Editor's Note: Due to the global pandemic and amount of travel required to complete Team GO Rocket battles at PokéStops, Team GO Rocket monthly Special Research has been far more limited. As of July 7, 2020, Team GO Rocket hot air balloons can now spawn on the map, allowing players to once again challenge Team GO Rocket in a safe way while social distancing. Please follow your local health department's recommendations, and don't risk getting sick over a game.
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! Right now, that Shadow Pokémon is none other than Shadow Mewtwo, the most powerful, game-breaking Pokémon in all of Pokémon Go!
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! And make sure to check out our best Pokémon Go accessories, so you an be fully equipped on your Pokémon Journey!
What is Team GO Rocket?
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.
How do I challenge the leaders?
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. Along with Special Research, if you defeat all three Team GO Rocket Executives, you can be rewarded with a Super Rocket Radar 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
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.
New as of October 12, 2020, Trainers can now 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:
Team GO Rocket Aerial Attacks?!
As of July 7, 2020, Team GO Rocket has now 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.
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*. A Rock and Flying type, it can deal Rock, Ground, Steel, Normal, and Dark type damage, while taking double damage from Rock, Steel, Water, Electric, and Ice. The best counters include Magnezone, Melmetal, Raikou, Mega Blastoise, Empoleon, Kyogre, or Dialga.
In his second slot, Cliff could send out Gallade. A Psychic and Fighting type, Gallade can deal Psychic, Fighting, Fairy, and Grass type damage, while being weak to Flying, Ghost, and Fairy. Some of the best counters include Ho-Oh, Origin forme Giratina, Mega Gengar, Mega Charizard Y, Lugia, Moltres, Chandelure, and Togekiss.
- Cliff could also send out Cradily. This Rock and Grass type fossil Pokémon can deal Grass, Rock, Ground, Poison, and Bug type damage, while being weak to Fighting, Bug, Steel, and Ice. Some of your best options include Fighting types like Lucario, Heracross, Machamp, and Sirfetch'd, but a Steel type like Metagross or an Ice type like Mamoswine would also be a good choice.
Or Cliff could pick Slowking. Shadow Slowking is a Water and Psychic type with potential Water, Psychic, Ice, and Fire attacks. Its weaknesses include Bug, Ghost, Grass, Electric, and Dark. Zekrom, Mega Ampharos, Darkrai, Origin forme Giratina, Zapdos, Hydreigon, and Shiftry are among the best counters.
For the third slot, Cliff may bring Tyranitar. This Rock and Dark type pseudo-Legendary has access to Dark, Rock, Steel, and Fire type moves, and is takes super effective damage from Fighting, while also being weak to Ground, Bug, Steel, Water, Grass, and Fairy. Fighting type counters or Pokémon with access to Fighting type moves, such as Hariyama, Machamp, Conkeldurr, Heracross, or Sirfetch'd, are going to be your best bet, but a relative newcomer to Pokémon Go, Chesnaught performs really well here too.
- The Ghost type Dusknoir could be Cliff's third Pokémon. With a movepool that includes Ghost, Dark, and Psychic type moves, Dusknoir's only weaknesses are Ghost and Dark. Hydreigon, Obstagoon, Tyranitar, Darkrai, Origin forme Giratina, and Mega Houndoom are among the best counters.
- Mamoswine could be Cliff's final Pokémon. A Ground and Ice type, Shadow Mamoswine can have Ground, Ice, and Rock type attacks, and it's weaknesses include Fighting, Steel, Fire, Grass, and Water. Your best options for countering it are Mega Charizard Y, Mega Blastoise, Regigigas, Mega Charizard X, Mega Houndoom, and Burn Drive Genesect. However, if Mega Evolutions and Mythicals aren't accesible enough, you could also get by with Lucario, Empoleon, or Feraligatr.
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 is Carvanha*. Carvanha is a Water and Dark type, meaning its weak to Fighting, Bug, Grass, Electric, and Fairy type attacks. Its movepool consists of Water, Dark, and Poison type moves. Your best options for counters include Sceptile, Mega Beedrill, Sirfetch'd, Leafeon, Pinsir, or Scizor.
For her second slot, she could go with the Ground type, Hippowdon. With a wide range of moves, including Ground, Rock, Electric, Fire, Ice, Dark, and Normal, Hippowdon takes double damage from Water, Grass, and Ice. Your best options to counter a Shadow Hippowdon are Mega Blastoise, Mega Venusaur, Mega Abomasnow, or Kyogre, but more commonly available Pokémon that work well here include Galarian Darmanitan, Kingler, and Mamoswine.
- Porygon-Z could be Sierra's second Pokémon. As a Normal type, Porygon-Z's only weakness is Fighting type, while it has access to Normal, Fighting, Ice, Grass, and Electric type attacks. The best counters are Fighting types like Hariyama, Machamp, Heracross, and Sirfetch'd, but there are a few other typed Pokémon that perform surprisingly well, such as Zekrom, Chandelure, Latias, and Latios.
If Sierra's second Pokémon is Mismagius, its only weaknesses are Ghost and Dark, and it has Ghost, Dark, and Fairy type moves. The best counters include Mega Gengar, Darkrai, and Mega Houndoom, but Gengar, Hydreigon, Tyranitar, or Chandelure also work well and are more accessible.
If Houndoom is her third choice, Shadow Machamp, Shadow Swampert, or Mega Blastoise are the best counters. However, if you don't have these expensive Pokémon, Hariyama, Kyogre, or Tyranitar all work very well.
- Flygon could be Sierra's final Pokémon. As a Ground and Dragon type, Shadow Flygon takes double damage from Fairy and Dragon, but quad damage from Ice, and it can deal Ground, Dragon, and Rock type damage. This means Ice types, like Beartic and Alolan Ninetales will out perform even Mega Charizard Y; however, if you have a Mega Abomasnow with Ice type moves, it performs best against Shadow Flygon.
- Sierra's last Pokémon could also be Walrein. This Ice and Water type can deal Ice, Water, and Ground type damage and is weak to Fighting, Rock, Grass, and Electric. My personal favorites for this fight are Shadow Raikou or Mewtwo with Focus Blast, but Conkeldurr, Mega Ampharos, or Heracross perform really well too.
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 Beldum*. Beldum is a Psychic and Steel type, weak to Ground, Ghost, Fire, and Dark. While either forme of Giratina, Mega Gengar, and Gengar are the top performers here, I prefer to use this time to build up charged attacks for the second Pokémon.
In the second slot, Arlo could go with Gardevoir, a Psychic and Fairy type with a wide range of attacks. Shadow Gardevoir can, of course, deal Psychic and Fairy damage, but it also has the potential for Electric, as well as the grossly overpowered Shadow Ball. Weak to Poison, Ghost, and Steel, your best counters include Metagross, Origin forme Giratina, Dialga, Mega Gengar, Excadrill, and Genesect. If you built up a charge or two in the first fight, you'll want to use them to take out Gardevoir quick.
- Infernape could be in Arlo's roster. A Fire and Fighting type, Infernape can deal Fighting, Fire, and Grass type damage, and has weaknesses to Flying, Ground, Water, and Psychic. Mewtwo, Shadow Mewtwo, or Armored Mewtwo perform best, but other great choices include Mega Gengar with Psychic, Moltres, Ho-Oh, or Mega Blastoise. Swampert or Feraligatr work well for more accessible options.
Arlo's second Pokémon could be the Steel and Rock type, Aggron. With quad weaknesses to Fighting and Ground, and a movepool of Steel, Rock, Electric, and Dragon, the best counters are Excadrill, Hariyama, Machamp, Lucario, Groudon, and Swampert.
For his third Pokémon, Arlo may go with Scizor. As a Steel and Bug type, Scizor's only weakness is to Fire but, fortunately, its Steel, Bug, and Dark type moves shouldn't be a problem for your counters. Ho-Oh, Heatran, Mega Charizard Y, Blaziken, Moltres, or Entei would make a great choice here.
- Armaldo could be Arlo's final Pokémon. A Bug and Rock type, with access to Bug, Rock, Poison, and Water type moves, Armaldo is weak to Rock, Steel, and Water. Great counters include Dialga, Empoleon, Cobalion, Aggron, and Mega Blastoise.
- If Arlo goes with Salamence, you're in for a tough fight. Shadow Salamence is one of the strongest Pokémon in the game, trailing just behind Shadow Mewtwo. As a Dragon and Flying type, it has a quad weakness to Ice, as well as weakenesses to Dragon, Fairy, and Rock. Unfortunately, not only can it hit really hard, but it has access to Dragon, Fire, Dark, and Water type moves, meaning it is likely to deal super effective damage to even the best counters. Some of the top counters include Tyranitar, Terrakion, Mega Charizard Y, Mega Charizard X, Suicune, Regirock, Ho-Oh, Alolan Ninetales, Hydreigon, and Lapras. Just be prepared to go through two Pokémon on a Shadow Salamence.
The Founder of Team GO Rocket, Giovanni is the only one bringing in 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 Zapdos.
Giovanni's first Pokémon is Persian. The best Pokémon to counter Persian are Tyranitar, Machamp, Conkeldurr, Lucario, and Hariyama. However, you can also use this time to build up a charged attack for his second Pokémon.
For his second Pokémon, Giovanni could bring Kangaskhan. Fighting is its only weakness, leaving Heracross, Machamp, and Conkeldurr as the obvious top choices, but the stat boost that Mega Charizard Y gets from Mega Evolution, also puts it high up on the list of counters.
- If he brings Nidoking, a Poison and Ground type, its weaknesses include Water, Ground, Ice, and Psychic types. Mewtwo, Metagross, Alakazam, Kyogre, and Mega Blastoise perform best.
Garchomp could be his second Pokémon. Its moveset can make it difficult to counter, but an Ice type like Mamoswine, Regice, Articuno, or Mega Abomasnow work well.
Giovanni's third Pokémon is currently Shadow Zapdos. The Legendary Bird is a Flying- and Electric-type Pokémon so it is doubly weak to both Rock and Ice. It will primarily use Electric attacks, so you'll want to put up a Pokémon that's resistant to electicity. Top counters include Tyranitar with Stone Edge, Rampardos, Rhyperior, and Mamoswine. Shadow Zapdos should be about as hard as last month's Shadow Articuno.
Jesse, James, and Meowth have blasted off again!
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.
Team GO Rocket questions?
There you have it. Follow our guide, and you'll send Team GO Rocket blasting off again! Have any questions about fighting Team GO Rocket, Cliff, Sierra, Arlo, or Giovanni? Want to share your winning team? Drop us a comment below and check out our Best Portable Battery Packs for iPhone in 2020, so your phone never dies while you're battling Team GO Rocket!