First lets talk a little bit about “rules”. I don’t mean rules like topicality, I mean rules like when a coach says “put case at the top of the 2AC”. What they are really saying is not “always put the case at the top of the 2AC”, it is instead “until you have enough experience to make an informed decision about where you should put the case in the road map, put it at the top to avoid making a certain type of mistake -under covering the case- that is common in young 2As”.
This is not bad advice. Many 2As when they start out put important things at the end hoping to get there with 7 minutes left and unload only to find out they didn’t get to the last 5 pages in the road map.
However, taking this as “gospel” and never changing it doesn’t make sense either.
Now, I should bracket this by saying: if you are strict about time allocation the order rarely matters, i.e. if you know “I am going to spend exactly X seconds” on every argument and they add up to 8 minutes, you can re-arrange the pieces and it shouldn’t make much difference.* But since such perfect time allocation is rare/impossible we will ignore this possibility.
So why is always putting the case at the top a bad idea?
- The case is frequently irrelevant- in rounds where there is 1 off K, the neg reads and is likely to go for multiple process counterplans or topicality for example. Since the logic of putting the case at the top is “don’t drop important things”- if the case IS NOT important, why put it at the top? You will only end up dropping something more important
- Many people are quite a bit faster at the beginning of their speech, and then slow down as they slowly run out of breathe. For them, putting the case at the top is often a disaster as they go through 40 analytic arguments as fast (and frequently unclear) as possible making the judges flow a mess. If this applies to you then it is better to put something evidence intensive (so also not topicality) at the top so that judges can better cope with your initial burst of speed.
- Some people get bogged down on the case. No matter how much they try, they haven’t yet developed the skill to get through case efficiently. For many with this problem the only thing that will motivate them to be less verbose is the cold click of time. If they get to case with a minute they will make it work, if they get there with tons of time they will use it.
- If your case is well constructed, it should give you options to progressively collapse. What I mean is you start with 2-3 advantages, and as the debate moves on you collapse (go for less) and progress (develop/impact your arguments) and that progression should not be the same every round. Because it is different, it is “surprising”, you don’t want to do it first. You want the neg to be left guessing. After you answer cp X they may think “ok im going for this” and stop listening to parts of your speech. This can be taken advantage of by putting the case later and embedding answers to other pages there. Like reading a new add on the CP doesn’t solve to answer a case argument. Or reading an extension card that both answers a harms takeout but also makes a “states don’t solve” argument.
There are many more reasons/factors that would make putting case somewhere other than at the top a good idea, hopefully this will suffice.
So as you work on your 2A skills, you need to start thinking about how you are doing your order/what works best for you.
Another 2AC “rule” seems to be “have an overview”. Now again, overviews are tools in a toolbox. You want to take them out of the box when they serve a specific purpose, it shouldn’t be something you just do like a robot. You should have a reason for why/how you are doing everything. So what are some 2AC overview problems?
- Too much summation. By summation I mean repeating what you said earlier without developing it in some new way- like flushing out new warrants, doing impact calc etc. These overviews sound like “here is what we said in the 1AC” and then list arguments made. These are either things that should be on the line by line because the negative is contesting them there. Or they are things that don’t need to be discussed because the neg isn’t contesting them. Either way there is basically never a case where a summation overview is needed
- The tricks overview- this usually happens with a “soft left” aff. This overview goes something like this “the neg has conceded 3 key arguments that los them the debate: value to life…. no war…. reps first…”. This overview is not just summation as it usually contains a lot of impact arguments/framing. However, it is perhaps more destructive as you are basically saying “Hey 2NC!! You are gonna lose the debate unless you wake up and answer these three arguments… So to help you, i have isolated those at the top such that basically no one will miss them… kthanxbai” Again, this rule comes from a good place “these arguments are important, make sure you say them”. But once you reach a certain skill level you shouldn’t need these training wheels anymore
- Incomplete impact calc- this is probably the most common. Usually this is a prescripted list of reasons your impact is important that don’t answer/take into account the negative’s arguments/impacts. Impact arguments need to be comparative-i.e you can’t just say “ours is fast” you need to also explain why their’s is slow. This is hard to have scripted out in advance, which makes these pre-written blocks often useless. In fact, most NC’s usually contain 3 or more impacts. It’s generally not a good use of 2AC time to compare your 2 impacts vs each of 3 or more neg impacts. Its fine to have a set of arguments like “economy controls other impacts” or whatever (although generally less useful unless dropped) realistically the aff should be starting impact calc later after the negative has made some choices. Again- rules are training wheels and situation specifics dictate what you should do. If the neg only reads 1 disad and reads a tun of impact magnifiers/turns case then of course you should answer those (although this absurd hypothetical never happens anymore obvi)
If you insist on having a pre-written overview you should at least go through the process of revising it to make it as efficient as possible- it shouldn’t be taking a minute or more – that’s a recipe for not covering.
So what should the 2A be doing on the case?
- You should have blocks to the at least the 30 most common case arguments you hear. If your 2AC case section contains less block than that, get to work. These blocks should be well written/efficient, should contain the best extension evidence (that gets updated regularly) and should utilize 1AC evidence (you don’t need to memorize everything if you do a good job writing blocks)
- Blocks should be in order of importance. Maybe vs the case argument “STEM doesn’t boost competitiveness” there are 20 possible arguments you could make. You want them listed in order of quality, so if the neg spent 5 second on this you make your best argument and move on. If they spent 45 seconds then you read 2-3 of the list which should be the best. If they spent 2 mn on it you keep going
- Blocks should focus on argument development- if your 1AC impact is “diversionary war” you don’t want your AT: no impact to growth block to be 20 more diversionary cards. It should maybe have 1, and then more pieces of evidence that support the same argument but give different/diverse warrants. This is crucial for the 1AR to pick and chose to collapse the debate
- Prioritize arguments based on threat- this requires a certain amount of objectivity. What are the “problems ” with your case-i.e. what do judges think are the “weakest” points of the worst arguments. You want to focus on developing these for 2 reasons. First, hopefully if you blow up your internal link the neg will get scared away and not attack the weakest point of your case. Second, against better teams who don’t fall for this you will need more nuance/argumentative support to win the weak part of your case is actually true. Most often 2A’s seem to prioritize spending lots of time on an argument its easy to read lots of cards on rather than on what is threatening.
- Kick things. Too many 2As try and extend everything. Especially if your 1AC is big you want to start the process of collapse early so you can focus on more important things. If they spiked out of an advantage by adding a plank to the states CP then you should kick it. Yes they might kick the CP and you will regret it, but its more likely they go for it and you are stuck with a useless adv. If you kick it and develop the adv that does have an answer to states and they kick the CP hopefully your development makes it a winnable advantage anyway
*there are of course differences. All things being equal you would rather put the thing the 2NC is likely to extend last so that they get as little of your speech time as possible for prep.