Pokémon Go: The Shadowy Threat Grows

The Leaders of Team GO Rocket

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. For a more in-depth dive into the possible counters for the Leaders of Team GO Rocket, see our guide.


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 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 Tropius, Meganium, 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, 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. Ferrothorn, Swampert, or Empoleon all perform very well, but a a Rhyperior with Surf outperforms them all because it resists Onix's attacks.
  • 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.
  • For the third slot, Cliff may bring Tyranitar, in which case, your Fighting-types like Hariyama, 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 Meganium, Tangrowth, or Sceptile will also perform well.
  • Torterra can also be Cliff's third Pokémon. A Grass and Ground type with an interesting movepool, your best counters here are Fire types, such as either Mega Charizard or Moltres, or an Ice type like Regice or Articuno.


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 Drowzee*. A Psychic type, Drowzee is weak against Ghost, Dark, and Bug types, making your best counters Giratina, 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: Giratina, Shadow Scizor, or Mega Houndoom, but Hydreigon, Genesect, or Heatran also work really well.
  • Shadow Lapras 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, 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, or Pinsir.
  • If Sierra sends out Alakazam, you'll want a strong Dark type, like Mega or Shadow Houndoom, Darkrai, Honchkrow, Shadow Weavile, or Absol, but a powerful Pokémon with Ghost type moves, like Giratina or a Shadow Ball Mewtwo also perform well.


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 Growlithe*. A powerful Water type will make quick work of Growlithe, such as Mega, Shadow, or normal Blastoise works best, but Swampert, Feraligatr, or Gyarados 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, and Golem are the best counters.
  • If Arlo goes with Blastoise, Grass types are best, especially if you have a Mega Venusaur. Virizion also performs well, as does Hydreigon, Leafeon, or Roserade.
  • If Steelix is Arlo's second choice, his move pool is hard to counter. Shadow Swampert, Reshiram, Mega Charizard X, Groudon, Heatran, and Excadrill are the top counters.
  • For his third Pokémon, if Arlo goes with Scizor, you should counter with Fire-type Pokémon. Heatran, any type of Charizard, Reshiram, or Moltres would make a great choice here.
  • Shadow Dragonite hits very, very hard, even without advantage. The best counters include, Alolan Sandshrew, Dialga, Mega Charizard Y, Alolan Ninetales, Regirock, 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, Reshiram, Suicune, and Regirock.


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.
  • 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, Water types like Empoleon, Kyogre, and any form of Blastoise perform best, but a Doom Desire Jirachi makes for a surprisingly strong counter as well.
  • Garchomp could be his second Pokémon. Its moveset can make it difficult to counter, but Togekiss, Gardevoir, Granbull, and Articuno are the top choices here.
  • 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 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, so long as it doesn't have Flamethrower.

Pokemon Go Team Rocket Balloon (Image credit: Niantic)

Any questions about The Shadowy Threat Grows?

Do you have any questions about the Special Research, The Shadowy Threat Grows, 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.