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2Ns, listen up. This blog post is for you.

Most TP debaters see the 1AR as the most difficult speech to give in a TP round. You only have 5 minutes to respond to 13 consecutive minutes of Negative argumentation, and if you miss something or aren’t very persuasive, it will be hard to pull back in the 2AR.

I actually think the 1AR is pretty easy. All you have to do is be good at line-by-line refutation and time management, and if your partner did a good job of setting up spikes in the 2AC, you’re set. The speech that follows, on the other hand, is a whole different animal.

I’m of the opinion that the 2NR is the most challenging speech to give in a TP round. That’s right, not the 1AR, not the 1NC, the 2NR.

In order to give a strategically sound 2NR, the debater should do three primary things.

  • Choose what to pull through from the 1AR
  • Provide voting issues and perform impact calculus
  • Prerefute the Aff’s 2AR arguments

All of these are difficult to do by themselves, and most speeches only require a version of one or two of them. (E.g., the 2AR requires voting issues and impact calc, but no prerefuting). And it all must be done in only 5 minutes.

Here’s my 4 biggest tips for giving a stellar 2NR. 

Tip #1: Know what you have to do. The most important thing to keep in mind while preparing your 2NR is to do the things I mentioned above, line-by-line arguments from the 1AR, give voting issues and impact calculus, and prerefute the 2AR. This requires excellent round vision. In other words, you need to have a very good grasp of which arguments matter in the round and which ones do not. That’s why we have…

Tip #2: Develop your round vision. This is one of those things that’s easy to say but hard to do. In TP, a good way to practice round vision is to watch other people debate and at different points in the round pause and think to yourself, “What are the most important arguments right now?” Usually this will be determined by the time spent on the argument, and the implications of the argument (both impacts and how it interacts with the rest of the arguments in the round). For example, normally topicality is an argument that if the Neg wins it, no other argument in the round matters. Thus, that argument should have the most time and analysis spent on it if you as the Neg think you can win it.

Tip #3: Set yourself up for success. There’s an old saying, “Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail.” It’s extremely helpful to make sure you’re using the correct Negative strategy to set yourself up for a great 2NR.

I’m not going to go into the different Negative strategies and their strengths and weaknesses right now, that’s a blog post for another day. (For more info check out the posts here, here, and here). Suffice it to say: make sure to bring up your most important arguments as soon in the round as possible. Whether it’s your disadvantages, your killer solvency arguments, or your topicality press, bring it up in the 1NC. That gives you as much time as possible to develop the argument and know what the Aff’s best responses are.

To crystallize this, let’s take a look at an example.

Let’s say you have a great disadvantage to a case to ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons, a.k.a LAWs (they’re like unmanned drones). Your disadvantage has the following structure:

Disadvantage: Increased Terrorism

  1. Uniqueness: LAWs are critical to dealing with terrorism in the Middle East
  2. Link: Banning LAWs would result in a surge in terrorism
  3. Impact 1: Innocent people die
  4. Impact 2: Further destabilization of Middle East >>> less US hegemony

This disadvantage is pretty obvious, it’s very well known that we use LAWs to do drone strikes against terrorists. Thus, it’s not very smart to bring this up as is in the 2NC, the Aff will have an easy money response to it and it will be hard to bring through. You need some type of time advantage or good argument to beat the obvious Aff response (we can do remotely operated drone strikes instead, we don’t have to have AI controlling them). Bringing it up in the 1NC allows this to happen:

1NC: Increased Terrorism 

2AC: We can just do normal drone strikes

2NC or 1NR: No we can’t because we don’t have enough soldiers, also they are liable to make more mistakes than the AI. 

1AR: dies

Just kidding of course, what will actually happen in the 1AR is they have to go really in depth into the argument and probably provide multiple responses and/or read evidence. Now the 2NR needs to decide if it’s worth it to bring it through as a voting issue. If you think you’re winning it, do it. But if not, then drop it, and the 1AR has wasted all that time.

If you don’t give yourself the flexibility to do this by setting it up beforehand, it’s really difficult to pull through DAs into the 2NR. That’s why you should use a strategy like shell and extend that allows you to prepare well.

Tip #4: Practice! You can only do so much preparation before digging your heels in, gritting your teeth, and giving practice 2NRs. It’s the best way to really get comfortable with the time constraint and implement the techniques above.

In practice, I suggest going line by line and pulling through any important arguments from the 1AR first, and then ending your speech with voters. Alternatively, you can cover line-by-line responses within the voters. I’ve used both methods before and which one is best depends on the way the round has gone.

nathanael holding gun

Nathanael Morgan is a freshman at the Saint Constantine College in Houston, Texas. As an accomplished debater with 3 years of competitive experience in Stoa and numerous awards, he enjoys researching and coaching others. Among other things, he also enjoys speedcubing, chess, and technology.

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