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  • ORCs Advice

    I'd like to start a conversation to maybe help some of the programs that are going to ORCs for the first time. Is ORCs all that different to you compared to something like Regionals? If so, how is it different? How have you dealt with case changes the the quick turnaround needed? Like I said before, I'm really just looking to get some kind of information together that might help some newer or unexperienced programs. The way I view it, this community is meant to support each other, so hopefully we can get some quality things down.

  • #2
    I think one of the big differences is that there are no easy rounds. Every single team that you hit is really, really good, and you have to earn every ballot. Mock Trial is already a super exhausting activity with a lot of pressure, and ORCS ramps both of those things up a notch. The short turnaround also gives teams that can adapt well and work hard an advantage.

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    • #3
      I'd for sure echo what Real Mock Prodigy said and add that all of those things that makes ORCS tiring also makes it an extremely fun time (at least in my opinion). Especially if this is your first time at ORCS and you may not have access to the more selective invitationals, it will probably be the most good teams you've ever hit at a tournament. I'd definitely take advantage of that, filming rounds if it's allowed or taking detailed notes. That way you can bring back new techniques that you can use to improve your team and have quality examples you can use to train new members. Even if you don't break to nationals the very act of competing at ORCS is a big way you can improve your team long term, if you use it well.
      My one other piece of advice (speaking from experience) is to keep your team intact as much as you possibly can. In close rounds it helps to be in round with a team you have spent a lot of time with and can trust. I would hesitate to shake rosters up too much unless absolutely necessary.

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      • #4
        Not to be a dissenting opinion, but ORCS is objectively the worst tournament I attend every year. Stakes are so high, and with only 5 bids this year I think it will be even worse. A lot of the friendliness that comes with invitationals and even with regionals is out the door. Every round is super competitive (which was said above), but I missed the camaraderie for sure. It is definitely true that it is some of the highest quality mocking that you will see (Nationals is obviously fantastic, but with only a month to prepare, I feel like ORCS has some really perfected case theories).

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Adevans View Post
          Not to be a dissenting opinion, but ORCS is objectively the worst tournament I attend every year. Stakes are so high, and with only 5 bids this year I think it will be even worse. A lot of the friendliness that comes with invitationals and even with regionals is out the door. Every round is super competitive (which was said above), but I missed the camaraderie for sure. It is definitely true that it is some of the highest quality mocking that you will see (Nationals is obviously fantastic, but with only a month to prepare, I feel like ORCS has some really perfected case theories).
          At NCT, the overall quality of the rounds is higher, even with just a month to prepare. Otherwise, I totally agree. ORCS is a nightmare of a tournament because there's such a razor-thin margin of error. There will be teams this year that go 6-2 and don't make top 5 at their ORCS, which is absolutely insane.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Adevans View Post
            Not to be a dissenting opinion, but ORCS is objectively the worst tournament I attend every year. Stakes are so high, and with only 5 bids this year I think it will be even worse. A lot of the friendliness that comes with invitationals and even with regionals is out the door. Every round is super competitive (which was said above), but I missed the camaraderie for sure. It is definitely true that it is some of the highest quality mocking that you will see (Nationals is obviously fantastic, but with only a month to prepare, I feel like ORCS has some really perfected case theories).
            Yeah, we've alluded to this on the podcast and it's 100% right - ORCS is miserable. It's high-level mock trial, which is fun, but so much turns on tiny numbers and pairing luck and it's a pressure cooker of emotion. In some ways, if you're a new program going to ORCS for the first time, I'd suggest trying to find a way to be "too dumb to know you're new." Not that you don't belong by any stretch, but teams are going to underestimate you, and you should take advantage of that. If you're polished, prepared, and confident, you're going to give yourself a chance to have a consequential round four. Winning ballots at ORCS at all is an accomplishment to be proud of, and don't get thrown off by what other teams are doing. Definitely ignore the teams who try to throw you off in captains' meetings too. Play your style that was good enough to get you there, and just hope everything else breaks your way. And coaches... I've got no help for you. Coaching at ORCS is excruciating.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by MockingTheMidwest View Post
              I'd like to start a conversation to maybe help some of the programs that are going to ORCs for the first time. Is ORCs all that different to you compared to something like Regionals? If so, how is it different?
              I think one thing to keep in mind is that the strategy for getting a bid out of ORCS is going to be a little different that the strategy for an invite or regionals.

              1. At regionals there is often just a question of whether what a team is doing is good or not good. The team that is doing something good gets the points. But at ORCS, everyone is at least baseline good, so the question is good vs. better. Now judges are often very very bad at seeing good vs. better. So the biggest thing they end up looking at is errors. That means that being clean and polished is the number one way to get points. Don't make mistakes, because mistakes are what the judges see and score you down for. ORCS has far less room for the team that does something fun and creative and interesting but makes a few mistakes because they put their energy into doing something cool rather than polishing.
              2. In a similar vein, don't try to win on surprise value. By this point everyone has seen nearly everything that is out there just by sheer iteration. Chances are, many of the teams have seen you before either because they have already played you or because they scouted you at some point. Surprise is good at invites and Nats, not ORCS.
              3. ORCS does not reward taking risks. There are some strategies that are riskier and in many ways those are the strategies it takes to win nationals or a top invite (Exhibit A: Yale 2015-2018, Exhibit B: NYU at Downtown last year). But those strategies can also backfire on you (e.g. Yale A 2018, or even NYU's big losses on D at ORCS). At ORCS you aren't trying to win it all, just take 5.5 ballots so the risk isn't worth it.

              In other words, ORCS is not fun. It saps all the life our of mock ORCS is something to live through.


              Originally posted by MockingTheMidwest View Post
              How have you dealt with case changes the the quick turnaround needed?
              This, I think, really depends on your program. Some programs really embrace the changes and make big changes to their case, some don't. Usually both are an option. If you are a program that really thrives on memorization and polish and having run everything a million times, make the smallest changes possible. Try to do that in the first few days and then go back to polishing. If you are a more think-on-your feet and adapt on the fly type team, it might be worth spending a longer time on making case changes.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by bengarmoe View Post

                Yeah, we've alluded to this on the podcast and it's 100% right - ORCS is miserable. It's high-level mock trial, which is fun, but so much turns on tiny numbers and pairing luck and it's a pressure cooker of emotion. In some ways, if you're a new program going to ORCS for the first time, I'd suggest trying to find a way to be "too dumb to know you're new." Not that you don't belong by any stretch, but teams are going to underestimate you, and you should take advantage of that. If you're polished, prepared, and confident, you're going to give yourself a chance to have a consequential round four. Winning ballots at ORCS at all is an accomplishment to be proud of, and don't get thrown off by what other teams are doing. Definitely ignore the teams who try to throw you off in captains' meetings too. Play your style that was good enough to get you there, and just hope everything else breaks your way. And coaches... I've got no help for you. Coaching at ORCS is excruciating.
                Plus, regardless of whether you feel like Nationals rounds are higher or lower quality, there's just an air of less pressure at nats. Everybody who's there has the confidence of being a top program, and there's no more elimination to worry about. You've made it and that was really what you were aiming for, so you obviously try to do well, but it's not like your mock trial career is on the line any more. I suppose I can't speak to what nats is like for teams that consistently are in or narrowly out of the final round, but as a regular nats competitor, I can say that it's way more fun than ORCS. Afterparty doesn't hurt, either.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I was a member of a relatively new program that broke to ORCS and then (somewhat) unexpectedly broke to Nationals. I agree that ORCS was somehow much less intense than Nationals, likely because at Nationals we had no delusions that we would make the final round, whereas we felt like we could at least compete at ORCS. My advice: expect to be challenged but know you belong. Other teams at ORCS feel the same way you do, even if they come from more "prestigious" programs. Simplicity, confidence, and smooth presentations will win the day, no need to hit the home run every time. In that sense I agree with Gadfly: if you are a newer program, risk taking might expose rather than highlight your skill.

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                  • #10
                    On the brighter side for younger/newer AMTA programs, ORCS is often the time when the gap between the top teams (Yale, UVA, Miami, etc) and everyone else is as small as it gets. The case has been iterated enough times that it's all about polish then and the top programs are all terrified about coming into a round and seeing a team who, like others have said, just doesn't make mistakes. Because a super clean round can very often go either way. So the best advice I have for younger and newer programs is to go in and take the challenges and head on - knowing that literally everyone is feeling the same stress. And not for nothing, but I'm sure part of the calculus for top programs is that it would be somewhat embarrassing if they didn't qualify to NCT.

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                    • #11
                      All good advice here. All I will add is don't be deceived by or read too much into in-progress ballot records. It is not uncommon in Round 4 to get a 5 win v 3 win or even 2 win matchup where the team with less ballots picks up both. It's not like Regionals where it's easier to make certain assumptions on the relative quality of teams based on their in-tournament ballot record; at ORCS pretty much every team is a threat to pick up ballots in any given round. So if you're the 5 win team, don't ease up thinking you can coast through round 4 with a power-protected pairing; if you're the 3 win team, don't think you're out of the mix.
                      I post in my personal capacity, not on behalf of AMTA.

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                      • #12
                        Everyone else has made great observations. ORCS is an absolute pressure cooker. Every round is intense and competitive, almost every team feels like they have what it takes to advance. If you compete at 95%, you will lose. My philosophy is that the number 1 thing you can't do is lose 0-2, it just puts you into too much of a hole at ORCS. At Regionals, you might could lose 0-2 at some point and then beat everyone else, but at ORCS those other 3 teams will all be good, odds are one of them will get a ballot off you. You have to scrap for a ballot even in the rounds where nothing is going your way, and then take 2 whenever the opportunity presents itself. Other than that, prepare to see more scouts than normal, and bring scouts yourself if you can. Prepare for teams to use more weird strategies to throw you off (dummy demos at captains, weird stuff going on pretrial, playing all loss to their advantage, etc.). Someone made a comment about being risk-adverse at ORCS and I would echo that. If you can't do it polished, don't try it. Everything at ORCS has to be polished because if its not, it will stand out.

                        If you're someone who relishes competition and pressure: welcome to the club, you're going to have a lot of fun. But be cognizant of your team chemistry throughout this process, the pressure can bring you together or crack you apart depending on how you handle it. If some of your teammates don't take losses well, have a strategy to handle that ahead of time. If its your first year, the odds are you didn't 7-1 or 8-0 Regionals, and so you're probably going to run into some tough rounds at ORCS.

                        Finally, in regards to case changes, what you do is going to depend on what the changes are and what your team is capable of. Last year many teams really changed their prosecution theories by calling Hendricks's roommate, in other years teams have mostly ignored case changes, even significant ones (e.g. very few teams ended up calling the schoolteacher witness they added in the Andy and Lee Park case). Whatever you do, my advice is to decide very early what changes you will make, commit to them, and perfect them. Don't try to make major changes a week out.

                        Other than that I would just say enjoy the experience. While the NCT probably has a better average round quality, the best rounds of the year absolutely take place at ORCS, hopefully you get to take part in one.

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                        • #13
                          Hi! I was just wondering where it was disclosed that ORCS is only having 5 bids given for Nats?

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                          • #14
                            ORCS is a crapshoot. Most teams just try to make their material as polished as possible and then hope the judging pool prefers their style. ORCS is different in that regard than NCT. At NCT, teams try to pull out all the stops.
                            Originally posted by Gadfly View Post
                            I think one thing to keep in mind is that the strategy for getting a bid out of ORCS is going to be a little different that the strategy for an invite or regionals.
                            2. In a similar vein, don't try to win on surprise value. By this point everyone has seen nearly everything that is out there just by sheer iteration. Chances are, many of the teams have seen you before either because they have already played you or because they scouted you at some point. Surprise is good at invites and Nats, not ORCS.
                            3. ORCS does not reward taking risks. There are some strategies that are riskier and in many ways those are the strategies it takes to win nationals or a top invite (Exhibit A: Yale 2015-2018, Exhibit B: NYU at Downtown last year). But those strategies can also backfire on you (e.g. Yale A 2018, or even NYU's big losses on D at ORCS). At ORCS you aren't trying to win it all, just take 5.5 ballots so the risk isn't worth it.
                            I am curious by your last comment here. Yale A did fine at their ORC last year as did NYU. What backfire are you talking about?


                            Originally posted by STC View Post
                            Prepare for teams to use more weird strategies to throw you off (dummy demos at captains, weird stuff going on pretrial, playing all loss to their advantage, etc.).
                            Teams actually do this? That seems like such a waste of time and energy.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Random View Post
                              Iam curious by your last comment here. Yale A did fine at their ORC last year as did NYU. What backfire are you talking about?
                              Yale A was at Nationals. They run a risky strategy. When it works it really works (e.g. 2017) when it doesn't it really doesn't (e.g. 2018). Taking that kind of risk makes sense if your goal is to win it all but it would be dumb at ORCS. NYU dropped a ballot by -23 at ORCS on the side where they were playing their risk strategy. Now NYU is good enough that they ended up making it out 6-2 anyway, but it still shows the risks. For a team that is not NYU a risky strategy could be a bad move.

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