Pokémon Go: The Higher They Fly Special Research

The Leaders of Team GO Rocket

Team Go Rocket banner (Image credit: Niantic)

Part of the Looming Shadows update added a new feature to Pokémon Go: Team GO Rocket Hideouts. By assembling Rocket Radars, players can track down Team GO Rocket Hideouts, where they can challenge the Leaders of Team GO Rocket. In addition to completing Special Research, defeating Team GO Rocket Leaders come with plenty of potential rewards, including:

  • Max Revives
  • Revives
  • Max Potions
  • Unova Stones
  • Sinnoh Stones
  • Encounters with Shadow Pokémon, some of which have the potential to be shiny
  • Strange Eggs

While a Rocket Radar is necessary to find the Team GO Rocket Hideouts, once a player has completed their first, additional Rocket Radars can be purchased for PokéCoins from the PokéShop. Once equipped, the Hideouts will be visible on the map and can be challenged in the same way that players challenge the Team GO Rocket Grunts, but the Leaders are much stronger and use their shields. Don't worry if you don't beat the Team GO Rocket Leader the first time. You can heal your Pokémon, power them up, swap your line up, and try again until you can defeat them.


Team Go Rocket 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*. 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.


Team Go Rocket 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 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.


Pokemon Go Team Rocket 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 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.


Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket Giovanni (Image credit: 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 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 Shadow Articuno. Shadow Articuno has almost exclusively Ice attacks, with a single Rock type attack. As an Ice and Flying type, its weaknesses include Rock, Steel, Fire, and Electric, with Rock being a quad weakness. The top counters include Heatran, Shadow Metagross, Melmetal, Shadow Omastar, Aggron, and Shadow Mamoswine. While any Shadow Legendary will be tough, Shadow Articuno is one of the easier of Giovanni's Legendaries, especially after his last one, Mewtwo.

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket Balloon (Image credit: Niantic)

Any questions about The Higher They Fly?

Do you have any questions about the Special Research, The Higher They Fly, or taking on the Leaders of Team Go Rocket? Drop us a comment below, and be sure to check out our Best Portable Battery Packs for iPhone in 2020 guide so you can keep charged while you hunt down Team GO Rocket!

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.