Pokémon Go: Cliff, Sierra, Arlo, and Giovanni best counters November 2022

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

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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
  • 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 Team GO Rocket executive 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 Machop. This pure Fighting 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 only Fighting type moves and weaknesses to Fairy, Flying, and Psychic 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, Togekiss, Giratina (Origin), Hoopa (Confined), and Shadow Gardevoir all perform great.
  • In his second slot, Cliff could send out Crobat. It's a Poison and Flying type with access to Poison, Flying, Dark, and Ghost type moves and is weak to Electric, Ice, Psychic, and Rock type damage. Some of the best counters include Tyranitar, Mega Steelix, Melmetal, Shadow Tyranitar, and Regirock.
  • Cliff could also send out Pinsir. It's a pure Bug type with access to Bug, Fighting, and Normal type moves, and weaknesses to Fire, Flying, and Rock type damage. Some of the best counters include either forme of Giratina, Mega Charizard Y, Lugia, Zapdos, and Togekiss.
  • Or Cliff could pick Amoonguss for his second Pokémon. A Grass and Poison type, it is weak to Fire, Flying, Ice, and Psychic type damage, while dealing Poison, Grass, Dark, and Ghost type damage. The best counters are Mega Gyarados, Hydreigon, Yveltal, Galarian Moltres, Weavile, and Groudon.
  • For the third slot, Cliff is currently using Tyranitar. This Rock and Dark type has a whopping seven weaknesses, including Fighting, Grass, Water, Ground, Steel, Bug, and Fairy, with potential Dark, Rock, Steel, and Fire type moves. The top performers are Cobalion, Chesnaught, Mega Gyarados, Buzzwole, Virizion, and Melmetal.
  • Aerodactyl could also be Cliff's final Pokémon. It's a Rock and Flying type that can deal Rock, Ground, Steel, Dark, and Normal type damage, while its weaknesses include Electric, Ice, Rock, Steel, and Water. Some of the best counters include Mega Gyarados, Mega Steelix, Cobalion, Melmetal, Raikou, Swampert, and Vaporeon.
  • Cliff's final Pokémon could also be Camerupt. It is a Fire and Ground type that is capable of dealing Fire, Ground, Grass, and Fighting type damage. It is weak to Ground type damage, but has a double weakness to Water type. The top performers in this fight are Mega Gyarados, Shadow Gyarados, or standard Gyarados, but Kyogre, Primarina, and Swampert also perform very well.

How to beat Team GO Rocket executive 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 Sableye. It's a Dark and Ghost type that can deal Dark, Ghost, and Rock type damage and its only weakness is Fairy 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,  will make this a laughably short fight.
  • For her second slot, she could go with Flygon. This Ground and Dragon type is weak against Dragon, Ice, and Fairy type damage, but Fairy is a double weakness. It also has access to Ground, Dragon, and Rock type moves. Some excellent counters include Florges, Alolan Ninetales, Togekiss, Lugia, Mega Abomasnow, and Walrein.
  • Cacturne could be Sierra's second Pokémon. This Grass and Dark type is capable of dealing Grass, Dark, Poison, and Fighting type damage, while it takes super effective damage from Fairy, Fighting, Fire, Flying, Ice, and Poison types, and has a double weakness to Bug type damage. The top performers include Mega Scizor, Nihilego, Heatran, Genesect, Lucario, and Donphan.
  • Sierra's second Pokémon could be Honchkrow. A Dark and Flying type capable of dealing Flying, Dark, and Psychic type damage, and weaknesses to Electric, Ice, Fairy, and Rock type damage. The best counters include Melmetal, Regirock, Florges, Aurorus, Raikou, Zapdos, and Magnezone.
  • 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, Omastar, Mega Gyarados, Swampert, Regirock, Bewear, Shadow Omastar, and Samurott.
  • Snorlax could also be her final Pokémon. This pure Normal type can deal Normal, Psychic, Ghost, Fighting, Steel, and Dragon type damage and it's only weakness if Fighting type damage. The best counters include Obstagoon, Mega Gyarados, Zarude, Yveltal, Hydreigon, Incineroar, and Tyranitar.
  • Sierra's last Pokémon could also be Cradily. It is a Rock and Grass type with access to Grass, Rock, Ground, and Poison type moves. Its weaknesses include Bug, Ice, Steel, and Fighting type damage. The best counters include Cobalion, Melmetal, Genesect, and any version of Scizor.

How to beat Team GO Rocket executive 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 the Dragon type Mawile. It's the Pokémon you'll catch if you beat him and it has the potential to be Shiny. This Steel and Fairy type has access to Steel, Fairy, Fire, Ice, Ghost, Normal, Dark, and Fighting type moves, and has two weaknesses: Fire and Ground 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 Gyarados, Entei, Heatran, Mega Houndoom, or Incineroar.
  • Arlo's second Pokémon could be Staraptor, a Normal and Flying type with access to Normal, Flying, Fighting, and Fire type moves and weaknesses to Electric, Rock, and Ice type damage. The top counters for Shadow Staraptor include Aggron, Mega Steelix, Giratina (Altered), Shadow Aggron, Melmetal, Regirock, and Aurorus.
  • Salamence could also be Arlo's second Pokémon. A Dragon and Flying type, it has weaknesses to Ice, Dragon, Fairy, and Rock type, and access to Dragon, Dark, Fire, and Water moves. The best counters include Mega Gyarados, Primarina, Togekiss, Tapu Fini, Zamazenta (Hero of Many Battles), and Sylveon.
  • For his second Pokémon, Arlo may go with Charizard. It's a Fire and Flying type with Rock, Electric, and Water as its weaknesses, and access to Fire, Flying, and Dragon type moves. The best counters are Omastar, Regirock, Golem, Shadow Omastar, Kabutops, and Mega Aerodactyl.
  • The Steel and Bug type Scizor could be Arlo's third Pokémon. Weak to only Fire type, it has access to Steel, Bug, and Dark type moves. Your best options for countering it are any forme of Charizard, Reshiram, Heatran, Ho-Oh, Entei, Buzzwole, Moltres, and Darmanitan.
  • In the third slot, Arlo could go with Dragonite. It's a Flying and Dragon type that can deal Dragon, Flying, Fighting, and Steel type damage. While it takes super effective damage from Dragon, Fairy, and Rock type moves, Dragonite has a double weakness to Fairy type. The top counters are Alolan Sandslash, Melmetal, Mega Steelix, Shadow Alolan Sandslash, Meloetta, and Walrein.
  • Granbull could also be Arlo's final Pokémon. This pure Fairy type has access to Fairy, Dark and Fighting type moves, and only two weaknesses: Poison, and Steel type. The best counters include Nihilego, Mega Scizor, Mega Steelix, Cobalion, Sneasler, Overqwil, and Sylveon.

How to beat Team GO Rocket leader 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 Mewtwo.

  • 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, Buzzwole, Virizion, Tyranitar, Galarian Moltres, and Lucario.
  • For his second Pokémon, Giovanni could bring Steelix. It's a Steel and Ground type with access to Ground, Steel, Dragon, Psychic, Dark, and Electric type moves and weaknesses to Fighting, Fire, Ground, and Water type damage. Some of the best counters include Cobalion, Groudon, Virizion, Excadrill, Swampert, and Garchomp.
  • If he brings Rhyperior, this Ground and Rock type has access to Ground, Rock, Water, Normal, and Fighting type moves and double weaknesses to Grass and Water type damage, as well as normal weaknesses to Steel, Ice, Fighting, and Ground type moves. Some of the top counters include Virizion, Torterra, Shadow Torterra, Mega Gyarados, Buzzwole, Chesnaught, Celebi, and Shaymin (Sky).
  • Nidoqueen could be his second Pokémon. It's a Poison and Ground type with access to Poison, Ground, Rock, and Dark type moves and weaknesses to Ground, Ice, Psychic, and Water type moves. The best counters include Mega Steelix, Mega Gyarados, Rhyperior, Galarian Stunfisk, Garchomp, Aurorus, Groudon, and Swampert.
  • Giovanni's third Pokémon is currently Shadow Mewtwo. This Legendary is a pure Psychic type Pokémon with access to Psychic, Fighting, Electric, Ice, and Fire type moves and weaknesses to Bug, Dark, and Ghost type damage. Top counters include Yveltal, Mega Houndoom, Darkrai, Mega Gyarados, Guzzlord, Shadow Weavile, Bisharp, Hydreigon, and Zarude.

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 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.