10 Tips to improve the Negative Block

The negative block is an integral part of high school debate.  Thirteen minutes of properly executed shock and awe should put a substantial amount of pressure on even the best five minute 1AR.  The negative block is designed to counter Affirmative advantages like infinite preparation time, speaking first and last, etc.  The negative should always be well ahead at the conclusion of the block.  Unfortunately many negative blocks are both poorly managed and executed.  The following are ten tips that will hopefully help teams deliver a greatly improved negative block and increase your confidence about being negative in elimination rounds, even against new Affirmative cases or advantages:

  1. negativeThe 2NC should consider extending arguments that aren’t very prep time intensive.  Arguments like this include topicality, generic disadvantages/counterplans, and theoretical/procedural issues.  The 2NC should have pre-written blocks for many of these positions, which should also help conserve prep time.  The 2NC should try to save at least half of the total allotted prep time for the even more difficult 2NR speech.  The 2NC should embrace the prospect of reading pre-written blocks to answer theory arguments instead of pawning them off on their partner.  Forcing the 1NR to take theory issues increases the chances of miscommunication and the odds of the negative block dropping or poorly handling such arguments.
  2. The most strategic negative block may include the 1NR extending the “A” strategy.  There are numerous warrants that support this line of reasoning.  2NR’s often mainly consist of 2NC arguments because of a combination of familiarity and ego.  Affirmative teams are aware of this and strategically allocate time to these positions accordingly.  The 1NR is not subject to cross-examination and new link/impact scenarios, net benefits, etc. don’t receive proper scrutiny.  The 1NR has more prep time to read affirmative evidence and search for additional extension evidence.  Finally, extending the “A” strategy may bolster 1NR speaker points.  1NRs are often little more than cleanup speeches that mainly consist of extending defensive and boring arguments.  Speaker points are awarded accordingly and the negative team’s seeding suffers.
  3. Immediately after the conclusion of the 2AC, decide which type of negative block proliferation strategy in which you would like to engage.  The negative block can engage in vertical or horizontal proliferation.  Vertical proliferation involves quickly kicking out of several 1nc positions and extending a few arguments very in-depth.  Conversely, horizontal proliferation extends most or all 1nc arguments with the goal of spreading out the 1ar.  Either scenario can be successful, but the negative block should quickly commit to a particular vision and execute accordingly.
  4. The amount of evidence read in the negative block should be properly proportioned to the 2ac.  The negative block is about 2.5 times longer in duration than the 1ar.  The negative block should read approximately 2.5 cards in response to every 2AC card on relevant positions that are being extended or answered.  If the 2AC reads two uniqueness cards on a politics disadvantage, the negative block should consider reading 4-5 cards in response.  The negative block should also consider the amount and quality of evidence read in the 1NC when making these calculations.  Debate is often a card war and when the judge calls for all relevant evidence at the conclusion of the round, the negative should never behind in terms of quality and quantity.
  5. The negative block can be more often be more strategic and efficient by quitting while it’s ahead.  2ACs are under considerable time pressure and make strategic choices.  If the 2AC concedes the uniqueness to a disadvantage, the negative block should quit while they are ahead and not read additional uniqueness evidence.  The 1NC evidence should simply be extended and there is no reason to read additional cards.  Doing this allows the Affirmative back in the debate by legitimizing new 1AR evidence in response to such a move.
  6. Design and execute the proper vision for the negative block.  After the conclusion of the 2AC, don’t be afraid to take a little prep time to discuss how the negative block should be divided.  The negative block should be viewed as one large thirteen minute block of time and there shouldn’t be any repetition between the two speeches.  This is a costly waste of time and can also present flowing challenges to the judge.
  7. Arguments that are not being extended in the negative block should be kicked quickly and efficiently.  Usually just one or two 2AC arguments can be conceded to make a position go away.  Make sure to moderately slow down your rate of speed so the judge can clearly understand what you are doing.  If you are kicking out of several positions, please recognize the judge may have to quickly transition between several flows and you don’t want any critical arguments to get lost in the shuffle.
  8. Offensive positions that are extended in the negative block should have pre-written overviews.  These can include impact comparisons/timeframes, turns the case arguments, etc.  Essential pieces of evidence that commonly read in most debates can also be a part of these overviews to highlight their significance to the judge.
  9. Be careful about reading one piece of evidence or impact scenario in the negative block that a 1AR could capitalize on and exploit to their advantage.  Reading one hegemony good or global warming bad card at the tail end of a negative block speech could encourage a 1AR to quickly read a half dozen impact turns back at you.  This will require the 2NR to sift through and read a lot of additional evidence, while the Affirmative still has one more speech to respond and counterpunch.
  10. The 1NR should consider extending more than one argument.  Five minutes is a lot of time to spend on one piece of paper.  Argument overkill and judge boredom can quickly set in during this scenario.  Too many 1NRs are known for just extending the same argument in every speech.  This becomes very predictable to the Affirmative team and can potentially bore the 1NR.
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