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Pokemon Go Team Go RocketSource: Niantic

Team GO Rocket has invaded Pokémon Go and even without monthly updates to the Special Research, Trainers can still challenge Team GO Rocket Grunts, Executives, and even the head honcho himself, Giovanni! Monthly research won't be updated before September, so you might even use this time to catch up on past months if you're behind.

What are Team GO Rocket Invasions?

Pokemon Go Pokeball PlusSource: iMore/ Lory Gil

Team GO Rocket Invasion is a feature in Pokémon GO that allows you to battle an NPC trainer in-game to rescue a Shadow Pokémon and receive a reward. These battles range from simple to downright challenging and are part of a bigger storyline that has several Special Research quests so far. You can read more about those Special Research quests in our guides for A Troubling Situation, Looming in the Shadows, A Challenging Development, The Take-Over Continues, The Shadowy Threat Grows, and A Professor's Work is Never Done.

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How do I encounter a Team GO Rocket Invasion?

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket stop 1Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket stop 2Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket stop 3Source: iMore/ Rene Ritchie and iMore/Rene Ritchie

Team GO Rocket uses normal Pokéstops but changes them to be easily identifiable. They have a unique blue cube floating above it, and as you get nearer the Pokéstop, it turns in to a dark gray version with a red R hovering above it. One of the members of Team Rocket will appear, and tapping on them will initiate the battle!

The Pokéstop disc isn't just discolored either. It also behaves erratically — spinning quickly and changing direction often — which gives you additional clues.

How does an invasion work?

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket GruntsSource: Niantic

When you spin the PokéStop, you be challenged to a battle like the ones you are used to seeing against friends and Team Leaders. These battles normally have three different Pokémon of the same type, so make sure you have a selection of battle parties with different types to counteract this.

The Pokémon that you fight have been corrupted by Team GO Rocket. These Shadow Pokémon appear with a dark cloud of energy and red, glowing eyes! Once you defeat them in combat, you will get a chance to catch one of these Shadow Pokémon which have dramatically different stats from normal Pokémon. They're much more aggressive, with higher attack power in exchange for defensive capabilities. They make for the ideal glass cannon and are some of the best counters in certain Raids.

You get Premier Pokéballs based on your performance so you can catch the Shadow Pokémon, and if you are lucky enough to capture it, you can either keep it as a Shadow Pokémon or purify it. Purified Pokémon have their stats boosted and cost less to power up. Both Shadow Pokémon and Purified Pokémon have special moves that can only be changed with Elite TMs or during special events.

Team GO Rocket aerial attacks

Team Go Rocket Balloon SierraSource: iMore

As of July 7, 2020, Team GO Rocket has taken to the skies. Now, Team GO Rocket hot air balloons will spawn randomly on the map, just like Pokémon. These encounters work almost identically to Team GO Rocket PokéStop Invasions.

  • Without a Rocket Radar, you will encounter Grunts.
  • 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 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 the Team GO Rocket leader.

What Shadow Pokémon will I be fighting?

While there is some chance to the Shadow Pokémon a Team Go Rocket Grunt will challenge you with, they provide players with hints just before you challenge them. These hints include:

  • Coiled and ready to strike! (Zubat, Golbat, Venonat, Venomoth, Grimer, and Muk)
    Best Counters Tyranitar, Groudon, Terrakion, Rampardos, Mewtwo, and Rhyperior.
  • Normal doesn't mean weak (Porygon, Porygon2, Porygon-Z, and Snorlax)
    Best Counters Lucario, Konkeldurr, Machamp, Breloom, and Hariyama.
  • ROAR!... how does that sound? (Dratini, Dragonair, Dragonite, Flygon, and Gyrados)
    Best Counters Rayquaza, Mamoswine, Glaceon, Weavile, and Raikou.
  • These waters are treacherous (Magikarp, Gyarados, Mudkip, Psyduck, Golduck, Poliwag, Poliwhirl, Poliwrath, and Politoed)
    Best Counters Alolan Exeggutor, Sceptile, Leafeon, Tangrowth, Raikou, and Magnezone.
  • Don't tangle with us (Bulbasaur, Ivysaur, Oddish, Gloom, Vileplume, Bellsprout, Weepinbel, Victreebel, and Shiftry)
    Best Counters Moltres, Charizard, Chandelure, Reshiram, and Entei.
  • Battle against my Flying-type Pokémon (Dragonite, Gyrados, Zubat, Golbat, Crobat, and Scyther)
    Best Counters Tyranitar, Mamoswine, Raikou, Magnezone, Zapdos, and Zekrom.
  • Do you know how hot Pokémon fire breath can get? (Growlithe, Charmeleon, Houndour, Houndoom, Magmar, and Arcanine)
    Best Counters Tyranitar, Rhyperior, Kyogre, and Vaporeon.
  • Go, my super bug Pokémon! (Weedle, Kakuna, Beedrill, Venonat, Venomoth, Scyther, and Scizor)
    Best Counters Charizard, Moltres, Rehisram, Chandelure, Tyranitar, and Rhyperior.
  • You'll be defeated into the ground! (Sandshrew, Marowak, Pupitar, Trapinch, Vibrava, Flygon, and Larvitar)
    Best Counters Gyarados, Kyogre, Exeggcutor, Mamoswine, and Glaceon.
  • Are you scared of psychics that use unseen power? (Drowzee, Hypno, Abra, Kadabra, Wobuffet, Ralts, and Kirlia)
    Best Counters Darkrai, Tyranitar, Weaville, Houndoom, Giratina, Scizor, Chandelure, and Pinsir.
  • Let's rock and roll! (Larvitar, Pupitar, and Tyranitar)
    Best Counters Lucario, Konkeldurr, Machamp, Hariyama, Kyogre, Groudon, and Dialga.
  • Ke… ke… ke… ke… ke… ke… (Sableye, Shuppet, Banette, Duskull, Dusclops, and Dusknoir)
    Best Counters Darkraki, Weavile, Giratina, and Tyranitar.
  • This buff physique isn't just for show! (Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee)
    Alakazam, Mewtwo, Gardevoir, Espeon, and Lugia.
  • Get ready to be shocked! (Magnemite, Magneton, Electabuzz, Mareep, Flaaffy, and Ampharos)
    Best Counters Groudon, Rhyperior, Excadrill, Garchomp, Flygon, and Swampert.
  • Don't bother, I've already won / Get ready to be defeated! / Winning is for winners (Charizard, Blastoise, and Venasaur), or (Lapras), or (Snorlax)
    Best Counters In case of the Kanto Starters, you'll want a counter for each (Fire, Flying, Psychic, or Ice for Venusaur, Rock or Water for Charizard, and Grass or Electric for Blastois)
    Best Counters For Lapras, Lucario, Konkeldurr, Machamp, Raikou, Electivire, or Magnezone.
    Best Counters In the rare case of a triple Snorlax: Machamp, Metagross, Lucario, and Blaziken.

What is "Purifying?" Pokémon?

Pokemon Go purify shadow pokemonSource: iMore/ Rene Ritchie

Purifying your Pokémon changes them from their Shadow state and teaches them a new attack called Return. It also increases their IV scores and level quite a bit. While Purifying every Shadow Pokémon you rescue is not necessary (and if you're limited on Stardust and/or Candy, it can be an outright waste,) there are achievements and Research tasks that rely on Purifying Pokémon. If you purify enough, you will also get additional Premier Balls to capture more Shadow Pokémon.

Keep in mind, the costs for Purifying Shadow Pokémon varies based on the species. Some of the more common species, such as Rattata and Zubat, only cost 1,000 Stardust, while the legendary Pokémon can cost up to 20,000 Stardust. If you need to complete a Research task that requires several purifications, you might want to hold off until you have several of the cheap ones. On the other hand, if you're not trying to complete any achievements or Research, you may want to focus on purifying only the rarer Shadow Pokémon with good IVs.

That having been said, the last rebalance to Shadow Pokémon boosted their base attack and lowered their defense. This makes them some of the best glass cannons in the game. Certain Shadow Pokémon, like Salamence, Dragonite, Gardevoir, and Metagross happen to be top counters in certain Raids. While it is extremely expensive in Stardust and Candies to power them up, it can make a huge difference in some battles.

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The Leaders of Team Go Rocket

After fighting six Team Go Rocket Grunts, players can now also build a special item called a Rocket Radar, which will allow them to track down Team Go Rocket Hideouts, where they can challenge the Leaders of Team Go Rocket. While these Leaders present more challenging battles, including using their Shields, the rewards for defeating them are much better. Likewise, by beating the Executives and completing Special Research, players can challenge the Boss of Team Go Rocket, Giovanni, once per calendar month.

Jesse! James! Meowth, that's right!

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket Jessie JamesSource: Niantic

Beginning July 9, 2020, the iconic duo who have been the face of Team Rocket are now Team GO Rocket agents! Jesse and James have been sighted in Pokémon Go, flying in on their Meowth hot air balloon to bring double trouble! For a limited time only, Trainers can challenge both Jesse and James in Pokémon Go and we have their line up, along with the best counters.

First up is Jesse with:

  • Ekans: a Poison type, Ekans is weak against Ground and Psychic types, Ekans is pretty weak. It's best to use this time to build up your charged attack or use up Jesse's shields.
  • 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. Rampardos, Rhyperior, Terrakion, or Tyranitar all work really well here.
  • Bagon: a Dragon type, Bagon is weak against Ice, Dragon, and Fairy. Just keep in mind, your Dragon types will also be weak to Bagon if it knows a Dragon type move. This shouldn't be too much of an issue, however, with Bagon being the start of its evolutionary line.

While all three of these Pokémon have appeared as Shadow Pokémon previously, Bagon has the potential to be evolved into a Shadow Salamence which is one of the best glass cannons in the game. Shadow Salamence is an excellent counter for Dragon type Raids.

After beating Jesse, James is up with:

  • Koffing: a Poison type, Koffing is weak against Ground and Psychic types, Ekans is pretty weak. It's best to use this time to build up your charged attack or use up James' shields.
  • Sneasel: an Ice and Dark type, Sneasel is weak against Rock, Bug, Steel, Fire, and Fairy, but its quad weakness to Fighting is the one you'll want to exploit. Lucario or Machamp work well here, but you can also go with a Melmetal or Obstagoon that know Fighting type moves.
  • Beldum: a Steel and Psychic type, Beldum is weak against Ground, Ghost, Fire, and Dark type attacks. Either form of Giratina work well, as do Tyranitar or Gengar.

While all of these Pokémon have appeared as Shadow Pokémon previously, Beldum has the potential to be evolved into a Shadow Metagross which is one of the best glass cannons in the game. Shadow Metagross is the number one recommended counter for the current Legendary Raid: Kyurem.

Additionally, Jesse and James fulfil the requirements for beating two Team GO Rocket Grunts in Research tasks.


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 for Invaded PokéStops is currently Pinsir. Fire, Flying, and Rock type moves do double damage, while Flying and Ghost type resist Pinsir's fast moves. The best counters include Moltres, Zapdos, Charizard, Entei, Dragonite, or Giratina in either forme will also work well.
  • Cliff's first Pokémon for Aerial Attacks is Grimer. A Poison type, Grimer is weak to Ground and Psychic types. Good counters include Groudon, Mewtwo, Mamoswine, or Excadrill.

  • In his second slot, Ciff could send out Marowak. Marowak uses Ground and Fighting type moves and is weak against Water, Grass, and Ice. Gyarados is the best counter thanks to its resistances, but Lugia, Dragonite, Swampert, Kyogre, Venusaur, or Leafeon will all work well.

  • If he goes with Omastar, you'll want to exploit its double weakness against Grass types. Torterra, Venusaur, or Leafeon are good common counters, but Abomasnow, Roserade, or Ludicolo also work well.
  • 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 Swampert, Garchomp, Rhyperior, Groudon, Gliscor, or Giratina Origin Forme.

  • For the third slot, Cliff may bring Tyranitar, in which case, your Fighting-types like Machamp, Lucario, or Poliwrath will serve you well. Swampert with Hydro Cannon can also work well here.

  • Swampert could be in Cliff's third slot, in which case Venusaur, Meganium, or Leafeon will do well, but you could also rely on a Torterra or Shiftry.
  • Torterra can also be Cliff's third Pokémon. A Grass and Ground type with an interesting movepool, your best counters here are Heatran, Blaziken, Togekiss, or Dialga.


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.

  • If you're challenging her at an invaded PokéStop, Sierra's first Pokémon, Beldum is incredibly weak, regardless of the counter. If you bring in a Ghost type like Gengar or Giratina, you can burn through both Sierra's shields while resisting Beldum's attacks. You might also use this time to store up energy for charged attacks.
  • If you're challenging her in an Aerial Attack, Sierra's first Pokémon is Lapras. Some good counters include Dialga, Giratina, Magnezone, Melmetal, Poliwrath, and Machamp.

  • 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. Great counters here include: Giratina, Tyranitar, Darkrai, Weavile, Metagross, Typhlosion, Charizard, or Scizor.

  • If she goes with Lapras, some good counters include Dialga, Giratina, Magnezone, Melmetal, Poliwrath, and Machamp.
  • Sharpedo has several weaknesses, including Bug, Electric, Fairy, Fighting, and Grass. Good counters here include Poliwrath, Venusaur, Shiftry, Togekiss, Ludicolo, or Machamp.

  • If Houndoom is her third choice, Tyranitar is your best counter, but Swampert, Kyogre, Darkrai, or Machamp all do very well.

  • Shiftry could be in Sierra's third slot, in which case you want to take advantage of its double weakness to Bug types, like Scizor or Pinsir. However Togekiss, Charizard, Blaziken, Heatran, or Machamp will also do well while not being super vulnerable to Houndoom with Fire Fang.
  • If Sierra sends out Alakazam, Tyranitar, Weaville, or Darkrai all do really well in resisting Alakazam's attacks while taking advantage of its Ghost and Dark weaknesses.


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 at Invaded PokéStops is always Mawile. Your best bets here are Fire types, but which Fire type will depend on Mawile's moveset. You might have to back out and restart with a different lead. Some good counters here include Chandelure, Heatran, Houndoom, Flareon, Magmortar, and Entei.
  • For Aerial Attacks, Arlo's first Pokémon is Pineco. Pineco is weak to Fire, Rock, and Flying types. Moltres, Ho-Oh, work well, as do the Fire types recommended for Mawile.

  • In the second slot, Arlo could go with Charizard, which has a double weakness against Rock. Rhyperior, Tyranitar, Aggron, or Altered Forme Giratina have Rock type moves that take advantage of that. You could also bring in a Water type like Swampert or Kyogre.

  • If Arlo goes with Blastoise, Grass types are best. Shiftry resists all of its moves, but You can also counter with Venusaur, or Meganium. Poliwrath can also serve well here.
  • If Steelix is Arlo's second choice, his move pool is hard to counter. Excadrill is the only Pokémon that resists all of its possible moves well. Other possible counters include Garchomp, Swampert, Groudon, Charizard, and Kyogre.

  • For his third Pokémon, if Arlo goes with Scizor, you should counter with Fire-type Pokémon, like Moltres, Heatran, Charizard, or Blaziken.

  • For Dragonite or Salamence, you want to counter with an Ice type like Regice, Mamoswine, or a Mewtwo with Ice Beam, taking advantage of their double weakness. Another Dragon type, like Dialga or Dragonite could also work too, but will be taking super effective damage in the process.
  • If Arlo goes with Salamence, you're in for a tough fight. A Shadow Salamence often requires two Pokémon to beat. Good counters include Tyranitar, Regice, Suicune, Togekiss, or Altered Forme Giratina.


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 Entei or Suicune depending on how you challenge him.

Until the swtich takes over:

  • For his second Pokémon, Giovanni could bring in Kingler. Ludicolo, Venusaur, Meganium, Poliwrath, Magnezone, Swampert, or Dialga are the best counters here.
  • If his second Pokémon is Rhyperior, you'll want to counter with a solid Water or Grass type, such as Kyogre, Vaporeon, Torterra, Venusaur, Swampert, Feraligatr, Leafeon or Roserade.
  • If Steelix is Giovanni's second choice, his move pool is hard to counter. Excadrill is the only Pokémon in the game who resists all of its movepool well. Garchomp, Groudon, Charizard, Swampert, or Kyogre also perform well.

In Aerial Attacks and once his lineup switches entirely, his second Pokémon can be one of the following:

  • Dugtrio, in which case you will want to counter with Gyarados, Articuno, Torterra, or Venusaur.
  • Nidoking, in which case you'll want to counter with Empoleon, Kyogre, Excadrill, or Jirachi.
  • Garchomp, in which case you'll want to counter with Articuno, Togekiss, Gardevoir, or Granbull. You could also bring one of the many Dragon type counters, like Rayquaza or Dragonite, but if Garchomp happens to have Dragon type moves as opposed to Ground type, your Dragon is going to take super effective damage as well.

  • Giovanni's third Pokémon is Shadow Entei, but beginning Friday, July 10, 2020, Shadow Suicune will make its debut. The best Pokémon to counter are Kyogre, Swampert, Rhyperior, Vaporeon, Feraligatr, Terrakion, Garchomp, or Groudon.

  • For Shadow Suicune, you'll want to counter with Electric types. While it's also weak to Grass types, it can know Ice type moves that are super effective against Grass types. Raikou, Electivire, or Magnezone work well. Because Suicune can also know Psychic type moves, you might also consider using Mew or Mewtwo with their Electric type moves.

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket BalloonSource: Niantic

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What's new with Team Go Rocket?

Update June 30, 2020: Willow Report

A series of Willow Reports began to reveal that Team GO Rocket has their eyes on the skies.

Update April 30, 2020

After extending The Shadowy Threat through April, Niantic suspended Team GO Rocket Special Research updates through the summer, in response to the global pandemic.

Update March 1, 2020: The Shadowy Threat Grows

Team Go Rocket is back for March and April and this time Giovanni has captured the Legendary beast, Entei! By completing the Special Research: The Shadowy Threat Grows, you can defeat Giovanni, rescue Shadow Entei, and Purify the Legendary Beast. Even better, this month will include a Team Go Rocket Takeover on Saturday, March 7, from 2 to 5 PM local time!

Update February 1, 2020: A Professor's Work is Never Finished

Team Go Rocket is back for February, 2020 and this time Giovanni has captured the Legendary beast, Raikou! By completing the Special Research: A Professor's Work is Never Finished, you can defeat Giovanni, rescue Shadow Raikou, and Purify the Legendary Beast.

Update January 1, 2020: The Take-Over Continues

For the month of January, a new Special Research has become available for players who've completed previous Team Go Rocket Special Research. For players who have not, they can still complete the previous Special Research to challenge Giovanni this month, but instead of Shadow Zapdos, they will face and have a chance to capture Shadow Moltres.

Update December 1, 2019: A Challenging Development

For the month of December, a new Special Research was available for players who had completed Looming in the Shadows. For players who had not, they could still complete Looming in the Shadows to challenge Giovanni this month, but instead of Shadow Articuno, they faced and had the chance to capture a Shadow Zapdos.

Update November 7, 2019: Looming in the Shadows

Pokémon Go released a massive update with new items and Special Research that allows players to challenge Team Go Rocket Leaders and Giovanni himself. This will be an ongoing new feature instead of a limited event. Still, to celebrate the release, Meowth, Ekans, and Koffing are spawning more frequently, while several Pokémon important to Team Rocket will appear more regularly in Raids.

Update July 25, 2019: Team GO Rocket has blasted off... Again!

Ok the Team GO Rocket event is live again, for realsies this time. I've been out myself and fought a Grunt, who almost beat me because the Pokémon the game chose for me were the wrong type, and had half health! If I were you, I would make sure to choose my battle team wisely.

Now that the Event is fully live, it's time to find your Shadow Pokémon and free them!

Updated July 23, 2019: Team Rocket on pause

As of right now, the Team GO Rocket is on hold. It seems that it introduced a bug that made the Rocket Pokéstops only appear at each Pokéstop once. So if you were unlucky enough to be 5 minutes behind a person playing, you wouldn't be able to ever see them spawn. Not ideal at all.

No timespan on this current outage, but hopefully, it won't take them long to put everything back up. When you introduce a big change to a living game, bad things can happen. I'm sure Niantic is working hard to fix this as soon as possible.

When can I find Team GO Rocket Invasions in Pokémon GO?

The Team GO Rocket invasion is live now, and you should start seeing the funny colored Pokéstops in the local area soon!

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Pokemon Go Banner Source: Niantic

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