TOC Prep 4: Meta Game, Strategy, and the Dying of the Light

Back to our regularly scheduled programming- let’s talk about writing a new aff.


As my example I am going to use an aff from the “economically engage Latin America” topic as I am pretty sure this is the last time I was hired just to write a new aff/that relied exclusively on work I did. You can see the initial file here

Travel Ban TOC Aff Vol 2=


So to start with a new aff, I first surveyed the debate meta game. If you listen to the podcast you will be familiar with this concept as I have brought it up repeatedly recently. The meta game is a broad look at what is going on in debate right now- what kind of arguments/strategies are being run? For the Latin America topic there were a few things I noticed

-the Cuba embargo was the dominant case

-most strategies against the embargo where one or more of the following: and adv cp designed to solve soft power/leadership + politics, a condition CP of some sort (often the restitution CP)

-Most aff’s were AWFUL on these strategies. Just bad. This lead me to think many negs would probably try and “run it back”.

-While a few schools were reading the “travel ban” version of the Cuba case (which was essentially a small subset of the embargo) it wasn’t a common case

-People still read their regular embargo negs vs the travel ban aff

-no one cuts updates


So I started thinking about how these pieces fit together and I decided

-writing the travel ban case would be good given I could predict what people were likely to say

-I obviously needed specific strategies for those generics, in addition to having a strategy generally. This meant I would need to think about aff args/advantages that dealt with these strategies but also had broader utility

-this case provided lots of opportunities to be sneaky, and sneaky is good.

Image result for sneaky sneaky


Let’s break this thought process down a bit, divided by arguments

Advantage CP- these are CPs that try to solve the case a different way- so if the adv is soft power then do something unrelated to Cuba that boosts soft power. The hard part of these advantage CP’s is there are so, so many- and while most affs who read soft power can find a good internal link (x is key) – rarely do they go as far as to say “x is so key, nothing else would ever solve, especially not y”. So most of the time the aff wins very little of a solvency deficit vs a prepared neg on generic advantages like soft power.

So first, were the internal links for Cuba/the travel ban good enough to write this advantage? I perused some wikis and thought yea they seemed pretty good. When I went and recut some articles from affs/camp however, I was shocked. These were better than good

Washington’s relations with Latin America—particularly in terms of the gap between what its policy toward the region is and what it could be—precisely measure the degree to which domestic ideologies, narrow corporate and sectional interests, and a sclerotic political system are hastening the decline of the United States as a global power. As a result, the U.S. is deepening its dependence on unstable policies in order to leverage its dwindling influence in the hemisphere. It is easy to imagine an improved U.S. diplomacy toward Latin America, designed not to advance a set of altruistic ideals but merely to defend its interests—broadly defined to mean stable politics and economies that are open to U.S. capital and commodities—and to achieve what those in the liberal wing of the foreign policy establishment have long advocated: a maximization of U.S. “soft power.”


There are no immediate threats to the U.S. in Latin America. A majority of the region’s political elite—even most of its current govern- ing leftists—share many of the same values the United States claims to embody, even more so following the election of the first African-American president, who is wildly popular in Latin America. As a result, there is no other place in the world that offers U.S. president Barack Obama the opportunity to put into place the kind of intelligent foreign policy that he and his closest advisors, such as United Nations (U.N.) ambassador Susan Rice, believe is necessary to stop the hemorrhaging of U.S. prestige


Any one of the above steps would go far in reestablishing U.S. legitimacy in Latin America. Taken together they could serve as a diplomatic revolution, one which would not weaken U.S. power but consolidate it much the way the Good Neighbor Policy did, allowing Washington to project its power in the region through stable multilateral mechanisms freed from the burdens of confrontation and militarism. A retooled FTAA, updated for the post-Great Recession world and stripped of the ideologi- cal baggage of failed neoliberal globalization, might provide a blueprint for a sustainable regional economy, one that balances national development and corporate profit.4 And like the Good Neighbor Policy, a reinvigorated hemispheric diplomacy could serve as a model for the rest of the world, a design for a practical twenty-first century multilateralism




And that is just from 1 card! More than that, it was an article people were already reading (you can see someone elses initials on the cite) all I did was add a few paragraphs from above/below the part most people were reading. So take that as a parable for why you should recut wiki cites.


Other ev contained similar arguments

Cuba, despite its size and isolation, is a keystone nation in Latin America, having disproportionately dominated Washington’s policy toward the region for decades. n6 As a result of its continuing tensions with Havana, America’s reputation [*192] in the region has suffered, as has its ability to deal with other countries. n7 For fifty years, Latin American governments that hoped to endear themselves to the U.S. had to pass the Cuba “litmus test.” But now the tables have turned, and the Obama Administration, if it wants to repair America’s image in the region, will have to pass a Cuba litmus test of its own. n8 In short, America must once again be admired if we are going to expect other countries to follow our example. To that end, warming relations with Cuba would have a reverberating effect throughout Latin America, and would go a long way toward creating goodwill.



So I thought there were pretty good internal links, but what about solvency? A key thing for advantages like this is “reverse causal”- i.e. it may be true that XYZ damaged our leadership, but does that mean that reversing it solves?

Again, I went back to articles people were already reading and re-read them and basically just took their cards, added more paragraphs that had better lines than the cards turned out at camp

Policymaking circles in the U.S. could use a Copernican shift of their own when analyzing the travel ban debate. Given the Cuban government’s totalitarianism, its legitimacy and credibility should be questioned at all times, but simply preventing Americans from visiting the island does not chip away at Cuba’s totalitarian pillars. We should reframe the issue by searching for other ways to delegitimize the regime. One possible solution is to facilitate the flow of visitors to and from the island, which would give the Cuban people access to the outside world, and provide them with the very unpropagandized information that the Cuban government would otherwise deny them. This Copernican shift – that is, placing travel within the orbit of change – would not lose sight of our end goal (an open Cuba), but would simply shift the emphasis away from breaking the Cuban regime with isolation. It instead would use travel to do an end-run around Cuba’s self-imposed information blockade. Once travel to Cuba is properly seen as a way to pierce the Cuban government’s totalitarian veil,


the U.S. can once again starkly contrast its policy with the Cuban regime by comparing their respective travel bans. This would translate into an important coup de image for an administration in desperate need of repairing its perception in Latin America



, a new approach to Cuba would send an important signal to the world. While complex foreign policy issues from Darfur to Iraq will take years to resolve in cooperation with the international community, with respect to Cuba it would be relatively easy to demonstrate clear, progressive change immediately through a simple Federal Register notice and a new diplomatic approach. Even small changes to policy and rhetoric would send a strong message to U.S. allies, particularly in Europe


president could unilaterally demonstrate that he is willing to try a different approach by allowing greater freedom of travel for U.S. citizens to Cuba. A diplomatic approach to Cuba would signal that the president is willing to pursue peaceful solutions to difficult problems, even if those initial efforts do not bear fruit immediately


Reloading the diplomatic cannon by encouraging economic reform, rather than focusing on political reform, would represent a more dynamic approach to U.S.-Cuban relations. (4B) Washington’s Policies Should Encourage Economic Liberalization The importance of this argument cannot be overstated. The fact that economic reforms will precede political reforms means at least two things. First, given this ordering, any quid pro quo from Washington should provide due credit to any economic liberalization that the island may implement, however piecemeal. For example, when the Cuban government privatizes parcels of agricultural land, or when it allows its tourist industry to engage in the dollar economy, or when it allows its taxi drivers to charge their own rates, these reforms should be seen as the economic equivalent of allowing small-scale political pluralism. When economic reforms are implemented, they should be praised – not belittled – and followed by positive reinforcement by Washington. Second, since these economic changes will be prerequisites for any significant political reforms on the island, Washington should focus its short-term diplomatic efforts on an open Cuban market, rather than an open Cuban polity.


I thought there was sufficient solvency to overcome most objections (not reverse causal, one issue not key etc) and that the strength of evidence was way above what was needed.


In looking at this I also noticed that authors generally said lifting the ban would help US image, but also help US diplomacy in Latin America. This produced a better “cuba key” warrant then general hegemony- it would be hard for a CP to both beat the “cuba key” internal link to image/soft power, and solve the Latin America key argument, and avoid the disad. So as you can see from the 1AC, hegemony was diversified into having multiple impacts about Latin American leadership specifically.


Research on the image advantage/advantage cps prob took 2-3 days. Initially I cut around 40-60 cards, and then filtered it down to more like 20-30 in the file.


Condition CPs

This was a big part of the topic, so I spent basically a whole weekend on this if I remember correctly. To beat a condition CP you can do a few things

  1. have a legitimate “now key” warrant- i.e. a short term advantage that lets you make delay bad arguments. This was approached in two ways: first, a right to travel adv. This argued it was unconstitutional to restrict travel of US citizens and had a non util impact. It’s generally pretty easy to leverage such advantages vs cps, and it forces the neg to spend time on “util good” etc ( in addition you can use this kind of adv vs a k). Then I just needed to find a card that would substantiate that this was a solvency deficit, which took a few hours but turned out pretty well

As a sponsor of legislation to end the ban on travel by Americans to Cuba, I noted a glaring omission in the July 9 editorial “Cuba’s gesture.” While recognizing the Cuban government’s promised prisoner release as a victory for hunger-striking pro-democracy activist Guillermo Fariñas, the editorial implied support for the travel ban — even though Mr. Fariñas has called for an end to such restrictions. In fact, many of Cuba’s pro-democracy activists, independent journalists and bloggers, including Yoani Sanchez, argue that ending the travel ban would help their efforts and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans. The U.S. government does not use its citizens’ right to travel as a bargaining chip when dealing with repressive regimes such as North Korea, Iran, Sudan or Burma — just Cuba. Arguing that Americans should not visit Cuba unless the Castro government makes concessions is essentially advocating that the Cuban regime should determine when and how Americans travel. And it ignores the wishes of Cuban pro-democracy activists. I agree that Havana should immediately release American Alan Gross as well as all Cubans detained for their political views. But, like Mr. Fariñas and others in Cuba’s opposition, I believe ending the travel ban will help the Cuban people more than it will help their government.


Second, the “transition” advantage. Again- this advantage was multipurpose. It had a relatively short term impact, and also provided a US key warrant (US tourists key) that could be used against an international or advantage cp (if they don’t lift the ban, US tourists don’t go/help civil society)


The problem with this adv was it had weaker solvency/internal links. So while it was possible to win, this wasn’t a focal point of the strategy. I bring it up more to demonstrate how having a multi pronged approach makes being negative much harder.


2. You need to have good evidence for conditions fail/ideally specific to the aff. Again, going back to cards people were already reading and looking at the articles turned out some of the best evidence. This is natural- the restitution CP wasn’t turned out at camp, so you wouldn’t expect a 14 year old doing research to anticipate/turn out answers to the CP when they saw them in an article, even if they were amazing

Recommendation 4: An Econo-Centric Approach The United States should recognize that economic change is a precursor to political change. To that end, the Obama Administration should craft its Cuba policy to emphasize and encourage economic liberalization, rather than focusing on political conditions. (4A) Economic Liberalization Precedes Political Liberalization American policymakers should adopt another type of Copernican shift: instead of placing political reforms (i.e., free elections) at the center of our Cuba policy, the U.S. should make economic reforms the gravitational locus of our diplomatic efforts. This shift would not lose track of or diminish the importance of political change, but would simply acknowledge that such political change necessarily orbits economic change, and not the other way around. Put differently, changing our point of view does not change our objectives – it only changes the means by which we pursue our objectives. The notion of offering a quid pro quo – easing restrictions for genuine irreversible reform – has always been impossible because of Fidel’s stubborn personality. Once he is out of the picture permanently, there would be no other leader who could maintain such rigidity in the face of genuine and constructive engagement from Washington. Reform-oriented leaders will [*207] feel less pressure to remain silent, while the government itself will feel more pressure from the populace to address the growing concerns on the island. While Fidel Castro has always exuded confidence in his leadership, in the immediate wake of his death the Cuban regime is sure to feel a tremendous amount of insecurity, which, if handled properly and respectfully, could strengthen Washington’s political hand. n52 At that point, the best – indeed, the only – way to have leverage in Cuba, is for America to engage the island directly. n53 However, Washington’s policy for the last fifty years has focused almost exclusively on the political situation (i.e., free and fair elections). This myopic approach has ignored the possibility of doing an end-run around Castro’s political recalcitrance by simply giving the Cuban people (and government) an offer they can’t refuse: economic success. As long as the political arena remains the battlefield upon which Washington and Havana wage their ideological war, there will always be stalemate.

In addition to “say no” that card also supports a “conditions don’t solve image” argument. You want to think about “multi use” evidence over “unitaskers” when formulating an aff. If you have 1 card in your 1AC that

-establishes solvency

-makes the adv a disad to common cps

-says those cps dont solve


that is way better than a card that does one of those things. Many people as soon as they find a good solvency card move on to the next thing. This is why depth of research is important- you need to find ALL the cards and then determine which ones are best and why.


When researching answers to the condition CP I cut about 75 cards, which I then whittled down to like 10 or less- how many are you really going to read? There was a lot of overlap in the arguments ev made so I looked for cards that made the argument quickly/succinctly, that were qualified, and were somewhat recent.


Then as you can see I mapped out a 2AC/1AR with extensions focusing on some of the key args. Its not enough to have an initial strategy, you need to have a vision for how it will play out in the round. The 1AR needs to collapse to overcome block time disparity, so while you may start with lots of advantages/solvency deficits, the 1AR needs to focus on a few in order to line by line EVERY neg response , and do the framing work needed to set up a winning 2AR


I am gonna move on/not belabor this part anymore , hopefully this explanation, while brief, has hit the broadstrokes.




Here the strategy was simple- try and read a ton of case specific link turns and then collapse to a few in the 1AR. There were a few twists like a recent cuba controversy that helped to thump generic links and the fact that the plan could be done exclusively through executive action- and when writing a new aff you obviously want to look for these.


When dealing with link turns about XYZ lobby the most important thing is evidence that the lobby is key/matters. As you can see I was able to find OK evidence for some of them, not for others. At least that makes 1AR choice easier!


Now, specifying the executive also opens you up to potential agent counterplans- so you have to prepare for that. In this case the approach was two fold

  1. Perm- since the executive enforces the travel ban, action by another agent (courts/congress) would result in forcing the executive to do the plan. So the perm explanation here is simple: the CP is plan plus- a court ruling still requires the executive to do the plan. This is a good agent CP trick
  2. Add ons- as you can see there are a bunch of add ons in the file. If you are writing an aff/are a 2A hopefully you are aware add ons = good. Here the add on was about prez powers, and was in the 1AC just hidden. What? Hidden add on? Welcome to the big leagues. The 1AC solvency says “Executive action signals a new progressive Cuba policy and revitalizes executive authority on the embargo”. If you look at the end of that card it says: 


2010 mid-term lost their elections, due to the larger political climate. 9. It would demonstrate political strength and independence by the President Moving confidently forward with Cuba travel and food sales regulations would fulfill the President’s principled call for a “new beginning” with Cuba which has to date gone unfulfilled. And it would make clear that the President will take principled positions, rather than backing down in the face of hardliners in the Congress. At the same time, failing to respond to Cuba’s release of more than 50 political prisoners and major economic reforms underway on the island undermine the President’s credibility not only in Havana, but among allies who will see the President’s inaction as a foreign policy cowardice caused by nothing more than domestic politics.


This is a pretty good internal link- it says Cuba key, that the executive has to assert himself on Cuba to reassure not just Cuba but other allies. This makes the 2AC easy- you just extend that card and read an impact to Obama cred. Multi-tasker.


So that’s it in the broadstrokes. You think about what is being run, try and write an aff that has good ways to deal with it. Check and Mate.








or is it? If you’re a game of thrones fan you may read things more carefully than others trying to look for subtle foreshadowing/hints. Here I said a few things

-you want to be tricky

-you need to avoid the meta/run contrary to it

-add ons are good

-what the hell does the featured image have to do with anything?


Now some of the things I said above resolve some of these criteria, but are they all satisfied? Not really. Image, right to travel, even transition were pretty common arguments and were broadcast in the 1AC. The way we prepped them was good, but it wasn’t GREAT. It wasn’t sneaky. And to take your case to the next level you will want to do more.


In Dying of the Light  George RR Martin introduces us to “the Kimdissi philosophy”. I’ll try not be too spoilery, but the gist of the Kimdissi philosophy is the combination of physical nonviolence with psychological aggression. The Kimdissi won’t actually kill anyone, but they will manipulate others to violence (Littlefinger, Varys, Doran Martell, the Shrouded Lord/Corsair King). The Kimdissi have a saying, “My enemy has an enemy”. This is true of debate- your opponent is trying to beat you, but they have other enemies like time constraints. You can use the set up of your case to induce/force your opponent to react in a certain way, and then use that against them- the essence of debate judo.


This is where the terrorism add on comes in. Now as mentioned, add ons are much easier if they can use/rely on “multitasking” evidence from the 1AC. So let’s think about this


  1. Terrorism is a good impact to hegemony, an advantage we are reading. Most people are going to go for strategies that attack the solvency or internal link to the hegemony advantage (adv cp, alt causes etc). This we can use. Specifically, we can read a “heg solves terror” impact in the 1AC and it won’t SEEM suspicious. We can even add 2-3 impact cards about why terrorism is the worst without tipping our hand too much.
  2. Solvency- how do we solve terrorism/what does it have to do with anything? Well if you just skimmed the 1AC you probably have no idea. If you read carefully you may have noticed this  in the US key evidence

Regular earnings from American travelers – combined with the price, transportation, and quality advantages of American foodstuffs – will in time turn Cuba into a stronger customer, with potential annual purchases of $1 billion. Terrorism. The Treasury Department office that governs Cuba travel, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, is also the key Treasury element in the effort to break al Qaeda’s global money network. Its resources should be dedicated fully to anti-terrorism, not to duties such as licensing, investigating, and fining travelers to Cuba.


A small thing to be sure, but also… thats pretty damn good. So if the 1AC includes the terror impacts and this line, most of the sneaky work is already done. You can see by the 2AC block that depending on time allocation you can either make this add on PURELY with analytics, or you can read some extension ev to beef it up- obviously in round calculations would determine which. But the general idea of the case- after all that work, all that card cutting making those other parts good – is to completely kick them.




That’s right- it was all a ruse. The heart of this case is the terror add on. Its the best travel ban key warrant vs any CP (since its a direct resource tradeoff), it has a short term impact, and most negative strategies won’t resolve it. Think about it, most 1NC’s are going to be


-some k

-adv/condition cps



etc. Maybe they read 1 or 2 terror defense cards. So by collapsing to the terror add on you have mooted almost the entire 1NC. Making this shift in the 1AR allows you to moot most of the block. You can’t make it too obvious, so you still need the rest of your case to be good. And sure, sometimes you can just win on the other parts of the case.


Now planning out a strategy is the beginning- you also need to execute it. While I wrote a lot of blocks for the key parts in this file, you need to make sure that you are communicating everything effectively to the judge. So the blocks are intended to be read IN THEIR ENTIRETY. Nothing is more frustrating then when you put together something sneaky and someone skimps on time allocation and ruins it. So I would suggest you look at them closely- what kind of arguments are included, why?

-if you look at the 2AC add on, it extends 3 internal links to terror, with the most important one being the last

-then it reads IL magnifier cards on why those internal links are vitally important

-the impact block doesn’t skimp-if you are collapsing to terror you better win its the most important argument

-the 1AR does similar things, and also ties the add on back to the 1AC rogue state impact


What would you want to add to these? Impact calc (terror vs other impacts, strength of internal link to other impacts, why terror turns other impacts etc- these are all round dependent and harder to map out in advance). Answers to line by line (make sure you address EVERY SINGLE neg argument point by point). This takes time, which means you need to collapse. Lets say the neg goes for T, politics, and an adv cp/some case defense in the block. Lets say the 1AR on T takes 1 minute. That leaves you with 4 minutes. That is not enough time to win 3 advantages (refuting case) and win a CP doesn’t solve them, and beat politics. So in that 4 mns you should

-kick all the adv the CP argues to solve/not respond to those case arguments

-focus on winning the terror add on

-defeat politics


So I would prob spend that 4 mn with like 2 mn on terror add on, 2 mn on politics- although depending on how the block responded to terror you may need more time-i.e. whether or not they “caught on”. Its very likely that terror could go like this

-1AC- reads 3 terror impacts

-1NC only attacks solvency/reads CP

-2AC points out add on

-neg block drops it


-neg block reads 1-3 impact defense cards


-neg block reads 1 defense card and makes some analytic solvency take outs


those all require different amounts of time allocation,some may or may not warrant reading extension evidence- you’ll have to figure it out. But given how much time was put into figuring it out in advance, your experience in debates will be much easier.


Now obviously its feasible you could similarly collapse to other parts of the case the same way- you aren’t absolutely locked into terror. But terror best meets our criteria of


-contrary to metagame

-allowing you to collapse the debate


If you collapse to heg for example you will still need to refute the CP/answer more case arguments. So while not impossible, it will generally be harder. You need to take advantage of misdirection. The same way screenwriters set up the movie in the opening scene

          I set you up. I fake right, go
          left three times in a row. You
          expect it again, I take the right
          in hard. That's what boxing's all
          about. Make your opponent think
          you're gonna do one thing, then do
          another. Like Ali in Zaire, using
          the rope-a-dope on Foreman.
          (mimes rope-a-dope)
          Everyone thought Ali's arms were
          getting destroyed, when he was
          really just letting Foreman tire
          himself out. Eighth round, Ali
          starts hitting, George's got
          nothing left -- fight's over.

          He's not going to Salt Lake.

          But you said it would be Salt
          Lake. You found that hospital tag.

          He planted that. He wanted
          whoever found it to think that's
          where he was going.
          (Shakes head)
          He's been doing a rope-a-dope.
          Giles and Wilkins look at him like he's nuts.

          It's a boxing term. When Ali --
          Look, I know this guy. If
          everything has been saying he's
          heading north, then he's heading


Member when Travolta was a big action star? Good times.


This doesn’t just have to be about aff’s. Before my last debate tournament I noticed that pretty much regardless of what K you read the aff would read the same 5-6 cards. So I poked around trying to find the best k in terms of beating those 5 arguments. I noticed that vs psychoanalysis everyone read the same set of cards about Lacan, so I prepared a K based entirely on Jung + a few cards that link turned those Lacan bad args.


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