Being a Better 2AC 2- The Case

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?

 

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

 

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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?

 

  1. 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)
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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4 responses to “Being a Better 2AC 2- The Case

  1. Creative thinking as a 2A is huge, and I love the willingness to challenge convention. I think pt #4 makes a lot of sense and is very clever. A few genuine questions regarding the logic behind #1-3 though:
    — Why is the case irrelevant in a one off debate? I think the biggest mistake I see in a lot of one off rounds is the 2A forgetting they read a 1AC. An 8 minute referendum on “is anti-blackness ontological?” seems less promising than “our aff is really important, the alt doesn’t solve it.”
    — Why not devote just extra practice to going slower at the start of your 2AC? Racing through anything is tough to flow. Pen time is definitely more important with T/case, but why not just keep doing start-stops at the top of the 2AC to learn to better communicate?
    — If a 2A is struggling with time management, isn’t putting case on the bottom most likely to result in them not getting to their aff?
    That said, if the 2AC is a pro and the 2NC is a good debater but poor listener, I can see times this would be nasty. I just worry about using it as a corrective in one-off rounds or with 2As who either go too fast or too slow.

  2. —” Why is the case irrelevant in a one off debate? I think the biggest mistake I see in a lot of one off rounds is the 2A forgetting they read a 1AC. An 8 minute referendum on “is anti-blackness ontological?” seems less promising than “our aff is really important, the alt doesn’t solve it.”

    The case, important as it may be, does not win you the arguments you need to access the case in a round like that- no matter how good you are on the case if you don’t defeat political ontology its going to be irrelevant. I rarely see a 2A forget they read a 1AC, I frequently see 2A’s reading irrelevant overviews that take 45 seconds each on all of 3 different advantages rather than explaining the parts of that advantage that interact with/answer a K.

    “— Why not devote just extra practice to going slower at the start of your 2AC? Racing through anything is tough to flow. Pen time is definitely more important with T/case, but why not just keep doing start-stops at the top of the 2AC to learn to better communicate?”

    If you can go fast, why sacrifice that just to put the case at the top? But more importantly “learn to slow down” seems like a utopian cp…#we’reold

    “— If a 2A is struggling with time management, isn’t putting case on the bottom most likely to result in them not getting to their aff?
    That said, if the 2AC is a pro and the 2NC is a good debater but poor listener, I can see times this would be nasty. I just worry about using it as a corrective in one-off rounds or with 2As who either go too fast or too slow.”

    The point isn’t “if you struggle with time management, put case on bottom” , it’s “if your specific problem is you get bogged down on the case, stop putting it at the top/enabling your addiction”.

    But thee aren’t new rules/gods to replace the old ones, just different ways of thinking. Ultimately people should be pragmatic and do what “works’ for them. Put case at the top is a crutch designed to stop you from dropping the case, once you are good enough that dropping the case is no longer a likely outcome then you don’t have a lot of use for that rule. If the rule works for you- by all means keep following it. But don’t think of rules as chiseled into stone tablets handed down from the 2AC god.

  3. I definitely agree that extending 3 advantages/ignoring the central question is a bad route. I wish more debaters spent that time on case with just a simple/single advantage, and basic stuff like “this is our internal link, it’s true, this impact matters, only material/political solutions resolve it” etc. as a sort of compromise between these two approaches. I think the 2AC in these debates needs to talk more about the 1AC, but only insofar as they are making comparisons to the 1NC.

    I definitely hear you on getting kids to start slowly (I say this in roughly 60% of debates and compliment the inverse in the other 40%). Kids never seem to want to hear ‘slow down,’ and I get that their brains (like most) move much more quickly than mine lol. I have started to frame this as ‘to better communicate what matters, you need to pause and speak with authority in a way which makes important points resonate.’ I feel like so many 2NRs/2ARs think they established certain points with authority because they said the words, though only because they had beautifully typed it while leaving the judge to decipher wtf happened at the beginning.

    Couldn’t agree more that thinking of this in iron-clad way/approaching every 2AC through a universal template is a very poor model. Also really appreciate you encouraging kids to think and innovate more. Getting kids to analyzes themselves, figure out what they’re working through, and develop innovate/case-by-case solutions is maybe the most rewarding part of teaching for me.

  4. Thank you for writing this article.

    This is a topic that I talk about in my oral critiques quite a bit. I couldn’t agree more.

    A typical “bad” 2AC that I see has case on top (after T) and there are canned overviews for every sheet of paper on the case. The 2AC gets to the first page of case and talks for 35 seconds (reads the overview) which leads me to draw a couple of arrows on my flow (at best). Then they get to the line by line and say that a bunch of stuff was “answered above” (sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t). This goes on for each page of the case…. then inevitably, with 25 seconds left on the timer, the 2AC gets to the final disad. At this point, the 2AC does not prioritize their best answers, choosing instead to just read the front line in order… which leads to the aff having a couple of bad analytical non-uniques and half of a card to answer an entire disad.

    The problem here (in my opinion) lies with the overviews. The purpose of the overview is to add some analysis and explanation… which is fantastic in theory, but the problem is that these are pre written and read at top speed. They are just a waste of time. I’d much rather the 2AC just go straight to the line by line and then make some key extensions/explanation at the bottom of the flow. These should not be pre written necessarily because they should relate to what is happening in the current round. 2ACs should be able to answer case arguments very efficiently, and should be able to weave in extra explanation as they go.

    The bottom line is that the dogma of “case on top” coupled with bad canned overviews leads to bad 2ACs. I was always taught to make the 2AC order prioritized by the most threatening arguments…. which meant T then CPs then disads then case. As I got older/better, I switched that up to maximize efficiency. I get the logic behind case on top, I just don’t think it’s always correct. I’ve seen way more “case on top” 2ACs go terribly wrong than in the era before that was popular (I’m old).

    Note that the example that I gave was of a pretty basic policy round… This advice is even more applicable to a round with a K involved. So often I see bad 2ACs that go to the case and just talk about a bunch of stuff that was never contested/irrelevant.

    Also on #5 Kick things – YES. So often I see kids that are afraid to kick things in the 2AC because it’s “too early”… Meanwhile they try to slog through an 8 card No War block (or whatever)… Kick the advantage and take the time tradeoff. Use that extra time to develop arguments elsewhere. Also, it is very important to make your 1AC modular so that you can kick things strategically. That’s how you get ahead in the 2AC.

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