Generic Strategies

Generic off-case positions are essential to good debaters. We will explore how to use them correctly in this article.


The quality that makes generic off-case positions useful is flexibility. By flexibility, it is meant that a debater is able to sensibly run these arguments in a high percentage of their rounds. If a debater runs into a case where they have absolutely no relevant carded answers, they are probably going to be relying mostly on these types of arguments; whether it is a procedural, a couple of disads, a process counterplan, a K...

Just how flexible should generics be? There is no correct answer, but at a minimum it is a good idea to have at least few positions that link to 95% or more of cases. However, keep in mind that more flexible positions tend to have weaker links. Therefore, a debater should have a substantial number of generics that sacrifice part of their flexibility for a stronger, more specific link and impact story. While a debater cannot run all of them every round, one can pick the right combination of arguments that work well against particular cases.


Strong teams are capable of deploying an incredible range of arguments in any given round. The proliferation of multiple conditional advocacies has in fact signified a shift towards a negative side bias, as the aff finds itself confronting more and more off-case positions to deal with.

What represents sufficient diversity? Ideally, a debater’s slate of generic arguments might include at least two or three specific procedurals (including topicality), two or three strong generic counterplans like agent/actor counterplans or process counterplans, several disads that can function as net benefits to YOUR counterplans, several disads that can stand on their own merits (like politics), and two kritiks that a debater is comfortable with and has read the related literature. A debater can survive if they do this, but the best teams will have even more. Obviously, there are some exceptions. For example, one-off K teams do not really need to be packing a bunch of econ disads, and so forth.

How To Deploy Generics

First, do not make the mistake that many teams make, which is to use a flavor-of-the-week approach to generics. Only the politics disadvantage should work that way. Even then, the structure of that argument does not really change, only the link and impact stories. Avoid printing out a new camp file every tournament to use as pet disads for a few rounds. That is not efficient, nor does it accomplish the goals of the ideal generic argument.

Generics are not arguments a debater picks randomly--they are positions that one should aim to master over the course of the season. Debaters should have dozens, or even hundreds, of pages of shells, specific links, impact extensions, blocks, and overviews for each position. Strong debaters will constantly update their evidence. But not only should a debater’s mastery be reflected in their files, it should also be measured in how well they run them in actual debate rounds. By the third or fourth tournament running an argument, comparative impact calculus and line-by-line analysis should be extremely nuanced. Speeches should demonstrate a high level of knowledge about the position; where a debater is never caught off-guard by something new.

This is not to say that one should never mix things up. As the season progresses a debater may find that some of their positions are not very strong. In that instance, replace weak positions with new arguments. And of course, for very important tournaments like Nationals, look to break out new arguments.

When To Deploy Generics

This is a question that is often overlooked. As generics have become more and more prevalent in their usage over the decades, an assumption of sorts has developed that all 1NCs should include a lot them. That is not necessarily true. There are many scenarios where a debater should only read one or two, or none at all. Good teams understand this.

First, consider a judge’s preference. If he or she rarely votes on procedurals, then it might be a solid idea to pack those away. If he or she does not care for conditionality, maybe just stick with one dispositional counterplan. And obviously, if he or she does not feel comfortable with kritiks, it might be best to leave that particular expando in the tub. Adaptation is critical--do not just run arguments because they are comfortable. Run them because they can win over the judge.

That brings us to another point. Generics are not to be used as time wasters! Debaters should run them each round with the expectation that each individual position could potentially become the central focus of the 2NR, depending on how the debate plays out. If people are just running ASPEC to fill up the 1NC, what is the point? A flexible position is not helpful if a debater cannot do anything with it in the end.

Debaters must also consider the opportunity cost of reading each position. Opportunity cost is measured not just by the speech time needed, but also by the comparative strength of the other arguments available to a debater that they could have been reading.

Remember that generics are used as a substitute in situations where there are no more specific arguments to read. But what if a debater possess those specific arguments? If they have worked on a frontline to a team’s particular aff before a tournament, and they hit that team, always, always go with the specific strategy. Case turns, a plan-text-specific PIC, and advantage frontlines are always going to work out better for a debater than their equivalent in generic arguments. The stronger one’s access to offense in the round the better. Generics are not an excuse to avoid doing case-specific research. Look at the top teams on the caselist wiki and witness mountains of cites that are responsive to specific 1ACs. The more work put in on case frontlines, the less a debater will have to rely on generics to save them.