TOC Prep 2: Updates

We talked on the podcast about the value in taking a common argument, like containment or Chinese politics, and going to town making it better for the TOC. There are lots of schools, and many of them will be doing that to various common topic arguments. I’ve worked with a lot of schools who focus on the number of new affs they have (bro we have 20 new affs!) but then crash and burn because they get rocked by a generic that they didn’t do any new work for. So no matter how many new affs you are writing, or if you are sticking with your current aff, you will need to get on top of updates. As a brief brainstorm here are some things you want cards on

-US china relations

-US leadership, soft power etc

-Economy- US, China, Global

-Chinese politics

-Conflict uniqueness for various regions: Taiwan, Korean Peninsula, SCS, China/India, Central Asia, China/Japan, China/Russia etc

-Engagement high/low, containment high/low, balancing etc

-Dip Cap


I’m omitting regular politics as most people know/update that already. That is a lot of things. You don’t want to sit down the Thursday before the TOC and try and tackle that complete list, you need to have a plan/division of labor amongst your team of who is going to do what. When figuring this out some tradeoffs come into play:


  1. Time vs Workload- ideally you want the most up to date cards on every issue, but that would mean doing it all at the end which isn’t feasible. So you need to prioritize- what are things that change frequently vs stay relatively stable. US hegemony uniqueness is probably less susceptible to short term fluctuations than Global Economy uniqueness for example. Next think about what your aff/neg arguments are- if your aff is diplomatic engagement you probably will need dip cap updates more than Econ updates
  2. Research strength- while these things are important, you probably don’t want your best researcher working on them exclusively. This is because they aren’t going to be needed in every debate/are less important than a whole new aff. These are great assignments to give to younger students because they are easy to find (google news), cards are abundant on both sides of most issues, and they can be broken down into small chunks. I would always have the novices get an assignment of like 6 cards per week- 3 econ high, 3 econ low for example. This is a good way to get them going on research, and if they don’t do it someone with more experience can fill the gap quickly so it doesn’t throw off your whole program
  3. These debates are inevitable- even if you don’t read an “econ” da, impact uniqueness evidence is always useful for answer advantages or disads, or add ons read by the affirmative. So having ev on these issues can help in a lot of debates. However, you don’t want to “fetishize” updates the way impact defense has been of late- i.e. you don’t want 10 people doing 900 pages of uniqueness updates. You don’t want to group a new econ advantage and just read uniqueness cards either.
  4. Thumpers- people are generally aware of the usefulness/need for thumpers on politics. Almost no one cuts thumpers to anything else. If the aff is gonna break a heg adv, and you have 5 thumpers about XYZ wrecking heg in the future its gonna be hard for the aff to have up to date/responsive evidence on all those points. This does expand the assignment somewhat, but is something you should consider adding into the mix


Now, when cutting uniqueness it is important to remember the 2 kinds of uniqueness claims


Snapshot- what is the world like right now? Is the economy growing currently?

Trend- in what direction are things moving? The economy may be growing now, but it could be on a sustained downswing


Generally you want cards of both types, but often it isn’t possible. For example, the economy may be booming by most measures (GDP, unemployment etc)- in that instance you need to identify that weakness and focus on trend. However, if the aff claims is “econ low, we fix it” downward trend U isn’t the most useful- you can’t win offense with it, and generally judges shake their head and go “aff solves”. So even if the snapshot is one sided, its generally useful to seek out someone bucking that trend.


Now you’re done right? Unfortunately not. It isn’t just policy arguments that need updating. Critique arguments evolve/change over time, and being a few steps behind with the answers you read (or the K you’ve prepped) can be devastating. Let’s take two examples



Cap still bad right?(still reading Robinson 14? like a n00b- did you not know of Robinson 16? Well let me blow your mind with Robinson in 17 ON CHINA!!!) Well of course, but new stuff has come to light. You generally want to always be updating “sustainability” for both sides as that can be a round deciding issue. In addition to that the election of Trump has spawned all kinds of new articles about how should we be resisting, is resistance possible, will trump collapse capitalism on his own etc.



There are lots of new answers people are reading from perm cards to 2017 articles to new neg articles to articles by debaters 


In addition to doing your own research it is a certainty that both of those critiques (and many others) will be debated at the college end of year tournaments and you will want to make sure you get relevant evidence from those debates, which can be an enormous task in and of itself. Which brings me to the last part


How to Wiki Troll

The wiki is big. It generally takes me several hours after a tournament to go through and see whats new/should be researched/stolen. In talking to students a lot of times they seem to do so in a haphazard manner so here is a brief guide to wiki trolling.


  1. Divide it up- if possible spread the load, going through the wiki for 8 hours is enough to wreck anyones VTL
  2. if you can’t divide, prioritize. If you are a policy only team you want to make a list of the policy schools who have good wikis to focus on. If you read K of X then you want to know what teams read that as well
  3. Both sides- make sure when you find relevant evidence, check the opponent for that round as well to make sure you are getting both sides- both for debating both sides and for writing blocks/understanding what you are supposed to be answering
  4. Start by copy/pasting everything that looks useful into a doc- use lose organizational headers but try and subdivide as much as you can
  5. After you get everything in one doc then you want to start reading/filtering- so for example I just copy paste someones Trade DA 2AC at first, then later I read through it and delete what I don’t need/think is good, and keep the rest. I do this rather than read everything in every doc I open
  6. After you filter you gotta prioritize- its simply not possible to look up/re-read every article as 1 person. Generally when I am done with steps 1-5 I have like 300+ pages of cards- I can’t track all those down + do whatever my assignment is. So I try and figure out what are the most important cards/args and then go read those. If I can I delegate by farming out relevant cards to someone else’s assignment and give them that part of the doc. Cards that HAVE NOT been checked I mark with an asterisk in a file- read at your own risk. if you don’t have other cards, and you generally trust Emory ( though you shouldn’t, sneaky thieves and liars they are) then you can go ahead and read it- but don’t blame me if you get busted in CX because Herndon miscut that PC key card. This is the part most people skip- and generally people in debate cut good cards/don’t cite things as out of context etc. However, it does happen. It’s not always intentional either- I have stared making a note in my doc when I am cutting cards when I’m tired because oftentimes I’ll go back and look at them and be baffled what I was thinking. Sometimes I go to sleep thrilled at the amazing card I found to wake up the next morning to gibberish. In the past I often just turned these out, but now I double check even my own work let alone someone else’s.
  7. Re-highlight. Can’t. Stress. This.Enough. You have no idea who highlighted the card, why they did it, or how much time they spent on it. Oftentimes the highlighting is abysmal, oftentimes it was tailored for a specific round and for a specific purpose that misses key parts you need. Remember the Phillips Rule- you should never be reading a card for the first time in a speech. You should have read it  2-3 times before them, including to highlight, so that you know what it says/you can explain it in your rebuttal/CX. If you aren’t even going to put the effort in to highlight the cards you read, you can’t really complain about any results (like going 0-7, getting kicked out of America and having to move to Canada).


Lastly, in an ideal world everyone would put everything on the wiki. Some people have various objections to the wiki though, and sometimes people forget/don’t update everything they need. Generally people are pretty friendly if you send them a message asking to see their cards/cites. I will say two things though, and I’m looking at you High Schoolers


  1. Be polite- I don’t even have a wiki but still get emails about cites from my students. When the email starts with “hey- could you please send me XYZ” and ends with “thanks!” I’m more likely to go out of my way to respond immediately then when I get an email like this (which is real): ” Hey- your debater read this garbage XYZ(omitted to preserve anonymity) argument against my debater. If you are going to just dump college arguments onto high school and not teach your students how to use them you could at least update the wiki in a timely fashion. so send me that doc asap” Oh let me get right on that for you… don’t get me wrong I still sent them the doc, but I did first check out their students wiki and respond with a bunch of screenshots and a long winded rant about hypocrisy that “took” me several weeks to write delaying my response.
  2.  Be reasonable. If team X has nothing on their wiki from the beginning of the year through the NDT its probably not an accident. Don’t send messages like “hey , can you send me speech docs from your rounds this year. Like, all of them?”. Basically no one is going to respond to that. Similarly if you hear team X broke a new arg round 1 of the NDT, don’t email them during round 2. Or during the NDT period. Or in the week after. Odds are you aren’t going to get a kindly response because they have other things going on.








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