BY KAUSTUBH VINCHURE, ROHAN BHARGAVA, AND SAMEER ZIAEE
Consider the following scenario. The PMC delivers a pretty standard aff – 2 advantages, net benefits framing, and impacts to the economy. In his LOC, Sameer spreads through a Cap K and an Ableism K, with a little bit of Levinas sprinkled in. Now, most MGs would be pretty scared of Sameer’s LOC – there’s a lot to cover, and a good kritikal debater always has a few tricks hidden in their kritiks that can win them the round cleanly. Compounded with no prep, an MGC focused solely on the K debate on Sameer’s side would probably not work well. The MG would simply get spread out, and Rohan and Sameer have their MOC and LOR practically memorized.
Since the Parliamentary Debate Tournament of Champions is coming up, it’s important to adopt a more “flow” approach considering the judging pool and the competition. The previously held flow tournaments - 6x4 and NPDI, were both in the Bay Area. Due to the relatively more technical nature of Bay Area parli, some traveling teams might lose to local teams simply because they aren’t used to the judging. Already at the past two tournaments, teams were able to win with pure shock tactics. The majority of parli tournaments held are lay (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but for the TOC, it’s key to adopt more flow strategies when looking at the competition. Even if debaters may not want to completely shift to a more technical debate, it is still important to learn about these strategies in cases where your opponents might read more flow arguments-- developing a better understanding of these arguments can go a long way.
The MGC – or the member of government’s speech – is pretty similar to the 1AR in LD. It’s right after a constructive speech and followed by a disproportionately long block. As such, good negation teams frequently, and should always, exploit a bad MGC by simply hunkering down on conceded argumentation. This is potentially dangerous for the MGC because it creates an infinite obligation to answer almost any potential offense in the LOC. Let’s be honest, 12 minutes on any argument will make it good. A strong MG would find strategic ways out to not let the negative have the upper hand, but currently many teams are having problems with this due to the lack of prep time between speeches and the lack of experience with these types of arguments.
When in doubt, here are a couple of potential strategies that we recommend that can help an MG that's attempting to adapt to a flow round.
Restarting with Theory
While theory can be used to check abuse, it can be also used for other purposes. Strategic theory can win rounds easily. Be warned, tabula rasa judges are the ones most receptive to this type of strategy. Regardless, against a position that’s mainly multiple K’s, finding a violation wouldn’t be too hard, even without running K’s bad theory. Good or bad, theory is a useful time suck nonetheless. Coupled with competing interpretations and front-lining arguments against Reverse Voting Issues (RVIs), even junk theory can be a formidable mountain to climb. Forcing the debate onto the theory layer can do a couple things: a) sidestep the entire kritikal debate, b) restart the debate you were probably losing, or c) give you something that the negative can’t extend and you get the last word on. This works especially well with relayering the debate. Crafting a new layer, which you’re already probably going to win, means that your only burden would be enough
Restarting with a K
Kritiks are good, especially good kritiks. So, reading a good MGC K in response to an LOC that engages on the same layer as the PMC, and absolutely obliterates it, is probably a good idea. Take the following situation, for example. Sameer reads a usual net benefits PMC with a policy. Kaustubh might come up and run 3 disadvantages, a plan-inclusive counterplan, and case turns. In order to be strategic, Rohan would go for an MGC K. A new kritik in the MGC would be able to nullify the entire LOC, and give him first and last say on the K debate. If he were to introduce a Cap K, and Kaustubh undercovered one impact, he’d have the opportunity to extend it in the PMR and go for 4:45 of why that comes first, giving him an easy path to the ballot
Say the LOC were policy-esque, and had a counterplan, theory, a disadvantage, a kritik, and case arguments. With no prep time, the MG is pretty screwed. Introducing a new layer won’t be too beneficial since the LOC got offense on a lot of those layers. To approach this, you first have to rank the importance of each of the sheets in the round. 1st/2nd are probably the kritik and theory. The rest aren’t too important. Winning case doesn’t mean much when you’re conceding theory. A good MG should go for turns to the top layer and if the MG is unable define the top layers, then turn the topmost layers. Basically, a good MG wins the most important layers in the debate. For example, the MG might go for an RVI on theory and turns to the kritik to have a pretty good shot at winning. Don’t be afraid to lose parts of the debate. Debate is like chess – sometimes you have to sacrifice a lot of pieces to get the king.
To sum up the last three, visualize debate as a war from the beginning of the round. Each war has different battles, and you have to pick which battles you’ll fight and win. Obviously you don’t want to spend all your time fighting an insignificant battle. You could always start a new battle of any type. That’s debate.
But there still are ways to prevent this from occurring. The most strategic PMC should have a good underview. Unfortunately, almost all PMCs in parli lack underviews, and if they do have one, it usually isn’t developed enough.
An underview is something that you’d read after the core of the PMC to frame the debate or provide additional argumentation. Most topics in parli are pretty predictable, so you should have a pretty good idea of what the LOC strat is going to be. Imagine the look on your opponents’ faces when you read a short but quick argument of how people won’t hate United States intervention in Nigeria. If they had prepped 20 min on that strat, and they forgot to answer that argument, they just lost the debate.
Spikes are really strategic, especially at the end, because they give you the ability to have the first say as to what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable in the round. It doesn’t hurt to add arguments against conditionality and alternate agents counterplans, coupled with a short sentence saying to prefer PMC interpretations because the affirmative team deserves the right to set the terms of the debate because the negation team gets a long block. This gives you godly power over negation debaters who just had their entire LOC strat obliterated by one argument. If a negation debater still decides to read a conditional counterplan fiating a different agent, the MG has a clean route to the ballot – by winning the spikes.
The next, and equally beneficial, component of an underview is a burden. Necessary but insufficient burdens are the most strategic. Think of them as gates: you have to pass through them, but that doesn’t guarantee you the win. Does that sound abusive? It should, because it’s pretty damn abusive. So, don’t be afraid to set up hoops that the LO has to jump through to gain offense. All the MG has to do is win the burdens and prove how the LO didn’t meet them.
Make the affirmative case something that can engage on all layers – a formidable enemy.
Here’s an example of a developed and strategic underview that has many of the components explained above.
Aff gets RVI
No risk theory would give neg a free source of no risk offense, which allows massive abuse of the short MGC.
Ignore moral skepticism and presumption because moral uncertainty means there’s always a risk of morality existing, so there’s always a risk of aff offense.
Now as we can see, this particular underview does two things. First, it establishes an opportunity for the affirmation to gain access to potential offense on the theory layer of the debate that the negation might choose to establish, and second, it establishes defense against skepticism arguments, discouraging negative debaters from going that route as well. The underview doesn’t and shouldn’t work on being the most developed, but instead should just put its foot in the door and lay down the path for the MG so the MG has the strategic option of going for potential offense coming out of the PMC.
In conclusion, the MGC will always be a daunting feat against any LOC . The MG must respond to all negation arguments, extend offense, and pre-empt the neg block. But, hopefully, some of the advice we have provided today will prove to be useful, and may be able to bridge the gap between solid debaters in both the lay and flow styles.
If any of the terminology was confusing or seemed new, feel free to contact us on Facebook, or email, if you’re into that:
We’re willing to answer more questions about different strategies or theory.
Kaustubh Vinchure debates for Evergreen Valley High School, and Rohan Bhargava and Sameer Ziaee debate for Dougherty Valley High School.