This effect will evade and exhaust all enemies in your location, even those that you're not engaged with (Aloof, and those engaged with other players).
Automatic Success/Failure & Automatic Evasion: Some card effects make an investigator automatically succeed or automatically fail a skill test. If this occurs, depending on the timing of such an effect, certain steps of the skill test may be skipped in their entirety.
- If it is known that an investigator automatically succeeds or fails at a skill test before Step 3 (“Reveal Chaos Token”) occurs, that step is skipped, along with Step 4. No chaos token(s) are revealed from the chaos bag, and the investigator immediately moves to Step 5. All other steps of the skill test resolve as normal.
- If a chaos token effect causes an investigator to automatically succeed or fail at a skill test, continue with Steps 3 and 4, as normal.
- If an ability “automatically evades” 1 or more enemies, this is not the same as automatically succeeding at an evasion attempt. As per the entry on “Evade” in the Rules Reference, if an ability automatically evades 1 or more enemies, no skill test is made for the evasion attempt whatsoever. Consequentially, because no skill test is made, it is not considered a “successful” evasion. The investigator simply follows the steps for evading an enemy (exhausting it and breaking its engagement).
- For example: Patrice uses the ability on Hope, which reads: “ If Hope is ready, exhaust or discard him: Evade. Attempt to evade with a base value of 5. (If you discarded Hope, this test is automatically successful.)” If Patrice chooses to discard Hope, the skill test automatically succeeds before chaos tokens are revealed; therefore Steps 3 and 4 of the skill test are skipped. However, the skill test still takes place. Cards may still be committed to the test, and the investigator’s total modified skill value is still determined, as it may have some bearing on other card abilities. However, if Patrice instead uses the ability on Stray Cat, which reads: “ Discard Stray Cat: Automatically evade a non-Elite enemy at your location,” no skill test is made whatsoever. - FAQ, v.1.7, March 2020
Cunning Distraction is more often included thanks to it's awesome artwork and the icons than for the ability it provides. Cunning Distraction causes all enemies at your location to be evaded and therefore exhausted, even Elite foes, without drawing a token from the chaos bag. This has a number of benefits. Now that enemies are exhausted, they can't take attacks of opportunity, they can't retaliate, they can't move during the enemy phase (if a Hunter), and they can't attack during the enemy phase. They also won't follow you if you want to move. Everyone gets this benefit. If you and/or a partner is swarmed with enemies, Cunning Distraction is a great get out of jail free card. The enemies will of course ready during the Upkeep phase, this buys you some time. But there is a rub in it.
How likely are you and your fellow investigators assembled at one spot and overrun by enemies at the same time?
How likely is it that you are at a location with three or more enemies at once?
No question, you can play the event when fewer foes pressure you, but five resources seem a steep investment for the short respite you are rewarded with. If you plan to use it against the big baddies, be warned, though: some of them have forced abilities that readies them prior to the Enemy phase; causing them to wallop investigators none-the-less!
- Guaranteed evade. This can save you many conventional evasion attempts.
- All enemies at your location are evaded and exhausted, this includes Elite and Aloof and may free other investigators from engagement, too.
- You should combo Cunning Distraction with other cards to maximize it's value: Sneak Attack, Close Call, Pickpocketing.
- Agnes would rather use this card for skill test commitment.
- High play cost.
- One-time effect only.
- All current survivors have an Agility base value of 3, which is sufficient to evade most threats on easy/standard difficulty.
I severely underestimated what values are inside massive 5 play cost of this "red Dynamite Blast" card until I get to try it in Preston Fairmont I just got in the repackaged The Circle Undone Investigator Expansion. (Which he is guaranteed to be able to play by combining Family Inheritance with Upkeep resource.)
I often play 3~4 players, and its ability roughly equals to "you all now able to do whatever you want". Dynamite Blast would do more harm at the ending state of scenario, and it need 4D chess planning to route enemies or Evade to stagger Hunter movement to group them up, and make sure no players or at least the Seeker are there when you are finally throwing the bomb. Something might not even die if it has 4 health, and someone that need refreshing soaks / Spell / Ally remains unable to do so. You have to craft the situation for Dynamite Blast. On the other hand Cunning Distraction's situation comes much more naturally. Enemies piling up and everyone are engaged with different things that they have no answer to. They wish they could trade enemies on their threat area freely or just move away.
After playing Cunning Distraction, everyone who is already setup can Fight with no friendly fire, no Retaliate. Anyone with middling stats that wants to contribute some punches also no longer have to worry about failing. Anyone who hadn't setup yet or need refresh can play any Asset. You can just walk away from the battle site or continue investigation. If really desperate you can all just repeatedly draw to find more solutions. Many Elite has challenging passive that disappear when not ready.
You can redistribute every non-Prey engagements once they came back from exhaust without awkward AoO to take to Engage one more when you already have one. Evader gets low agility enemy, Fighter gets low fight enemy, Seeker gets none. If there are too many enemies, while they are all exhausted you can team up to drop their HP down to 1 or 2 as opposed to defeating them. When they came back, distribute those with 2 HP left to those who have 2 damage options. Have those that can perform accurate 1 damage fight with commits have enemies with 1 HP left, and so on. The card is unexpectedly more offensive than "This should buy us some time" suggests. And I don't think the effect is just a short respite, the fixed engagement can work wonder for next few rounds to come and prevents snowballing.
Elite enemies often build up minions and problems on board because you are occupied and can no longer deal with them in a timely manner. No Elite restriction on this card is very relevant to how it Evade all enemies. (Elite with ability that only works when ready also likes to have Alert, so auto-success + Elite OK is a pretty good combination.) Often you are taxed more and more to do some required maintenance work, at the same time as slowing working on the boss to finish the scenario with remaining actions. By playing Cunning Distraction you can create a decisive Investigation Phase that could end it all when everyone can just focus down the exhausted Elite with all their actions regardless of their little health / sanity they have left at the end of scenario. (Which would be a problem if friendly fire / Retaliate is active.)
It doesn't change that the play cost is expensive. But I was not in the same mindset about this card compared to when including 1x Dynamite Blast in a Guardian deck which felt much more "swiss knife" and easy to add to the deck. I'll definitely try randomly including 1x of this in some Survivor deck from now on when playing 3~4 players, especially that character can make use of icon.