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Tricks, broadly speaking, are debate arguments that are abusive and difficult to respond to. Tricky arguments are usually abusive either because they are hidden and intended for you to concede or because they are logically difficult to rebut. Tricky arguments are usually intended to provide a short and easy route to the ballot for the debater reading them, which is to say they are especially dangerous when conceded. Tricks can be strategic if you have a judge willing to evaluate such arguments, if you are more technically proficient than your opponent, or if you know your opponent is inexperienced at responding to tricks. When running tricks, however, you run the risk of heaving theory or kritiks read against you that criticize your practice.

Substantive Tricks


Substantive tricks attempt to win the substantive layer of debate. Many substantive tricks apply to the philosophical framework in round.

Common Substantive Tricks

Truth Testing and a Prioris are two arguments that when combined together show why the resolution is inherently true or false. These are perhaps the most common substantive tricks.

Permissibility Triggers are arguments that prove one debater's framework triggers permissibility, which is equivalent to proving that their framework fails to generate moral obligations or prohibitions. These arguments often take the form of a calc indict, a philosophical reason why a framework fails.

Presumption Triggers are arguments that attempt to invalidate all substantive-based offense in the round so that presumption becomes relevant.

Indexicals is an argument that argues the affirmative should get the ballot if there is any framework under which the affirmative is moral.

Hijacks are arguments that show why the justifications for one debater's framework actually justify a different framework. Hijacks are typically combined with offense that shows why that other framework affirms or negates.

Skepticism Triggers are arguments that prove one debater's framework is necessary to avoid moral skepticism. That is, if that debater's framework were proven false, then moral skepticism would be true.

Moral Skepticism is a position ran often by the negative that claims that attaining morality is meaningless or impossible. Naturally, this would answer the affirmative's framework.

Determinism is a position ran often by the negative that claims all of our actions have been predetermined since the beginning of the universe, which means agents do not have free will and are not responsible for their actions. Similar to skepticism, this denies the existence of moral obligations.

Contingent Standards allow the standard of your framework to be contingent on how the opponent responds to your framework itself. Typically, frameworks involving contingent standards will have a "primary" standard, but if the opponent refutes that standard, a "secondary" standard becomes used, changing the nature of how offense would be filtered under your framework.

Theory Tricks


Theoretical tricks attempt to win the theory layer of debate, and by extension the entire round since theory is often the highest layer. In contrast to substantive tricks which can be more thoughtful and nuanced, theoretical tricks are usually short and blippy arguments that are intended to be conceded to quickly win the round.

Some common theory tricks include, "Evaluate the debate after speech," "All interps are counter-interps," "Reject affirmative/negative fairness arguments," etc. What all of these arguments share in common is that they are theoretically justified. That is, the warrant of all of these arguments will be rooted in fairness or education. This might seem counterintuitive considering these arguments are considered to be unfair, but remember that these arguments don't have to be particularly good; the debaters reading them are hoping that you will concede them.

Common Theory Tricks

Frivolous Theory is the practice of reading theory against arguments that aren't very unfair or uneducational, taking advantage that theory, under competing-interps, is evaluated under an offense-defense paradigm.

Long Underviews can be read by tricky affirmatives in an attempt to put so many arguments into a dense block of text in the hopes that you will concede some trick that will cause you to lose the round.

Theory Heavy 1NCs can be read by negatives typically as a time-suck for the affirmative in the 1AR, in the hopes that they will either concede some theory argument or then undercover substance.

1AR Restart is a technique by the affirmative where they will not go for the AC, instead opting to generate entirely new offense from the 1AR through theory and substantive tricks. This is a useful strategy when the 1NC has been particularly good at answering the AC substantively.

Responding to Tricks

Responding to tricks debate might seem daunting at first, but with practice, you will learn to become very proficient at doing so! Typically, you want to employ two practices when responding to tricks.

First, you should always uplayer the tricks with arguments that indict the specific tricks that are being read in round. Uplayering tricks is especially important because it provides you with some recourse in case you concede a trick. Even if you concede a trick, if you are also reading arguments that indict the practice of reading tricks or the tricks themselves, your arguments would still come first. You can typically uplayer tricks either through theory or kritiks. On the theoretical side, you might read a combo shell that proves why some conjunction of your opponent's tricks is especially abusive and will cause you to lose the round. On the critical side, you might read a Spikes K which indicts the practice of reading short and blippy tricks in general.

Second, you should still attempt to line-by-line and respond to every argument. Conceded arguments, even if silly, can be especially damning and you should make every attempt to put at least some ink on the flow so judges will be very hesitant at voting for that argument. Even if you are uplayering the tricks, there is the possibility that your opponent could leverage some trick to take out your arguments, so you should make every attempt at engagement.

Third, generate turns! Often, people running tricks justify each trick as an independently sufficient reason to affirm/negate. You can use this to your advantage. For example, as an AC against an NC saying - decision making paradox, its impossible to make a decision because each decision requires a meta-level decision, and that decision also needs another meta-level decision to infinity, turn this by saying this flips aff since the aff spoke first therefore the 1AC is the simplest speech of the round and easiest to make a decision on since the neg hasn't spoken yet, so to avoid the paradox just vote aff and forget the 1NC. And, since each trick independently negates, I turned it meaning it also independently affirms.