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As a negative team, one of the most important things you must remember is that you are a team. You are not two individual speakers making your own arguments, attempting to see what sticks. You are a team of two, working side by side in cooperation with each other to build a solid strategy—that, when held onto for the entire round, can crush the affirmative case.

With that said, several different methods of negative strategy have been developed by debaters over the years. Most will “split the block,” which essentially means:

1NC makes her own arguments
2NC makes his own arguments
1NR just responds to 2AC arguments against 1NC

Within the method of splitting the block, there are two general orders of argumentation. In traditional NCFCA debate, the 1N would take arguments like significance, inherency, and on-case solvency (these are the defensive arguments), whereas the 2N would take the disadvantages and off-case solvency (which are the offensive arguments). Many debaters still choose this method because it works for them, and it can be very effective. However, throughout the past five years or so in both NCFCA and Stoa, the Emory Switch has begun to grow in popularity. This basically reverses the role of the 1N and the 2N, making it so that the 1N will argue offensively and the 2N will argue defensively. It may turn out that the more traditional method is what works for you and your partner, but the how’s and why’s of the Emory Switch should at least be considered and tried in some practice rounds.

The ES method, although it seems more difficult because it’s not traditional, is actually easier. After all, your disadvantages and off-case solvency arguments are what you’re more likely to have pre-prepared in your briefs. Thus the 1NC doesn’t have to take much prep time coming up with a bunch of mitigation. The 1N’s job will be to say, “This is why the plan is a very bad idea.” The 1NC should have a lot of depth: usually just two or three solid, full disadvantages and a few airtight off-case solvency points (and, of course, procedurals and counterplans should always be run in the 1NC if applicable). The 1NR probably won’t be able to point out 2AC drops; just where the 1NC arguments were under-covered. You’ll have to bring it back to the details of your arguments and show the judge why it actually matters that Internal Link 3 wasn’t addressed. You have to start of the rebuttals by making the judge scared of voting affirmative. The 2N’s job is to be a distraction with a 50% success rate. Basically, you make as many defensive arguments as you can by shredding the 1AC up, but don’t be offended if it’s the 1N arguments that win you the round. You have to make sure the 1AR is too pressed for time by your ubiquitous skimpy arguments to fully cover your partner’s silver bullet disadvantage. Then you can just drop some of your “but there is no quantification under this subpoint on this harm!” arguments and go for your partner’s offense in the 2NR.

Blank ringbound notebook and pencilThere are a few good reasons to consider using this method. Firstly, as noted above, it can be easier. It saves prep time and puts pre-prepared arguments to good use. Furthermore, the 2N can often listen to the entire debate through one ear while mulling over the less brain-trying defensive arguments (unless the 2N is just bad at multitasking, which is totally fine). Another reason to consider is the fact that your offensive arguments are far, far more likely to win you the round than your defense. Judges rarely vote on “but there is no quantification under this subpoint on this harm,” but they do vote on “this plan destroys your safety as an American citizen.” Thus you want your offense out there as soon as possible. You want it to stick in your judge’s minds throughout the entire round, giving them time to chew on all of those important details. If you wait until the 2N to throw them out, they sound like they’re less important to you, and your judge has less time to analyze them well, creating confusion and lack of interest.

Any good debate team should try all negative strategies to see what works for them. Don’t underestimate the traditional methods, but don’t be afraid to try new things. Above all, work in sync, and you can take any case!

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