The First Affirmative Rebuttal (1AR) is 4 minutes long. Since it has to cover the long 1NC, it is the hardest speech in the debate.
The Aff has two jobs – rebuilding (“extending”) their case and attacking the Neg’s positions. The Aff will typically spend around 2 minutes on their case and 2 minutes on their opponent’s positions.
First, it should always think from the 2AR backwards. The debate is never won in the 1AR; what matters is delivering a killer 2AR. The 1AR, although the most important speech (by nature of how hard it is), does not win the debate – it just sets up the 2AR. As a result, every argument in the 1AR should be purposive – don’t just make arguments to make them. An argument needs to contribute to a winning 2AR (whether by being an argument you’ll directly go for in the 2AR or by being an argument that you won’t extend but that wastes the opponent’s time).
Second, always think in terms of offense. While strictly positional 1ARs that try to get the debate back to the 1AC are a solid starting point, against a large 1NC it becomes challenging to avoid a 2NR collapse on the Neg’s terms. As a result, the 1AR should try to get offense and secure other possible 2ARs – new theory, an RVI, turning a disad, and others are all solid options.
Third, think in terms of time-tradeoffs and make the debate smaller. If the 1AR tries to match the Neg minute-for-minute, the Aff will lose – the 1NC and 2NR are much longer than the 1AR. As a result, the Aff needs to make arguments that force the Neg to spend disproportionate amounts of time, such as a quick theory argument that, if missed, will cost the Neg the debate. If this happens, the 2AR can then collapse to something that the 2NR undercovered and win the debate as a result.
Fourth, weighing arguments are key, establishing why one arguent is more important than another. As the above points emphasized, the 1AR is a time crunch. It will be challenging for the 1AR to cover everything adequately. However, weighing arguments are helpful for setting up a 2AR collapse; the 2AR can claim that an argument supersedes the other arguments the 2NR went for. Put differently, even if the Aff loses the majority of arguments, they can claim they’re winning the most important ones.
Fifth, be strategic with how time is allocated. This is a case-by-case determination. In some situations, the Aff can spend as little as 30 seconds on the 1AC, while other situations may require half of the 1AR. A good general rule of thumb is to not spend more than 2 minutes on the 1AC, more than 45 seconds on a single procedural, and to try to spend no fewer than 20 seconds on any given offcase argument (unless it is truly a throwaway).
Sixth, use analytics (arguments by the debater, as contrasted with carded evidence) strategically. While the 1AR can—and should—read lots of cards, sometimes the best arguments are those that pick up on logical gaps in the 1NC’s arguments. Analytics can pick up on those gaps and help tease them out.