TOC Prep 1

The overwhelming demand at the moment is for tips/advice on how to prepare for the TOC. Before we get into that, here are some posts from previous years that address this topic:

Understanding TOC Results 


Do you want to be top speaker at the TOC? Part 1    Part 2 


So you want to win the TOC Part 1      Part 2    Part 3 



In the last podcast I recommended what I called “The MSU approach” to the China Topic and have gotten a few questions about it so in this post I am going to elaborate.

The basic idea I was trying to express was the following: a neg generic in general, but especially on this topic, often has some pretty good utility, but a few glaring flaws. I think the example I gave on the podcast was the EU CP and its inability to solve “US key” advantages on the China topic. Historically I have been pretty impressed by the way MSU instead of running away from these problems, attacks them head on with a series of thought out tricks/strategies. The reason this is particularly useful at the end of the year can only be understood by breaking down the way affirmatives prep.


Say you are writing a new aff on the China topic. Surveying the wiki you will see a bunch of neg args like

-neolib k

-pan k

-containment/heg disad

-….other things?


So what you try to do is formulate a new aff that gives you some kind of angle/strategy vs these generics, i.e. a way the plan can be spun as “hardline” vs the containment disad, or a way you can read your aff while not really making any deterministic claims about Chinese behavior to avoid the China reps K etc.


Now,there are a lot of other arguments the neg is reading that you may be vaguely aware of. But these other arguments often don’t factor into the decision of what aff to write/why. On this topic I think international counterplans are a good example because while they have been run in limited instances, they aren’t a big part of the topic. So when writing a new aff what do most people do? They just copy and paste their old frontline from previous affs (or camp) vs a lot of these “lesser” neg arguments. Now you may be thinking “Who writes an aff without considering why the US is key?” to which I would respond “just about everyone who has been breaking new aff’s this year”.


Now, you are thinking “what on earth is he talking about? They always have advantages about the US and China!”. Take the Taiwan aff (broadly, I am aware there are different versions). The advantage usually contains some or all of the following claims:

-US ambiguity re: China/Taiwan encourages conflict escalation

-US arms sales fuel conflict

-US belligerence/Trump paper tiger encourage war


These are US key warrants right? Wrong. These are reasons the US does things that contribute to the conflict, but almost none of the evidence teams read for this aff goes as far as to say “these would prevent the EU from solving”. Certainly there is evidence that could be researched/read that supports a US key warrant, but teams aren’t really focusing on this- they are taking it for granted. This leaves room for a neg generic, not just against Taiwan, but a lot of affirmatives. (I’m sure many of you are skeptical, I would suggest a quick google search )


So now we have a generic, The EU, and we have a rough idea of what people would be saying vs it in general (and for Taiwan). Let’s look at generic US key arguments first. Generic US key arguments for China are generally the following:

-US economic clout

-US hegemony broadly


That’s about it. There are obviously subcategories of these two, but most US key warrants fit into one of those categories. So first thing in our “what would MSU do” research process is: cut generic answers to these. A lot of them. It is pretty easy to find evidence at this particular point in time that refutes these 2 claims re: Trump. So what you want to do is assemble a frontline of say, 5-10 of the best cards you could find (initially cut a lot, then pick the best ones for frontlines/specific arguments) on each of these issues. These arguments should be diverse- i.e. don’t read 5 cards that say the same thing. The affirmative is going to try and press “specificity” vs these generic indicts- so you need to plan for that. Add into your block arguments about evidence comparison like


“Aff solvency comes from 2014, so while it is more specific to their plan, it doesn’t assume the current geopolitical climate- in that regard negative evidence is MORE specific. Here is why recency/specificity on political climate trumps plan specificity-(explain)”.


Oftentimes the best cards for something like this will say something like “the previous paradigm of engagement made assumption X, that assumption no longer holds” (for those of you thinking “wait a second did he just tell me to read a k?” yes I did). This evidence is not hard to find.


So now you have 2 2NC blocks, one for each. Done right? Wrong.


Step 2: Generate offense from US key.

We all know disads on the topic- they suck. So its possible that when you bust the EU cp vs Taiwan you wreck them on the CP but get wrecked yourself on whatever disad you read. This is why you want diverse options in the block. Obvious things you can do include

-K of US key- easy to find links to “american exceptionalism”/hegemony etc

-US leadership bad- sometimes you will need to read some link magnifiers, but generally always available


or in the context of Taiwan from above you could always say

-US ambiguity good

-arms sales good



Now, GENERALLY when you have to go for arms sales good you face a problem, the 1AC included 5 minutes of uniqueness args for why war is coming and you didn’t cut any updates :(. Obi cut updates. But beyond that you now have a CP that PROVIDES uniqueness. This is a double edged sword though- you can’t say “arms sales good, solve war with China” because the perm either solves that as well, or the CP doesn’t overcome US key arguments. But, you can read arms sales good with an external impact (ditto heg bad). Previously these “external” impacts were insufficient to outweigh the case buuuuuuuuuut now you have a CP that solves the case- ergo no problem. The threshold for how a net benefit needs to be big “magnitude” wise has now been lowered dramatically.


So a good 1NC wouldn’t be




It would be

-EU CP (preferably with internal net benefit as well)

-US based advantage CP

-Multiple attacks on US key (disads or cp)

-US key K


Wait, where did that US advantage CP come from?


Well this brings us to MSU prep principle 3: Debate judo


This one I learned the hard way a few times when debating in college. Debate judo is the idea that you want to make argument A, to prompt the other team to make argument B, which you then concede and use to help you on argument C. Not following? Lets give a few examples


Example 1: No plan K Aff.


Lets say you debate a new aff that doesn’t defend the topic. Its about X. You have a generic like the cap K, but unfortunately you don’t have links to X. Here debate judo would be to read framework. What? What does that have to do with anything? Don’t worry I’ll spoonfeed you baby bird. Many K affs are actually quite “reasonable” in the things they say in the 1AC. The problem is that to defeat FW they often reach for much more extreme arguments like “the state is always bad” (instead of the state is bad in this instance) or “politics is dead” or arguments about prioritizing XYZ issue first etc. Now, even if you don’t have cap links to the affirmative you should have links to all of these things they just said on FW. I would much rather go for the cap k vs the MOST EXTREME version of an argument, rather than the middle ground for 2 reasons

  1. The link differential- most people vote aff on the perm when the aff is like “identity is important” and the neg says “identity links to cap”. In that instance it is the neg making the most extreme version of the argument (never discuss identity) and the aff making the reasonable argument (isn’t it possible identity has some value some times?). So while it’s possible for the neg to win,its unlikely as the aff has out-positioned them and claimed the middle ground
  2. Framing the alternative- when the alt has to be “Never discuss gender” the cap K is rightly lampooned as being class essentialist. And while that is the position of some authors, the cards they write generally are bad. If instead you can say “identity politics is good, but the way the aff deploys them is neoliberal and makes them less effective” hey now you have an argument. When the alternative can claim the middle ground vs the most extreme form of XYZ claim it not only helps the alt, it helps with competition. You can say in the 2NR “They made the argument the state is ALWAYS bad, we said the state is key to stop warming, we can agree reject the state in every other instance thus the alt is a PIC to do less state bad then the aff”(obvi you would explain this more)


Example 2: Why read the states CP + a Federal agent CP


Most teams on a domestic topic have a block of “fed key ” warrants they read against states. They also generally have a block of “x agent key” they read against agent CPs. These arguments, however, are often contradictory. What will happen is vs states the aff will make arguments like

-federal action sends a signal to businesses


-fed action stimulates culture change




The judo move comes from the fact that these defenses of fed action are almost never agent specific, so they apply to the agent cp as much as the aff. Vs states the aff has to argue “the signal is super important” otherwise their solvency deficit to states is meaningless, so if the signal is super important, and the CP captures the signal you don’t have to be Sherlock to see where I am going with this.


So to get back to Taiwan, lets say on EU they read a card that isn’t about the plan but is instead an arg about why “ending ambiguity is the vital internal link” (that is copy/pasted from a doc). Well hopefully you have a trap waiting to be sprung, and in the 2NC on your adv cp you read a card that says “the CP ends ambiguity”, just in a different way from the affirmative.


Now , does judo end the debate? Not usually, the aff will have other arguments to fall back on. Which brings us to MSU principle 4:


Have a global strategy, and impact calculus that resolves it.


Usually people think of strategy in isolated segments: x defeats argument y, a defeats argument b <washes hand motion> and done.


These sort of generic strats often get very complicated very fast, the following debate could be an example

1AC: Taiwan

1NC: EU CP, US key K, Heg bad, Politics

2AC: US key warrants, US Key warrants, US Key warrants, Link turns


How do you collapse this block now? Well you have to have a strategy that resolves all these things together in a planned way. If they impact turn the US key K and Heg bad, without reading any defense you have to make a choice and either

-extend EU cp and just go for Heg bad/the K as the net benefit

-Kick the CP, go for case defense and the K/heg bad

-Kick the CP and case defense, go pure K


Now each of those 3 options has similarities, but the impact calc/packaging of the 2NR would be different in each instance. This example could spiral out of control, so lets just look at the EU cp example to continue this thread. You extend the EU cp and the K/heg bad in the block. The 1AR focuses on the following

-US key to solve the advantage (Taiwan war)

-US heg good- Middle east impact

-K of US heg causes delayed intervention/genocide


What kind of arguments set you up to deal with this/have a global strategy?

-an EU net benefit- if you have some kind of EU net benefit about soft power, hopefully you would have evidence in the block to read about the EU solving the middle east/intervention in addition to Taiwan

-broad K links- hopefully specific links to the ME and intervention/humanitarianism

-Impact turns- US heg in ME bad, US intervention bad


Now those are 3 different approaches, you could have all or just 1 in the block. But come the 2NR you need to chose and construct a coherent strategic resolution of competing claims, this should be the focus of your OV. So lets say you went the impact turn route, your OV would need to be something like the following

-Use sufficiency to resolve CP solvency

-if assessed, remaining solvency deficit is outweighed by impact turns to US key

-the primary offensive impact the neg is going for is X, and X outweighs the likely aff offense of Y because


All of these together should take at least a minute. These are the kind of statements a judge, were they to vote for you, would say in their RFD. They would say:

I voted neg: the CP was sufficient although not as good as the affirmative, the remaining solvency deficit was o/w by the negs primary offense because…


It is difficult at first to think this far through, and in 2 mn of prep very hard. But you have 2 months before the tournament, so after a month or so spent researching your generic this is what you want to practice/plan out: how do you give yourself diverse options, how do you plan for the likely affirmative responses to these options, how do you use their answers against them, and finally how do you collapse to a reasonably sized 2NR that offers a winning strategic vision.



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