plan and repeal all other social services- all other SS cost 9 billion dollars, the permutation results in 5 dollars being spent on SS- this is way less than is being spent in the sq- even though more is being spent in a world of the perm than a world of the CP alone, the amount of money spent in the perm is insufficient to trigger the link because the sq spends 9 billion and the link isn’t triggerednow


An oldie but a goody. If you spent a weekend preparing ASPEC and some agent counterplans really well it would not be time wasted. A lot of these affs will be pretty good vs states but have virtually zero agent defenses- issues that are discussed as important areas of federal action are rarely defended as X federal agent must do it specifically. In a minimalist sense all you need is courts and congress, that way no matter what the aff agent is you will be ready with a CP (and if the aff says “all 3” just cp to do 2 and read a DA to 1). When prepping agents you need to get some bases covered

-solvency blocks

-perm answers- this includes “perm links to 1NC DA”, new DA’s to the perm, and new net benefits that only doing the CP alone solves


Thats about it. But remember, you don’t need a million of each of these things- you need a few done well. Its better to have a well blocked out with good evidence 30 page hollow hope DA than a giant courts bad file  because you only need to win a reasonable risk of the DA and win the CP solves the case.
Second, employ some critical thinking. I judged about a dozen agent debates this summer where the aff went for “courts don’t solve social change” style arguments without having a single advantage that was predicated on social change. So think about what are the internal links to specific aff advantages and prepare more defense for the ones that might have an agent specific solvency argument.

This is getting a bit long, so in closing here are some arguments that you can look into producing.

-“Middle man” counterplans- these have become more popular in college recently and were big towards the end of the SSA topic. Basically give the stuff to someone, and have them give it to people in poverty. Potential middle men are like NGO’s, religious organizations, the states etc. Net benefits are usually politics and then some arg about why the middle man improves solvency or sometimes an independent net benefit about improving the cred of the middle man. These CP’s often require you to prepare a T argument that says the rez requires the aff to give the SS directly to people in poverty.

-condition counterplans- a few of these got turned out by Umich and I’m sure a million more will get written during the year. They obviously have the benefit of solving the whole case. If you write a good set of generic blocks it will be easy to prepare several things that you can condition on and keep the aff guessing.

-PICS- about time someone dusted off the classics like exclude native americans, shun states who hang the confederate flag etc. But in addition to that there are a lot more relevant topic pics- particularly if the aff is broad or goes to more than 100% of the poverty line. Politics is an easy net benefit to these, as are spending da’s and tradeoff.

The States CP

As is becoming an annoying trend, Stefan has beaten me to the punch on a how to debate the states CP post- you can read it here

For an aff perspective here are some posts I made last year

Adapting at Nationals

If you actually want to do well at NFL/CFL you will need to adapt. Most people do this terribly or not at all. If your attitude is “whatever I do what I want” well then you can do that wherever you live and not need to go to Alabama.

1. Slow down- most judges will want you to go slow, and not slow to you- slow to them. At CFLs I was on several panels where the debaters were like “whats your paradigm” (an insanle stupid question btw) and the other 2 judges said something like “i’m not very experienced… stock issues… persuasion…i’m old…” all of which translates to go slow. Then the teams went “fast”  (for them). The other two judges would stop flowing 2 seconds into each speech and the debaters would never notice or care. You are basically rolling dice at this point. Some quick guidelines

-default to the slow side- PT Barnum once said no one ever went broke betting against the intelligence of the american public, likewise, no one ever lost at NFLs for going too slow. It’s pretty simple to see why- if you go fast and the judge doesn’t like  it, you’ve auto lost. If you go fast and they are ok with it, you then still have to win the debate. 75%+ of judges aren’t going to like it- so by going fast you have a partial shot at winning 25% of judges (generously)- does that sound like a winning strategy to you?  But furthermore, you rarely NEED to go fast in these debates to win. You are not debating the top 10% of national circuit teams at NFL’s, you are debating a lot of smaller regional teams who don’t take debate as competitively as many who would read the 3nr. They will have mediocre cases/evidence, not be very experienced etc. What they will be good at is talking “persuasively”- I put that in quotes because I personally do not find some idiot fluff talking and using folksy wisdom while dropping the politics disad to be particularly “persuasive” in getting me to vote for their plan, but I am no tthe majority judge at these things. So you don’t need to go fast, and it is more  likely to hurt you.

-Bad habits- if you do any of the bad speaking habits like stuttering, double breating etc. these are magnified when you try and go like moderately fast for the most part- they stand out more because there is not as much quick recovery like when you go super fast. This makes you sound really terrible. You should be really practicing on having a smooth rate of delivery. If you sound really really good and are smooth judges won’t KNOW when you are actually going reasonably fast because none of the warning signs are there- and lets be clear- many of these judges are about style over substance- so if you can trick them (not hard to do) then you are in good shape.

-Overviews and summaries- actually work well here. For each contention of your case you should have a short introduction that explains the general concept so that your judges hear it before they fall asleep or stop flowing. Same with a disad- a short explanation of the thesis at the top. In later speeches- don’t go for hyper technical overviews, its story time. Very many of your judges will have a predominanlty speech background (or some other background) meaning they don’t know a lot about the topic. This should also lead you to mainstream/simple arguments instead of obscure complex ones. Now some will say “but some judges will be smart” and yes, some will. They will be in the minority however, and adapting doesn’t alienate smart judges because they know you are playing the game, whereas dumb judges will be alienated by you not adapting.

2. Professionalism

-no tag team cx- even if they say its ok, they are lying. They expect you both to be involved in asking and answering questions and really how hard is this

-Dress nice- you may think it sucks that you cant wear your flip flos, lip ring, and slayer t-shirt but are you going to this thing to make a fashion statement or win 10k? This one is a total no brainer, you can make your “im a unique rebel” statements later.

-Be nice- more so than at any other tournaments judges at these things care about decorum, so no matter what the other team does kill them with kindness. All jokes should be double checked that they couldn’t be misinterpreted as mean spirited.

-Minimize prompting – if your partner is about to drop a disad say something, but other wise STFU when they are speaking, this isn’t public forum and its not grand crossfire (thank god)

-Know what your evidence says- you should be able to answer cx questions intelligently without having to constantly reference your evidence or get it back to read it. Particularly if you are the 1A- you should be able to sail through any CX about your case.

3. Realize they aren’t going to call for 100 cards and sort it out- most judges call for zero and at CFL they can’t call for any- so reading 10 link cards is meaningless- read 1 or 2 and then explain them /re read key parts out loud etc.

4. Focus on qualifications- you should always read them in your 1AC/other speeches and emphasize when the other team does not have qualified evidence. Add a little style to this, don’t just say

“economic decline causes war-mead 92”

say “Economic decline causes nuclear war, this is Mead, a Senior Fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations, writing in 1992”

5. Look up- watch the judges to see if they are flowing/paying attention. Make eye contact. Also- note if they are flowing sideways- this is a pretty good sign no matter how fast you are going you are going to fast (esp if your judge is Ross or Dallas).

6. Don’t freak out about disclosure- if the other team doesn’t disclose they probably suck and its not a big deal.

Aesthetics of Debate

First,  let me clarify cause it seems as if this being taken to an extreme.  At no point did I say do not read new affs.  I advanced a nuanced difference between one shot affs with lower quality evidence versus the merits of breaking a strong new aff.  If you are confused about the difference well… figure it out.

Secondly, I think Scott and Rajesh’s posts both deal with the purely competitive aspect of debate and less with the merits of having good debate, this leads to….

Lastly- the fact that some teams do not have good strategies does not mean that others do not.  I feel like some people read pretty good strategies on various affs and discussions post the toc revealed others had decent strats vs affirmatives they did not debate.

Debate as an Aesthetic (Yes K people I’m familiar with a big word too)

Debate is a competitive activity, but so is playing Chess, Checkers, Uno, Apples to Apples and Monopoly.  The reason people choose debate is because it is something that is both fun to do and has a competitive outlet.  Would people debate if there were no winners or losers and no awards? Probably alot less… I cannot deny that the competition is what keeps manyof us intrigued and involved in this activity.  BUT the reason you see people coaching and involved in this activity for so long is because there is something special about this activity that differentiates it from other competitive things.   The reason I discussed at 2 different points the debate between Bellarmine and Westminster in the finals is because that is what good debate should be.  Its not just about protecting your house, its about having great debates not just in the biggest rounds of the year but every debate should have some greatness in it.

The slippery slope is this if we focus too much and solely on the competitive (breaking unsustainable affs or disads we know are truly false) without regard for the implications this has to the activity what will become of the activity? If debate becomes a race to the ridiculous with bad evidence being produced by the aff and neg we lose what is great about this activity.

I’ve been in debate for around 11 years now and have seen drastic changes in this activity, some good others not so good.  This activity has seen people poop in a bag, pie someone in the face, a coach drop his pants,  a transition away from the norms of contemporary debate for whatever reason they chose and the advancement of more critical arguments instead of just policy arguments, and finally…. the Internet.

We are at as critical juncture for this activity, the ability to access anything on the internet has meant that we can literally get a hold of anything on the internet good, bad , stupid, fake, credible, or no qualifications at all.  Within the framework of competitive success or maybe even external to it ask yourself this when you cut cards and produce files.   Am I doing something that betters this activity?  It used to be that the worst thing one would cut is an Op-ed and cite it as a newspaper that has drastically changed.  It is now our burden to protect this activity.

Balancing the educati0n vs competitive aspects of this activity is something we all struggle with.  I’m not sure there is an answer or perfect balance but it is something we need to think about when we decide what arguments to produce or read.  What you do has trickle down effects onto others.  Much of this one shot aff stuff started in college and trickled down to high school.

Some of you all will say BS Roy you are one of the most competitive people I know.  That is probably true.  I am not lecturing as someone who is high and mighty superior to you all (while its possible that is true in some instances) but my time as a coach has led me to changing how I approach debate related issues.

To those who believe Scott is gonna bash this post, he cannot he has already conceded. Scott: i dont think ive ever heard u say u yelled at ur kids for not learning, lots of yelling over losingme: well they arent learning not to loseScott: ahahahahah touche ok that comeback was pretty good, i concede

New Aff Controversy

I think this is generally a pretty lame discussion.  Every year at end of the year tournaments a lot of stupid affs are broken. During the year a lot of dumb affs are broken just as a lot of dumb disads, counterplans etc etc. Not really a big deal. A few points not directly addressed in these other posts:

1. The negative strategies that most people come up with against stock affs that people read all year generally one of 4 things

1. terrible

2. ridic. abusive

3. not rooted in the literature about the affirmative

4. Good

These are ranked in order of occurence- i.e. what happens most often. If the negative frequently employs 1-3, then what is the point of a new aff? Zero.  So in most instances reading a new aff is pretty stupid. Only when you are debating a team that could actually use 4 do you need to worry about whether or not you should read a new aff. 99/100 times this isn’t a factor. I tried to think about when I was in highschool if there were any aff’s that were big/heart of the topic that I frequently changed my strategy against and had specific args or if I was (like Roy) just blowing smoke. The best I could come up with was DADT. I think I debated GBN runnign DADT like 8 times that year and did the following:

1. Went for K

2. Pump faked the K and went for T

3. Politics and case

4. The K again

5. Courts/Politics + Deference net benefit

6. Politics case

7. case /readiness disad

8. the k

While the K had “specific links”, I wouldn’t really count that as a specific strategy sine I maybe cut like 5-10 cards max about the aff and just plugged that into various other arguments. So really the only case specific strategies were the case arguments (which were similar in all debates except readiness) and maybe courts/deference although that was more of a military generic than a specific DADT strat. This was vs for sure my biggest rival team and the team I debated most often, and still I didn’t really prepare a killer case specific strat. So I think holding hsers today to a really high standard in that regard would be somewhat hypocritical of me.

So what is teh value of new affs?

1. Psych out factor- people get worried for whatever reason

2. Less coaching- coaches won’t be able to discuss as much with kids before the debate what they should be reading/the arguments that will be involved and how they should be handled.

3. To avoid 4.

So most of the time 1-2 is what you are going for, since most teams are never ready with 4. Are there any other reasons you would want a new aff?

1. Your current aff sucks- this probably applies a lot. It could be it just sucks generically  or it could be you have already been owned by the other team on that aff before and think a repeat is likely.

2. You think new affs are the thign to do because all the cool kids are doing it.

Pretty stupid reasons. So if the aff is doign something stupid, why do we need to be concerned with this? I don’t think new affs are anymore of a problem then new spending tradeoff disads. Both are generally stupid, that doesnt mean that you should be runnign your current spending tradeoff disad and “defending your house” because you are a tough guy. You should just be making intelligent decisions, making smart arguments.

My gut reaction to Roy’s post was “oh yea, stupid new affs, those are lame”. But in thinking about it a bit more I think its not a big deal.  If the neg is ready with their house it shouldn’t matter much. Odds are the neg wasn’t ready with a 4 strat to the other teams old aff anyway.

The Meaning Of "Offense/Defense: There's Only A Risk"

Debaters say a lot of things in debates that are not arguments in themselves but which contain cues that trigger meaning in the minds of their audience (their opponents and, most importantly, the judge). As Roy discussed in an article about “Defense”, one such cue is used to frame the way the judge approaches his or her evaluation of the debate. In many 2NRs or 2ARs, the debater starts with something like this:

Evaluate this debate through an offense/defense paradigm—they only have defense so there’s only a risk that we outweigh.

In many cases, the opposing team does not refute this framing of the debate. In a few cases, they respond by insisting that the judge not evaluate the debate using an offense/defense paradigm and then extend their defensive arguments.

But what does it mean to evaluate a debate using the “offense/defense paradigm?” Distinguishing between offensive and defensive arguments is easy enough; categorizing arguments this way is indeed one of the most helpful ways for new debaters to conceptualize a round. Put most simply, offensive arguments are those that provide a reason to vote for you while defensive arguments are those that provide a reason not to vote against you. Easy enough.

Deploying this distinction between offensive and defensive arguments as a decision-making calculus, however, is a little more complicated. As Roy argues, too many judges use “they’ve only got defense” as an excuse not to make judgments about each teams’ arguments. If the negative goes for a disadvantage and the affirmative goes for “this disadvantage does not make sense (because it is missing internal links, is empirically denied, links more to the status quo than our plan, etc.)”, it is nonsensical for the negative to implore the judge to employ an offense-defense paradigm and therefore exclude consideration of the affirmative’s responses to the disadvantage.

“Offense/defense—there’s only a risk” is not a reason to only evaluate offensive arguments. Offense/defense is a way of categorizing arguments, not resolving them. In the vast majority of debates, it does not provide any helpful guidance for judges as they evaluate the two teams’ arguments.

Instead of reciting this line at the top of the 2NR or 2AR, debaters should explicitly compare the offensive and defensive arguments made by both sides. If one’s best shot of winning is to minimize the importance of defensive arguments against a high-magnitude impact, one should make those arguments explicitly instead of relying on the “offense/defense” crutch. Separating out offensive from defensive arguments is a helpful way to approach a rebuttal, but it does not obviate the need for debaters to win their framing of the impacts… it is a starting point, not the destination.

This should seem obvious to many readers, but it is important to unpack the meanings that we imbue upon certain phrases. “Offense/defense—there’s only a risk” is by no means the only instance in which a few words have come to mean much more than that, but it is certainly one of the most frequently used.

The bottom line is that debaters should strive to make their impact arguments and framing of debates more sophisticated and judges should be leery of assigning meaning to utterances that do not fully communicate a complete argument.


Too many times after asking my kids or others at tournaments how their round went I get an answer like, “We lost we didn’t have any offense on the da.” So??? Not having offense on a DA should not mean an auto aff lose. While with some (read most) judges controlling things like issue specific Uniqueness makes it easier to win a bigger risk of a DA, the lack of offense does not mean a negative victory.

Now before I explain how to effectively utilize defense to win debates I will say this, offense is good, its good to have link turns or an impact turn to a disad. An ideal situation is combining your offensive and defensive args together to beat a disad. Seldom should the 2ar straight turn the disad, straight turns should be utilized earlier in the debate to either make the debate smaller, or stick a team to an argument you have the goods on.

Defense and the meta-game.

Lots of different people discuss the “meta-game” and how it relates to debate (and I’m sure I will write more about the meta-game and other debate topics) but a safe way to define meta-game is big picture thinking. The debate is not multiple sheets of paper that function independently of each other but one big multi-headed hydra that needs to be addressed in conjunction with each other. If the 2nr goes for states cp and politics da, while those are 2 independent positions they make up ONE strategy and must be addressed as ONE strategy not TWO separate issues.

Lets face it, the negative is usually going to win some risk of the disad (assuming they don’t totally concede some arguments in which case you probably did not lose on no offense), so assuming they do win some risk of their disad the job is now to discredit the relative risk of the disad.

Disad vs Case

In this 2nr, the 2nr is almost always investing serious time going for reasons the disad turns the case along with some solvency takeouts or some impact defense. As a 2ar this 2nr strategy usually made me nice and cozy inside. Your aff is good (presumably) you’ve got some big beefy impacts with some solid internal links. Another benefit the affirmative has is that judges are usually aff leaning in the context of case arguments. This means that for the negative to mitigate the impact to the case they need to do significantly more work beating up the case then the aff does defending the case.

To contextualize this better lets assume the AFF is RPS with competitiveness (hege and econ impacts) and warming versus a health care politics disad with a bioterrorism (Steinbrenner) and economy impact.

Assuming I could not win a link turn to the disad (who are we kidding, of course I could) assuming YOU cannot win a link turn to the disad smart defensive arguments you can and should be making to mitigate the disad

1.) Non-Unique- AE being debated now / will be debating inevitably

2.) No Ev of a specific health care bill

3.) Obama has already spent PC on energy and didn’t lose

4.) Timeframe for bio terror is a joke

5.) How health care solves for bioterror is a bigger joke

6.) Steinbrenner assumes a huge new influenza being used as a weapon, swine flu proves an outbreak of new virus’s won’t be deadly

7.) No bio terror (no motivation, not feasible any thing in this arena)

8.) Aff’s I/L to the economy is significantly bigger then the disads.

If you had ZERO cards on the health care disad assuming you won a decent risk of your case these arguments if executed well could be enough to win your aff o/w the disad.

Its also particularly important to do this when a team reads a new politics da because its NEVER an issue at the top of the agenda and the negative is always going to tell you to default to issue specific U, which is basically always garbage. Obama saying he supports something does not mean its at the top of the agenda. You almost never hear a president say I don’t care about X issue. The vaguer the da the worse the ev and i/l ev for it is.

Its all about the packaging

Anyone who tells you otherwise is clueless. If you want to win big debates you need to be the one telling the more convincing story.

If I was giving the 2ar in this spot I would make sure to start off discussing how the risk of the Warming adv or competitiveness advantage was larger then the risk of a mitigated disad and why my internal links to the economy and hegemony were larger then that of the disad’s and EVEN IF they won that the plan was contentious in congress there was no guarantee the plan would derail a health care bill that may or may not exist and that things like bioterror were much more improbable then our warming impact and how that systemic impact out weighed the risk of a bioterror attack that hasn’t been proven feasible or even an extinction level impact.

This is obviously a rough rubric for what a 2ar should do in that spot, but the point is this, aggressively extending these defensive arguments in the context of discrediting the disad at the U, Link and Impact level raises a significant doubt to the disad vis a vis the aff. If you can prove to the judge that it is a bigger stretch for the negatives impact claim to be true then it is for your affs to be true, you will win.

Disad + CP vs Case

Now the existence of the CP obviously makes it harder for the aff to beat then the disad vs case alone. In this context the 2ar needs to focus on how the Magnitude of the Solvency deficit to the CP O/W the risk of the disad (explaining all the problems with the disad)

Tips for executing this in the 2ar

1.) Use the 2nr prep time to write this stuff out, its free prep time for you, figure out what you think they are going to go for and explain how your aff’s i/ls access it better or why its mitigated

2.) DO NOT give the 2ar overview where the 2nr did their impact work, consider doing it on the adv flow you are winning. Have it separate and distinct, the only thing you should do at the top of the 2nr’s impact assessment is answer the disad turns the case arguments. The reason for this is that when you give it on the 2nr’s work you invariably spend too much time to trying to mitigate their work and not enough time selling the impacts your aff.

3.) Start off the 2ar with this work, too many times debaters wait till halfway through the 2ar or 2nr to do their impact assessment / work. Doing it at the top gives the judge the big picture story you are selling 20-30 seconds into the speech not 2:30 into it. It helps make your 2ar and 2nr sound better. You are a used car salesman in these 2 speeches and how you sell it will determine if the judge is buying or not

4.)Point out how dumb a strictly offense/defense based system is for evaluating disads- taken to its extreme if those were the only answers I made on the health care da the 2nc could group it say no offense in the 2ac on the da evaluate from offense defense perspective extinction boom. While an argument might not be an offensive reason the plan is good, if it discredits the thesis of the negative’s claim it should mean the judge should diminish the probability of their arg. Many times the aff loses because the 2nr makes an arg like evaluate it from offense defense if we control the direction of the link there’s only a risk the plan causes something bad. The phrase only a risk is usually code for we don’t have much here so hopefully this works.