1AR Coverage – How to Avoid Losing to a Big 1NC

Raffi Piliero | Nov 15, 2021
5 min read

Have you ever given a 1AR and realized, with a minute left, that you weren’t going to get through everything? There’s nothing worse than seeing those last few seconds tick down on the timer and realize that something was going to go undercovered or dropped. Yet, we’ve all been there – the 1AR is one of the most challenging speeches to give, and for a reason – 4 minutes to cover a 7-minute-long 1NC, with the 6-minute-long 2NR collapsing to a 1AR misstep. This article aims to help – below are several tips for making the 1AR far less reactive and, ultimately, less daunting. 

Think 2AR Backwards

One common way that 1ARs get spread out is feeling like they have to do too much all at once, sketching multiple paths to victory. However, the main benefit to being Aff is having the final speech – this offers the chance to make choices and determine exactly what the judge is left with at the end of the debate. To win a given debate, you only have to give one winning 2AR, not multiple. Given that the 2AR is constrained by 1AR coverage, the 2AR won’t have options available to it that weren’t present in the 1AR. 

Here is where some 1ARs go awry – trying to just make as many answers as possible against a given position, without thinking critically about how those arguments fit into a single, cohesive 2AR narrative. If you make 11 analytic answers to a DA but don’t think any of the arguments are high-quality enough for you to give a 2AR on, the 2NR’s job isn’t hard – they just have to cut through the noise. In contrast, if you know for sure what you want your 2AR to be on a given position, it takes some of the pressure off to generate as many arguments as possible – you just need to focus on setting up that one 2AR. 

In short, quality over quantity can be useful for 1ARs where you just don’t have the luxury of generating a large number of answers to every position.

Capitalize on the Drawbacks of a Large 1NC

Reading a 1NC with 5-6 offcase positions is not without downsides – if it were, everybody would be doing it, and there would never be teams that went 1-2 off. However, 5-6 off strategies result in each position being less developed – fewer cards, and less highlighting on the cards that are read. While this might be okay in policy (where the neg has the block to read new cards/develop the argument), this creates a serious issue for the 2NR in LD – the neg is out of constructives to develop the position. 

When dealing with a huge 1NC like that, the aff should not try to match the neg card-for-card. Instead, there will likely be huge gaps in explanation in a given position – and no opportunity for the neg to read the requisite cards to put the pieces together. The 1AR should be largely analytic on these run-and-gun 1NCs – point out where they haven’t made a complete argument, and areas where they needed to have read a card. 

For example, the neg reads a 2 card elections DA (Card 1 - CV benefits Trump; Card 2 – Trump causes war). Instead of reading 3 link turn cards, point out the obvious gaps present in this argument – they haven’t read a uniqueness card that Biden wins now, they haven’t read a card that CV is the key issue as opposed to something like the economy, they haven’t read a card differentiating second term Trump from first term, etc. While the neg may try to read new cards, you shouldn’t let them – strategic choices incur strategic costs, and presenting an incomplete argument to make the 1NC bigger doesn’t turn the 2NR into a second negative constructive. 

Generate Offense!

When the aff’s only offense is the case, the aff is always on the defensive, and is reactive to 2NR choices – this lets the neg control the direction of the entire debate. That changes when the 1AR has offense – it means the aff can force the neg’s hand in various places. 

For example, imagine the neg reads a short, bad DA that they clearly don’t want to go for. If the aff straight-turns it, then the neg all of a sudden has to extend a position that they weren’t planning to go for previously – this throws a wrench in the entire 2NR. Alternately, imagine the aff invests in the RVI on a 1NC theory argument – now, the 2NR has to play defense against a new potential 2AR out (the RVI). 

Some ways the aff can do this – reading new 1AR theory, spending time on the RVI on 1NC theory arguments, straight-turning DAs, or impact-turning DAs. These set up potential new 2AR collapses, and put the neg on the defensive.          

The Opinions Expressed In This Blog Post Are Solely Those of the Author And Not Necessarily Those Of DebateDrills

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