Pokémon Go: Cliff, Sierra, Arlo, and Giovanni best counters

Pokémon Go Team GO Rocket Sierra Cliff Arlo
(Image credit: Niantic)

Team GO Rocket has invaded Pokémon Go. Executives Sierra, Cliff, and Arlo are here and you'll have to fight your way through them to get to the head honcho himself, Giovanni. These fights are tough and it's gonna take more than a handful of recommended Pokémon. But, if you can beat Giovanni, you'll get the chance to catch your very own Legendary Shadow Pokémon!

Even well-seasoned players, like myself, have struggled against the leaders of Team GO Rocket. Fortunately, we here at iMore know exactly what you need to take on each of these big bads!

What is Team GO Rocket?

Pokémon Go Team GO Rocket

(Image credit: Niantic)

Team GO Rocket is the current incarnation of the criminal organization from the original Pokémon games and shows. Led by Giovanni, Team Rocket has always been lurking in the shadows of the Pokémon world, stealing any Pokémon they can get their hands on, along with all the Poké Balls and Pokémon related technology possible. They're the bad guys. 

Worse even, as Team GO Rocket, they've invaded the world of Pokémon Go along with Shadow Pokémon, formerly good Pokémon who have been corrupted through a mysterious technique that leaves them in constant pain, forced to assist in Team GO Rocket's criminal endeavors. You're going to need lots of Potions, Revives, and Poké Balls to take on these villains, so be sure to check out our best Pokémon Go accessories so you're fully equipped for the fight!

How do I challenge the leaders of Team GO Rocket?

While Team GO Rocket Grunts have been taking over PokéStops since July 2019, beginning in November 2019, their leaders have joined the fight. By fighting six Grunts, you can collect Mysterious components, which can, in turn, be used to create a Rocket Radar. Once in possession of a Rocket Radar, you can track down Team GO Rocket Hideouts, and challenge one of three Team GO Rocket Executives.

These Executives are much stronger than the Grunts and actually know how to use their Shields, so prepare for a tough battle and prioritize burning through their shields early. Each of the three executives will reward you with their first Shadow Pokémon, which has the potential to be Shiny, and a Strange Egg, if you have room in your bag.

Additionally, if you defeat all three Team GO Rocket Executives, you can be rewarded with a Super Rocket Radar once per month that will lead you to the Boss of Team GO Rocket: Giovanni! For more details on how to get to the Team GO Rocket Executives and Giovanni, check out our Looming Shadows guide.

Earning or purchasing Rocket Radars to challenge Team GO Rocket?

After you've constructed your first Rocket Radar, additional Rocket Radar can be purchased in the PokéShop for 200 PokéCoins each. While $2 worth of PokéCoins (or less if you're able to earn them,) might seem like a small amount to pay for a Rocket Radar, previous Community Days have featured paid special research that included a Rocket Radar among the generous rewards for only $1 and other events have rewarded Rocket Radars as well. You will still need to track down the right Executives to battle, but if you don't have to fight your way through several grunts each time, this could make completing the Team GO Rocket Special Research a little more doable.

Rescuing Strange Eggs from Team GO Rocket?

Pokémon Go Team GO Rocket Sierra Strange Eggs

(Image credit: Niantic)

As of October 12, 2020, Trainers can earn Strange Eggs by defeating the Leaders of Team GO Rocket. These special eggs only carry a select few Poison and Dark type Pokémon, as well as Pokémon that evolve into Poison or Dark types, and they require a whopping 12 KM to hatch. Currently, the following Pokémon can be hatched from Strange Eggs:

  • Larvitar*
  • Absol*
  • Skorupi*
  • Sandile
  • Scraggy
  • Pawniard*
  • Vullaby*
  • Deino*
  • Pancham*
  • Inkay*
  • Skrelp
  • Salandit

Team GO Rocket Aerial Attacks?!

Team GO Rocket Invasion

(Image credit: Niantic)

As of July 7, 2020, Team GO Rocket has taken to the skies. Four times a day, a Team GO Rocket balloon can appear on the map. These encounters work almost identically to Team GO Rocket PokéStop Invasions. Under normal circumstances, Trainers can expect:

  • Without a Rocket Radar, you will encounter Grunts.
  • Jesse and James in their Meowth hot air balloon are no longer appearing, but should they return, they give you the chance to earn two Mysterious Components for the one balloon.
  • With a normal Rocket Radar equipped, you will encounter one of the Team GO Rocket Executives.
  • With a Super Rocket Radar equipped, you will have the chance to encounter Giovanni, himself.
  • The first balloon will show up between midnight and 6 AM local time.
  • The second balloon will show up between 6 AM and noon local time.
  • The third balloon will show up between noon and 6 PM local time.
  • The final balloon will show up between 6 PM and midnight local time.

The line ups for Shadow Pokémon are the same as if you encountered Team GO Rocket at a PokéStop. If you don't beat the Executive or Giovanni, your Radar will remain intact until you are able to defeat a Team GO Rocket leader.

How to beat Cliff

Team GO Rocket Leader Cliff

(Image credit: Niantic)

Cliff is the first of the Team GO Rocket Executives and their counterpart to Team Mystic's Leader Blanche. Cliff brings in a team of three Pokémon with the second and third being chosen from a pool of different strong Shadow Pokémon. Fortunately, you can battle an Executive as many times as it takes to beat them. So, if you lose the first time, take note of which Pokémon fill those second and third slots and plan your next attack accordingly.

  • Cliff's first Pokémon is Aerodactyl. This Rock and Flying type is the Pokémon you'll get the chance to catch if you beat Cliff and has the potential to be Shiny. It has access to Rock, Dark, Steel, Ground, and Normal type moves and weaknesses to Electric, Rock, Steel, Water, and Ice type damage. It's best to use this time to build up your charged attack or burn through Cliff's shields, if you want the very best counters, Mega Steelix, Cobalion, Melmetal, and Magnezone all perform great.
  • In his second slot, Cliff can use Slowking. This Water and Psychic type has weaknesses to Bug, Dark, Electric, Grass, and Ghost type damage, with potential Water, Psychic, Fire, and Ice type moves. The top performers are Zarude, Mega Gyarados, Guzzlord, Hydreigon, Greninja, Giratina (Origin), and Mega Tyranitar.
  • Cliff could also send out Gallade. It's a Psychic and Fighting type with access to Fighting, Psychic, Fairy, Grass type moves and weaknesses to Flying, Ghost, and Fairy type damage. Some of the best counters include Giratina (Altered), Primal Groudon, Solgaleo, Mega Gengar, Lugia, Jirachi, and Gholdengo.
  • Or Cliff could pick Cradily for his second Pokémon. A Rock and Grass type, it is weak to Steel, Ice, Fighting, and Bug type damage, while dealing Grass, Rock, Poison, Bug, and Ground type damage. The best counters are Mega Scizor, Genesect, Scizor, Buzzwole, Mega Gengar, Heatran, and Lucario.
  • For the third slot, Cliff could send out Dusknoir. This pure Ghost type is only weak against Dark and Ghost type damage. It also has access to Ghost, Dark, and Psychic type moves. Some excellent counters include Obstagoon, Greninja, Mega Tyranitar, Yveltal, Zangoose, Guzzlord, and Bewear.
  • Tyranitar could also be Cliff's final Pokémon. It's a Rock and Dark type that can deal   Rock, Dark, Fire, and Steel type damage. While its weaknesses include Bug, Fairy, Grass, Steel, Water, and Ground, it also has a double weakness to Fighting type damage. Some of the best counters include Cobalion, Primal Groudon, Virizion, Mega Swampert, Buzzwole, Keldeo, and Poliwrath.
  • Cliff's final Pokémon could also be Mamoswine. It is an Ice and Ground type that is capable of dealing Ground, Ice, and Rock type damage. It is weak to Fighting, Grass, Steel, Water, and Fire type damage. The top performers in this fight are Primal Kyogre, Golisopod, Buzzwole, Virizion, and any forme of Gyarados.

How to beat Sierra

Team GO Rocket Leader Sierra

(Image credit: Niantic)

Much like her counterparts, Sierra's team choices make all the difference in what you should bring to fight her, and her Shadow Pokémon have ridiculous CP. Be prepared to fight her more than once.

  • Currently, Sierra's first Pokémon and the Pokémon you will get the chance to catch if you beat her is Geodude. It's a Rock and Ground type that can deal Rock, Ground, and Normal type damage and its weaknesses are Water, Grass, Fighting, Ground, Ice, and Steel type damage. It's incredibly weak, so you might consider using this time to burn through Sierra's shields and build up your other counters' charged attack. If you really want the best match up though, Primal Kyogre, Kartana, Gourgeist, or Decidueye will make this a laughably short fight.
  • For her second slot, she could go with Gardevoir. This Psychic and Fairy type is weak against Ghost, Poison, and Steel type damage. It also has access to Fairy, Psychic, Ghost, Grass, Ice, and Electric type moves. Some excellent counters include Mega Scizor, Melmetal, Solgaleo, Heatran, Jirachi, and Magnezone.
  • Steelix could be Sierra's second Pokémon. This Steel and Ground type is capable of dealing Steel, Ground, Dragon, Electric, Psychic, and Dark type damage, while it takes super effective damage from Fighting, Fire, Ground, and Water type moves. The top performers include Primal Groudon, Mega Swampert, Excadrill, Cobalion, Heatran, Virizion, and Groudon.
  • Sierra's second Pokémon could be Sableye. A Ghost and Dark type capable of dealing Dark, Ghost, and Rock type damage, its only weakness is Fairy type. The best counters include any forme of Tyranitar, Pangoro, Florges, Togekiss, and Hydreigon.
  • If Houndoom is her third choice, this Dark and Fire type can only deal Dark and Fire type damage. Its weaknesses include Fighting, Ground, Rock, and Water. The best counters include Terrakion, Mega Swampert, Mega Tyranitar, Keldeo, Zamazenta, Kommo-o, and Machamp.
  • Gyarados could also be her final Pokémon. This Water and Flying type can deal Water, Dragon, and Dark type damage and is weak to Electric and Rock type damage. The best counters include Zacian, Raikou, Magnezone, Xerneas, Melmetal, Electivire, and Mega Tyranitar.
  • Sierra's last Pokémon could also be Victreebel. It is a Poison and Grass type with access to Grass and Poison type moves. Its weaknesses include Fire, Flying, Psychic, and Ice type damage. The best counters include Solgaleo, Heatran, Mega Scizor, Jirachi, Genesect, either forme of Mega Charizard, and Reshiram.

How to beat Arlo

Team GO Rocket Leader Arlo

(Image credit: Niantic)

Another challenging Executive, Arlo can bring out a wide variety of Shadow Pokémon with crazy high CP. Expect to fight a second or third time before you get the right combination to defeat him.

  • Currently, Arlo's first Pokémon is Aipom. It's the Pokémon you'll catch if you beat him and it has the potential to be Shiny. This Normal type has access to Normal, Flying, Ghost, and Fighting type moves, and its only weakness is Fighting type. Though you can use this time to burn through Arlo's shields or build up Charged attacks, if you want the best match up, bring Mega Tyranitar, Cobalion, or Obstagoon.
  • Arlo's second Pokémon could be Alakazam, a pure Psychic type with access to Psychic, Fighting, Ghost, and Fire type moves and weaknesses to Bug, Dark, and Ghost type damage. The top counters for include Yveltal, Mega Tyranitar, Zarude, Greninja, Mega Houndoom, and Darkrai.
  • Mismagius could also be Arlo's second Pokémon. A pure Ghost type, it has weaknesses to Dark and Ghost type moves, and access to Ghost, Dark, Fairy, and Grass type moves. The best counters include Mega Tyranitar, Zarude, Guzzlord, Yveltal, Obstagoon, Mega Scizor, and Hydreigon.
  • For his second Pokémon, Arlo may go with Sharpedo. It's a Dark and Water type with Bug, Electric, Fairy, Fighting, and Grass types as its weaknesses, and access to Dark, Water, and Poison type moves. The best counters are Virizion, Chesnaught, Keldeo, Cobalion, Florges, Mega Sceptile, Buzzwole, and Golisopod.
  • The Steel and Bug type Scizor could be Arlo's third Pokémon. Weak to only Fire type, it has access to Steel, Bug, Grass, and Dark type moves. Your best options for countering it are Primal Groudon, Heatran, Mega Charizard, Ho-Oh, Victini, Mega Blaziken, Moltres, and Blaziken.
  • In the third slot, Arlo could go with Snorlax. It's a pure Normal type that can deal Normal, Psychic, Ghost, Steel, Dragon, Fighting, and Ground type damage and is weak to Fighting type damage. The top counters are Obstagoon, Mega Tyranitar, Mega Gyarados, Greninja, Zarude, Guzzlord, and Yveltal.
  • Magnezone could also be Arlo's final Pokémon. This Steel and Electric type has access to Steel and Electric type moves, and weaknesses to Ground, Fire, and Fighting type damage. The best counters include Garchomp, Primal Groudon, Stunfisk, Rhyperior, Flygon, and Excadrill.

How to beat Giovanni

Pokémon Go Team Go Rocket Giovanni

(Image credit: Niantic)

The founder of Team GO Rocket, Giovanni is the only one wielding Legendary Shadow Pokémon. For the time being, however, his team is more limited than his Executives. His first Pokémon is always Persian and his last is currently Shadow Regirock.

  • Giovanni's first Pokémon is Persian, a Normal type with access to Normal, Dark, Fairy, and Rock type moves and weaknesses to Fighting type moves. The best Pokémon to counter Persian are Cobalion, Terrakion, Mega Tyranitar, Buzzwole, Virizion, Primal Groudon, Mega Blaziken, Galarian Zapdos, and Lucario.
  • For his second Pokémon, Giovanni could bring Garchomp. It's a Ground and Dragon type with access to Ground, Dragon, and Fire type moves and weaknesses to Dragon, Ice, and Fairy type damage. Some of the best counters include Alolan Ninetales, Mega Gardevoir, Florges, Togekiss, Mega Abomasnow, and Articuno.
  • If he brings Rhyperior, this Ground and Rock type has access to Ground, Rock, Normal, Dragon, Fighting, and Water type moves and weaknesses to Fighting, Ground, Steel, Water, Grass and Ice type damage. Some of the top counters include Virizion, Mega Swampert, Chesnaught, Primal Kyogre, Gogoat, and Torterra.
  • Nidoking could be his second Pokémon. It's a Poison and Ground type with access to Poison, Ground, Steel, Bug, and Fighting type moves and weaknesses to Ground, Ice, Psychic, and Water type moves. The best counters include Mega Swampert, Mega Steelix, Primal Groudon, Mega Gyarados, Rhyperior, Garchomp, Aurorus, and Swampert.
  • Giovanni's third Pokémon is currently Shadow Regirock. This Legendary is a pure Rock type Pokémon with access to Rock, Fighting, Electric, and Normal type moves and weaknesses to Grass, Fighting, Ground, Water, and Steel type damage. Top counters include Mega Swampert, Virizion, Cobalion, Terrakion, Garchomp, and Swampert.

Jesse, James, and Meowth have blasted off again!

Pokémon Go Team GO Rocket Jesse and James

(Image credit: Niantic)

Jesse and James are no longer available to challenge, but they are sure to return at some point in the future. Their previous line ups weren't particularly difficult to beat, especially since neither used their shields.

Previously, Jesse's lineup included:

  • Scyther: a Bug and Flying type, Scyther has several weaknesses, including Fire, Flying, Electric, and Ice, but it's quad weakness to Rock is the one you'll want to exploit. Aggron, Rampardos, Rhyperior, Golem, Terrakion, or Tyranitar all work really well here.
  • Ekans: a Poison type, Ekans is weak against Ground and Psychic types. However, Ekans is pretty weak. Mewtwo, Alakazm, or Gardevoir could all work well here. Alternatively, you could put in Metagross or whatever Pokémon you plan to use against Stantler, in order to build up their charged attack.
  • Stantler: as a Normal type, Stantler's only weakness is Fighting types. However, because of its potential moveset, Steel and Rock types are your best bet here. Metagross, Regirock, Jirachi, or Cobalion are all great choices here.

After beating Jesse, James' lineup included:

  • Pinsir: a Bug type, James' first Pokémon is Pinsir. Weak to Flying, Rock, and Fire types, great counters include Ho-Oh, Moltres, Chandelure, or Lugia.
  • Koffing: a Poison type, Koffing is weak against Ground and Psychic types. However, Koffing is also really weak. Golurk, Excadrill, Jirachi, Lugia, or Landorus all work well here.
  • Grimer: another fairly weak Poison type, the Pokémon you use against Koffing will work well here and likely have its charged attack ready.

Upon beating Jesse, you could catch a Shadow Scyther with the potential to be Shiny, and upon beating James, you could catch a Shadow Pinsir with the potential to be Shiny.

Note: Jesse and James fulfill the requirements for beating two Team GO Rocket Grunts in Research tasks.

Send Team GO Rocket blasting off again!

There you have it. Follow our guide, and you'll be more than prepared for the double trouble Team GO Rocket has brought to Pokémon Go! Also, make sure to check out our other Pokémon Go guides so you too can become a Pokémon Master!

Casian Holly

Casian Holly has been writing about gaming at iMore since 2019, but their real passion is Pokémon. From the games to the anime, cards and toys, they eat, sleep, and breathe all things Pokémon. You can check out their many Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sword and Shield guides and coverage here on iMore.