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 was suspended for the majority of 2020. However, 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. Additionally, one new Special Research, An Inter-egg-sting Development was officially announced as the final Team GO Rocket research for the year. 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.
Jesse, James, and Meowth are back in action!
As of December 14, 2020, Jesse and James have returned for the Secrets of the Jungle event, now with all new Shadow Pokémon.
First up is Jesse with:
- 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 is up with:
- 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 can catch a Shadow Scyther with the potential to be Shiny, and upon beating James, you can 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.
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 Omanyte*. A Rock and Water type, Omanyte can deal Water, Rock, and Ground type damage. It takes double damage from Fighting, Electric, and Ground types, and quad damage from Grass types, so you'll want to focus on a Grass type here. Mega Venusaur, Shadow Venusaur, or Venusaur are excellent in this spot, but Sceptile, Sirfetch'd, Leavanny, Gallade, or Leafeon all perform very well. Omanyte is pretty weak though, so you're unlikely to struggle against it.
In his second slot, Cliff could send out Machamp. A Fighting type, Machamp is weak to Psychic, Flying, and Fairy, and it can deal Fighting, Steel, and Rock type damage. The best counters include Mewtwo or Shadow Mewtwo, Lugia, Ho-Oh, or Moltres, but Giratina also performs very well because it takes quarter damage from Machamp's Fighting type attacks..
- If he goes with Onix, you'll want to exploit its quad weakness to Water or Grass types, but Fighting, Ground, Steel, or Ice types all work as well. Chesnaught, Ferrothorn, Swampert, or Empoleon all perform very well, but a a Rhyperior with Surf outperforms them all because it resists Onix's attacks. Melmetal, Cobalion, and Metagross all work here too.
If Electivire is in Cliff's second slot, its only weakness is against Ground, and its movepool includes a lot of potential for super effective damage to its counters. Good counters include Garchomp, Groudon, or Landorus. Mega Gengar and Giratina can also work well due to resisting Electivire's attacks.
For the third slot, Cliff may bring Tyranitar, in which case, your Fighting-types like Hariyama, Sirfetch'd, Machamp, Conkeldurr, or Heracross will perform best.
- Swampert could be in Cliff's third slot, in which case any Venusaur - normal, Mega, or Shadow - is your best bet, but Chesnaught, Meganium, Tangrowth, Mega Abomasnow, or Sceptile will also perform well.
- Torterra can also be Cliff's third Pokémon. A Grass and Ground type with an interesting movepool, Torterra is weak against Flying, Fire, Bug, and Ice. Your best counters here are Fire types, such as Mega Charizard X, Mega Charizard Y, Ho-Oh, or Moltres, or an Ice type like Regice or Articuno.
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 Drowzee*. A Psychic type, Drowzee is weak against Ghost, Dark, and Bug types, making your best counters Giratina Origin Forme, Bisharp, Tyranitar, or Mega Houndoom, but you could also bring in Metagross and use its resistance to Psychic types to build up its charged attack.
For her second slot, she could go with Exeggutor which has a double weakness against Bug. It is also weak against Dark, Fire, Ghost, Ice, Flying, and Poison, while it deals Grass and Psychic type damage. Great counters here include Hydreigon, Genesect, Heatran, Mega Houndoom, or Tyranitar.
- Shadow Lapras is weak against Fighting, Rock, Grass, and Electric. It is especially tough to beat because it can have Ice, Water, or Steel type attacks. However, the Pokémon that perform best here are Palkia, Dialga, Shadow Machamp, Magnezone, Shadow Raikou, or Mega Venusaur.
She can also bring Sharpedo, a Water and Dark type for her second Pokémon. Capable of dealing Water, Dark, and Poison type damage, great counters include Virizion, Chesnaught, Poliwrath, Melmetal, Mega Venusaur, or Leafeon.
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.
- Shiftry could be in Sierra's third slot, in which case you want to take advantage of its quad weakness to Bug types, like Genesect, Scizor, Mega Beedrill, Pinsir, or Scyther.
- If Sierra sends out Alakazam, you'll want a strong Dark type, like Mega or Shadow Houndoom, Darkrai, Bisharp, Honchkrow, Shadow Weavile, or Absol, but a powerful Pokémon with Ghost type moves, like Giratina or a Shadow Ball Mewtwo also perform well.
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 Growlithe*. A powerful Water type will make quick work of Growlithe, such as Mega Blastoise, Shadow Blastoise, or even a normal Blastoise works best, but Swampert, Feraligatr, or Kingler are good picks too.
In the second slot, Arlo could go with Charizard, which has a double weakness against Rock, but Water and Electric perform well too. Regirock, Omastar, Shadow Raikou, Rhyperior, Golem and Carracosta are the best counters.
- If Arlo goes with Blastoise, Grass or Electric types are best, especially if you have a Mega Venusaur. Zekrom, Chesnaught, Leafeon, Palkia, or Zapdos would also do nicely.
If Steelix is Arlo's second choice, his move pool is hard to counter. Mega Charizard X or Y, Ho-Oh, Reshiram, or Blaziken all work well.
For his third Pokémon, if Arlo goes with Scizor, you should counter with Fire-type Pokémon. Ho-Oh, Heatran, Mega Charizard Y, Blaziken, Reshiram, or Moltres would make a great choice here.
- Shadow Dragonite hits very, very hard, even without advantage. The best counters include, Mega Abomasnow, Alolan Sandslash, Dialga, Mega Charizard Y, Alolan Ninetales, Regice, Suicune, and Togekiss.
- If Arlo goes with Salamence, you're in for a tough fight. A Shadow Salamence has the same weaknesses as Dragonite, but is considerably stronger, often requires two Pokémon to beat. Good counters include Tyranitar, Terrakion, Mega Charizard Y, Mega Charizard X, Reshiram, Suicune, and Regirock.
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 Entei or Suicune depending on how you challenge him.
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 the very best Pokémon in all of Go: Shadow Mewtwo. A class unto itself, Shadow Mewtwo took the already incredible Mewtwo and gives it an insane attack boost. With a wide variety of moves, including Psychic, Fighting, Fire, Electric, and Ice types, you may have to challenge your particular Shadow Mewtwo twice just so you know which moves to prepare for. That having been said, the top counters include Shadow Mewtwo with Shadow Ball, Mega Gengar, Mega Houndoom, Shadow Ball Giratina, Shadow Tyranitar, Darkrai, and Chandelure. Ghost and Dark type attacks are going to serve you best, especially Shadow Ball, but you can also take advantage of Mewtwo's weakness to Bug types with Mega Beedrill or Genesect, so long as it doesn't have Flamethrower.
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!