Team GO Rocket Invasions in Pokémon GO: Everything you need to know

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

Team GO Rocket has invaded Pokémon Go and whether you're working on a monthly Special Research or just trying to defend the Pokémon Go world, Trainers can challenge Team GO Rocket Grunts, Executives, and even the head honcho himself, Giovanni! We here at iMore have everything you need to know about Team GO Rocket, and be sure to check out our best Pokémon Go accessories so you're fully equipped to face off against them!

What are Team GO Rocket Invasions?

Pokemon Go Pokeball Plus

Pokemon Go Pokeball Plus (Image credit: iMore)

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 the following guides:

How do I encounter a Team GO Rocket Invasion?

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket stop 1 (Image credit: iMore)

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket stop 2 (Image credit: iMore)

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket stop 3 (Image credit: iMore)

Source: iMore

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 into 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 a Team GO Rocket Invasion work?

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket Grunts

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

When you spin an Invaded PokéStop, you are 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 lower defensive capabilities. They make for the ideal glass cannon and are some of the best counters in certain Raid Battles.

You get Premier Pokéballs based on your performance, as well as how many Shadow Pokémon you've rescued and purified, 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 leveled, their CP 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 Sierra (Image credit: 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:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
PhraseType(s)Potential PokémonCounters
Coiled and ready to strike!PoisonZubat*, Nidoran♂*, Nidoran♀*, Nidorino*, Nidorina*, Muk, Weezing*Psychic, Ground
Normal doesn't mean weakNormalRattata*, Bidoof*, Raticate*, Bibarel*, Loudred*, ExploudFighting
ROAR!... how does that sound?DragonDratini*, Dragonair, Dragonite, Flygon, Alolan Exeggutor*Dragon, Ice, Fairy
Don't tangle with usGrassChikorita*, Cacnea*, Cacturne*, MeganiumFire, Bug, Ice, Flying, Poison
Battle against my Flying-type PokémonFlyingStarly*, Zubat*, Murkrow*, Golbat, Staravia, Crobat, StaraptorRock, Electric, Ice
Do you know how hot Pokémon fire breath can get?FireCharmander*, Cyndaquil*, Numel*, Ninetales, Quilava*, Typhlosion, Camerupt*Water, Rock, Ground
Go, my super bug Pokémon!BugSkorupi*, Venomoth*, Weedle*, Beedrill*, Forretress, Scizor, PinsirFire, Rock, Flying
You'll be defeated into the ground!GroundHippopotas*, Hippowdon, CamperuptWater, Grass, Ice
Are you scared of psychics that use unseen power?PsychicGirafarig*, Ralts*, Kadabra, Hypno, AlakazamGhost, Dark, Bug
Let's rock and roll!RockSudowoodo*, Shuckle*, Lileep*, Anorith*, Larvitar*, Pupitar, TyranitarFighting, Water, Grass, Ground, Steel
Ke… ke… ke… ke… ke… ke…GhostMisdreavous*, Sableye*, Shuppet, Banette, DusknoirDark, Ghost
This buff physique isn't just for show!FightingMachop*, Makuhita*, Hitmonchan, Hitmonlee, MachokePsychic, Flying, Fairy
Get ready to be shocked!ElectricVoltorb*, Mareep*, Electrode*, Flaafy*, Electabuzz, AmpharosGround
You're gonna be frozen in your tracksIceSwinub*, Alolan Sandshrew*, Snorunt, Alolan Sandslash, Snover, Cloyster, Abomasnow, LaprasFire, Steel, Rock, Fighting
Wherever there is light, there is also shadowDarkStunky*, Alolan Rattata*, Skuntank*, Alolan Raticate*, Cacturne, HonchkrowFighting, Bug, Fairy
Check out my cute PokemonFairyRalts*, Snubbull*, Kirlia, GranbullSteel, Poison
These waters are treacherous (male)WaterMagikarp*, GyaradosElectric, Grass
These waters are treacherous (female)WaterMudkip*, Totodile*, Croconaw*, Marshtomp*, Feraligatr, SwampertElectric, Grass
Don't bother, I've already won/Get ready to be defeated!/Winning is for winners (male)MixedChikorita*, Cyndaquil*, Totodile*, Bayleef*, Quilava*, Croconaw*, Meganium, Typhlosion, FeraligatrCheck line-up*
Don't bother, I've already won/Get ready to be defeated!/Winning is for winners (female)MixedSnorlax*, Poliwrath, Gardevoir, Gyarados, DragoniteCheck line-up*

The final three dialogues have two possible pools of Pokémon. The male version includes Gen II's Starters, while the female is a pool of very difficult Pokémon to beat. Both are challenging because they're not focused on a single type. It helps to check the line-up first and then build a team for the line-up you've encountered. There is no difference between these three lines, but all of them are heavy hitters with high HP.

Note: Pokémon marked with an asterisk are potential encounters for beating this Grunt.

What is "Purifying?" Pokémon?

Pokemon Go purify shadow pokemon (Image credit: iMore)

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.

Strange Eggs?

Pokemon Go Sierra Strange Eggs (Image credit: Niantic)

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:

  • Skrelp
  • Larvitar*
  • Absol*
  • Skorupi*
  • Sandile
  • Scraggy
  • Pawniard
  • Vullaby*
  • Deino*
  • Pancham
  • Salandit

Pokémon with the potential to be Shiny are indicated with an asterisk.

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.