1AC Theory

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Debaters often put theory arguments in the 1AC in a section called the underview. The underview is a delineated section of the 1AC that comes after all of the substantive arguments that the debater plans to read in the round. You might wonder, how can the 1AC read theory since it is the first speech in the round? What abuse could there possibly be? There are two answers to this question.

First, the 1AC might read theory on some abuse that has happened outside of the round, such as disclosure theory. In this case, the violation still occurred before the shell itself has been read; it just happened out of the round.

Alternatively, however, the 1AC might read theory preemptively. Such arguments are often called "spikes." In this case, the 1AC will read a shell, even though there has not yet been a violation. If the negative chooses to violate the shell in the 1NC, the affirmative can extend the shell from the AC into the 1AR, and read the violation in the 1AR. This way, the affirmative doesn't have to spend time in the short 1AR actually reading the shell – they simply need to extend the violation and some standards.

Preemptive theory in the 1AC is often used to deter the 1NC from engaging in certain strategies, since they will fear that the affirmative will extend the theory shell into the 1AR. For example, if the affirmative reads "The negative must not read a plan inclusive counterplan" in the 1AC, even though there has been a violation, the negative might choose to not read a PIC in the 1NC since they know it will be easy for the affirmative to extend the shell in the 1AR.

Tricky Underviews

Some debaters choose to go overboard in reading preemptive theory arguments in the 1AC by reading as many theory arguments as possible in the hope that the negative will violate and concede one of them. This can be very strategic for the affirmative since if the negative concedes and violates an underview argument in the 1NC, they would not get new responses to the argument in the 2NR. Even if the negative doesn't concede or violate the arguments, inefficient debaters might spend far too much time responding to the affirmative underview, reducing the amount of time they spend on substance.

Adapting Your Underviews

In almost all cases, the underview that you choose to read should be contextual based on your judge and your opponent. If you have a judge who you know doesn't appreciate frivolous theory, you should probably not include any spikes in your underview and keep it as short as possible. If you have an opponent who is known for reading many tricky arguments, you might consider preempting such tricks in your 1AC arguments by reading underview shells that make it harder for your opponent to act on such tricks.

Responding to Underviews

When responding to long underviews, it's important to not get too caught up on the technical line-by-line, resulting you to waste time and potentially concede arguments. It is important that you:

  1. Make overview responses! Tricks debaters like to hide spikes which means there’s a chance something will be conceded. Overview responses such as "Allow me new 2NR responses to 1AC spikes," or "Drop the argument on 1AC spikes," gives you a chance even if you concede some argument.
  2. Read meta-theory or a kritik that critiques the use of long underviews. Since these arguments critique the nature of spikes themselves, you can convincingly weigh them against spikes to come first so that the affirmative can't cross-apply a conceded spike to take out your arguments.
  3. Minesweep! This means, read through the underview and attempt to respond to the silly arguments. Most spikes and tricks are silly arguments and the affirmative will not be able to extend them unless they are completely conceded. Don't spend too much time thinking about a response for each argument because even if you put a little bit of ink on the flow, the judge will likely not be inclined to vote for the trick and your opponent will not want to respond to it. This skill comes with practice, so it is worth spending some time drilling your responses to long underviews outside of the round.


Nailbomb AC Example