The Early Season Playbook

Nationals is long over, and we still have many weeks before the high stakes tournaments are upon us. Lesser competitors are taking this time off. They're not going to start working until a tournament is around the corner and panic sets in.

But not you.

You know that the off-season is a critical part of your competitive experience. To set yourself up for a great win rate when tournaments arrive, use this time to write a case list during the off-season.

Writing a case list is the most efficient way to get to know a new resolution. It accomplishes all three of your main goals:

  • 1) Building general knowledge.

  • 2) Finding your first affirmative case.

  • 3) Prioritizing negative research.

Create a shared document with your partner or your club and list possible cases, with a short paragraph of explanation on each. Be as exhaustive as possible. Nothing is too outlandish.

For Value Debate:

Divide the list into two parts: case patterns and applications. A case pattern is a general line of logic that is shared between similar cases. One case may have a value of Human Rights, the next Individual Freedom, but they're basically the same case deep down. Try to find at least 12 case patterns per side. Include everything you can think of - objections, kritiks, pre-value-centric cases, all of it.

Under the application section, you can expect a lot more diversity. You should be able to find dozens of potential applications if you take advantage of the pre-season to properly research.

For Policy Debate:

Find at least 40 case ideas. The list will keep getting longer as the season unfolds. You know you've done well when someone runs a new case halfway through the season, and you find it on your case list from the summer because you did your research.

For simplicity, define policy cases by their plans. Funky structures or unexpected harm evidence rarely makes the case so different that it warrants a separate entry on the list.

  • Novice tip: Don't be stingy with your case list. Trade it away for other lists, cases, or briefs from debaters you respect. Ask for help from experienced debaters to make your list more complete.

  • Intermediate tip: Arrange the cases from most obvious to most obscure. This will give you a rough timeline for how the metagame will unfold, with cases getting increasingly niche as the year goes on. Cases that would rarely be considered topical in November will be accepted without hesitation in March.

  • Advanced tip: Give each entry a 1-5 star rating. 1 star means it should only be used in practice. 3 stars means it's coherent but not scary. 5 stars means you expect to see it in national outrounds. Research the 5-star entries first.

Champions are created in the off-season. Use this time to your advantage and you’ll enter tournament #1 as ready as ever.