Pokemon Go Giovanni LugiaSource: Niantic

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!

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 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?

Pokemon Go Sierra Strange EggsSource: Niantic

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:

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

Team GO Rocket Aerial Attacks?!

Team Go Rocket Balloon SierraSource: iMore

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.

How to beat Team GO Rocket executive Cliff

Team Go Rocket CliffSource: 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 Cubone. This Ground type is the Pokémon you'll get the chance to catch if you beat Cliff and has the potential to be Shiny. While it takes super effective damage from Grass, Ice, and Water type moves, it's better to use this time to build up your charged attack or burn through Cliff's shields. Still, if you want the very best counters, Mega Venusaur, Gourgeist, or Gyarados all perform great.

  • In his second slot, Cliff could send out the Ground type Luxray. Weak only to Ground type damage, some of the best counters include Garchomp, Groudon, and Flygon.

  • Cliff could also send out Electivire. Shadow Electivire is a pure Electric type with access to Electric, Fighting, and Ice type moves, while its only weakness is Ground type. Some of the best counters include Giratina, Garchomp, and Golurk.
  • Or Cliff could pick Omastar for his second Pokémon. A Rock and Water type, Omastar has a double weakness to Grass type moves, while dealing Water, Rock, and Ground type damage. You'll make quick work of this Shadow Pokémon with Mega Venusaur or Mega Abomasnow, but for a more common counter, you could bring Gourgeist, Virizion, or Ludicolo.

  • For the third slot, Cliff is currently using Tyranitar. This Rock and Dark type has a whopping seven weaknesses and seven resistances, on top of hitting like a truck with potential Dark, Rock, Steel, and Fire type damage. This is a tough fight, but I recommend picking something with a powerful Fighting type move to take advantage of Tyranitar's double weakness to that type. The top performers are Chesnaught, Cobalion, and Poliwrath.

  • Charizard could also be Cliff's final Pokémon. Shadow Charizard, a Flying and Fire type, can deal Fire, Flying, and Dragon type damage, while it's weaknesses include Rock, Electric, and Water. Some of the best counters include Regirock, Omastar, Raikou, and Mega Aerodactyl.
  • Cliff's final Pokémon could also be Swampert, Shadow Swampert is a Water and Groud type who's capable of dealing Water, Ground, and Poison damage and whose only weakness is Grass. The top performers in this fight are Leafeon, Virizion, Sceptile, Alolan Exeggutor, and Zarude.

How to beat Team GO Rocket executive Sierra

Team Go Rocket SierraSource: 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 Drowzee, a pure Psychic type that can deal Psychic and Normal 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, Mega Gyarados, Tyranitar, or either forme of Giratina will make this a laughably short fight.

  • For her second slot, she could go with Blaziken. This Fire and Fighting type has four weaknesses: Ground, Psychic, Flying, and Water, and access to Fighting, Fire, and Flying type moves. Some excellent counters include Mega Slowbro, Mega Charizard, Lugia, Victini, and Ho-Oh.

  • Lapras could be Sierra's second Pokémon. This Water and Ice type is capable of dealing Water, Ice, and Normal type damage, while it takes super effective damage from Electric, Fighting, Grass, and Rock. The top performers include Shadow Electivire, Shadow Machamp, and Shadow Raikou; however, if you don't have these expensive Shadow Pokémon, Terrakion, Lucario, or Zekrom will also serve you well.
  • Sierra's second Pokémon could be Sharpedo. A Dark and Water type capable of dealing Water, Dark, and Poison type damage, you're going to want a powerful Grass or Fairy type for this fight. Mega Venusaur or Mega Abomasnow are the best options, but if you don't have the Mega Energy to spare, Sylveon, Togekiss, or Zarude perform well.

  • If Houndoom is her third choice, this Dark and Fire type can only deal Dark and Fire type damage. It's weaknesses include Fighting, Ground, Rock, and Water. The best counters include Omastar, Mega Gyarados, Regirock, Swampert, and Samurott.

  • Nidoqueen could also be her final Pokémon. This Ground and Poison type can deal Ground, Water, and Poison type damage and it's weak against Ground, Psychic, Ice, and Water type moves. The best counters include Excadrill, Rhyperior, Mega Gyarados, Swampert, and Garchomp.
  • Sierra's last Pokémon could also be Shiftry. Shiftry is a Grass and Dark type with access to Grass, Dark, and Flying type moves. It has a whopping seven weaknesses and resistances, but the best counters include Chesnaught, Virizion, Genesect, and Vespiqueen.

How to beat Team GO Rocket executive Arlo

Pokemon Go Team Rocket ArloSource: 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 the Dragon type Exeggcute. It's the Pokémon you'll catch if you beat him and it has the potential to be Shiny. This Grass and Psychic type has access to Grass, Psychic, and Rock type moves, and has seven weaknesses, with Bug type being the only double weakness. 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 Heatran, Genesect, or Escavalier.

  • Arlo's second Pokémon could be Dragonite, a Dragon and Flying type weak to Ice, Dragon, Fairy, and Rock type damage. Its movepool includes Dragon, Flying, and Normal type moves. The top counters for Shadow Dragonite include Alolan Sandslash, Walrein, Togekiss, and Alolan Ninetails, but Mega Steelix or Mega Gyrados will wipe the floor with it if you have the Mega Energy to spare.

  • Salamence could also be Arlo's second Pokémon. A Dragon and Flying type, it has the same weaknesses as Shadow Dragonite, but a vastly different moveset of Dragon, Dark, Fire, and Water moves. Togekiss, Zamazenta, and Sylveon are among the top performers in this fight, along with Mega Gyrados and Mega Altaria.
  • The Grass and Dragon type Alolan Exeggutor could be Arlo's second Pokémon. Weak to six different types with Ice as the only double weakness, Shadow Alolan Exeggutor has access to Grass and Dragon type moves. Your best option for countering it are Genesect, Scizor, Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Sandslash, or Mega Abomasnow.

  • 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. Heatran, Ho-Oh, Reshiram, or either Mega Charizard would make a great choice here.

  • In the third slot, Arlo could go with Steelix, a Ground and Steel type with an impressive ten resistances. It can deal Steel, Ground, Dragon, Electric, and Dark type damage, while taking super effective damage from Ground, Fighting, Fire, and Water type moves. The top counters for Shadow Steelix are Swampert, Groudon, Excadrill, and Garchomp.
  • Gardevoir could also be Arlo's final Pokémon. This Fairy and Psychic type has a three weaknesses: Ghost, Poison, and Steel type moves, so will go down easily against Jirachi, Excadrill, Genesect, Magnezone, or Melmetal.

How to beat Team GO Rocket leader Giovanni

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket GiovanniSource: Niantic

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 Ho-Oh.

  • Giovanni's first Pokémon is Persian, a Normal type weak to Fighting type moves. The best Pokémon to counter Persian are Tyranitar, Lucartio, Mega Gyarados Machamp, Terrakion, Heracross, and Conkeldurr. However, you can also use this time to build up a charged attack for his second Pokémon.

  • For his second Pokémon, Giovanni could bring Kingler. As a pure Water type, Grass and Electric are the types you'll want to counter it. Some of the top counters include Mega Ampharos, Mega Venusaur, Ludicolo, Leafeon, Zekrom, and Zarude. However, you can also bring a strong Water type which will resist its Water type moves, such as Mega Gyarados, Palkia, or Mega Blastoise.

  • If he brings Rhyperior, this Ground and Rock type takes increased damage from Steel, Ice, Fighting, and Ground type moves, while taking super effective damage from Grass and Water. Some of the top counters include Torterra, Mega Gyarados, Mega Venusaur, Kyogre, Swampert, Gourgeist, Mega Abomasnow, and Leafeon.
  • Nidoking could be his second Pokémon. Water, Ice, Ground, and Psychic types deal super effective damage to this pure Poison and Ground type. Your best options for countering are Excadrill, Jirachi, Empoleon, Mega Gyarados, Metagross, Kyogre, Mega Slowbro, or Rhyperior.

  • Giovanni's third Pokémon is currently Shadow Latias. This Legendary is a Dragon and Psychic type Pokémon so it is weak to Bug, Dark, Dragon, Fairy, Ghost, and Ice type damage. Top counters include Mega Steelix, Genesect, Heatran, Scizor, Mega Gyarados, and Metagross.

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket BalloonSource: Niantic

Jesse, James, and Meowth have blasted off again!

Pokemon Go Jesse James CelebiSource: 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.

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!

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Pokemon Go Banner Source: Niantic