Debating the Most Intuitive Cases Under the Resolution

Part of being a successful debater is having a solid case. What exactly qualifies as a solid case is open for debate (pun intended). I have always been an advocate of debating the most intuitive case under the resolution. Some of my contemporaries believe in cutting obscure cases that either barely meet the burdens of topicality, or are blatantly non topical but still win the semantic debate.  A perfect example of this is the Aircraft Carriers case from the Transportation Resolution of 2009 (RESOLVED:  That the United States Federal Government should substantially reform domestic transportation infrastructure).

In this case the affirmative defined a US Naval Aircraft Carrier as both “domestic” and as an “airport”. The affirmative then proceeded to win the round by beating the T debate, which the case encouraged. The core strategy of this case was to encourage a “T” debate that the negative had no hope of winning.  This is because on its face the case is not topical, but a clever parsing of terms allowed this case to be topical and the T became a time suck. This case became extremely popular among “younger” members of the team I was on because it provided an easy strategy which required very little debating. This is because of the “domestic” and “transportation” cards which allowed the case to technically meet a definition that it didn’t come close to perceptually. It was, for all purposes, an easy case for weak competitors to debate.

So, the topic is almost here, and many people already have an idea of the direction they intend to travel. This article is meant to encourage competitors to embrace the most intuitive, or predictable, case(s) under the resolution.


Well that’s a matter of preference. As someone who competed in LD successfully for 4 years and won a number of tournaments I found myself doing both. I think the beginning and intermediate competitors will gain more from debating the nuances of a predictable case that does not merit a “T” debate. It’s my experience that advanced Open-LD debate is mostly about procedurals (at a later date we will discuss using procedurals as strategy). Procedural debate quickly devolves into meta-debate theory that most beginning and intermediate competitors only have a slight familiarity with. Avoiding a procedural debate as a beginner allows you to debate the other stock issues that conveniently get left out of most debate rounds…like solvency!

Another reason to consider the most intuitive case as your first option is that intuitive cases have the ability to decrease the amount of judge intervention in round.  The problem with obscure cases such as Aircraft Carriers is that it triggers a cognitive response akin to rejection in the judge. Obviously, this claim can’t be generalized to all judges, but the principle remains sound. People are less likely to embrace ideas that deconstruct their worldview, so rejection becomes the only viable alternative. This is called cognitive bias, and it’s a real problem both inside and outside of debate rounds.

Sure most teams will already have great strategies for those “predictable” cases. Some teams may even giggle with glee that you’re debating a case that they have tons of cards prepared for. Both of those statements are true, but so is this one: The better debater is the one that wins on a case the opposition was prepared for, not the one that wins because their opponent was unprepared for the case. The former is a statement of skill, while the latter is a statement of luck. Luck can vary from one round to the next, but skills remain the same no matter what your opponent does.

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I agree 100% on what Tariq says… and the only thing I’d add is that you get another benefit: topic specific education – which is one of the reasons why the event exists =)

I agree that it’s usually a bad idea to be nontopical for the sake of being nontopical. The Aircraft Carriers case was pretty silly anyway – when I hit it at the first tournament of 2009 I’m pretty certain that I just ran T as a timesuck and spent the entire 1NR link turning hege.

However, your logic that the best case is merely an intuitive one is incredibly oversimplified. It ignores that each affirmative carries different types of strategic baggage, some positive, some negative. Stephen Murray, who was a former high school TOC debater and a current NDT debater, gave an excellent list of criteria that most really good cases meet. I’ll try and find his post and put it on the front page, because everything he says is just flat-out true.

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