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Pokemon Go Team Go RocketSource: 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 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 the following guides:

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

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 GruntsSource: 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 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:

Phrase Type(s) Potential Pokémon Counters
Coiled and ready to strike! Poison Zubat*, Nidoran♂*, Nidorino*, Nidorina*, Muk, Weezing* Psychic, Ground
Normal doesn't mean weak Normal Rattata*, Bidoof*, Raticate*, Bibarel*, Loudred*, Exploud Fighting
ROAR!... how does that sound? Dragon Dratini*, Dragonair, Dragonite, Flygon, Alolan Exeggutor* Dragon, Ice, Fairy
Don't tangle with us Grass Chikorita*, Cacnea*, Cacturne, Meganium* Fire, Bug, Ice, Flying, Poison
Battle against my Flying-type Pokémon Flying Starly*, Zubat*, Murkrow*, Golbat, Staravia, Crobat, Staraptor Rock, Electric, Ice
Do you know how hot Pokémon fire breath can get? Fire Charmander*, Cyndaquil*, Numel*, Ninetales, Quilava, Typhlosion, Camerupt Water, Rock, Ground
Go, my super bug Pokémon! Bug Skorupi*, Venomoth*, Weedle*, Beedrill*, Forretress, Scizor, Pinsir Fire, Rock, Flying
You'll be defeated into the ground! Ground Hippopotas*, Hippowdon, Camperupt Water, Grass, Ice
Are you scared of psychics that use unseen power? Psychic Girafarig*, Ralts*, Kadabra, Hypno, Alakazam Ghost, Dark, Bug
Let's rock and roll! Rock Sudowoodo*, Shuckle*, Lileep*, Anorith*, Larvitar*, Pupitar, Tyranitar Fighting, Water, Grass, Ground, Steel
Ke… ke… ke… ke… ke… ke… Ghost Misdreavous*, Sableye*, Banette, Dusknoir Dark, Ghost
This buff physique isn't just for show! Fighting Machop*, Makuhita*, Machoke, Hitmonchan, Hitmonlee Psychic, Flying, Fairy
Get ready to be shocked! Electric Voltorb*, Mareep*, Electrode*, Flaafy*, Electabuzz, Ampharos Ground
You're gonna be frozen in your tracks Ice Swinub*, Alolan Sandshrew*, Alolan Sandslash, Cloyster, Snover, Abomasnow, Lapras Fire, Steel, Rock, Fighting
Wherever there is light, there is also shadow Dark Stunky*, Alolan Rattata*, Skuntank*, Alolan Raticate*, Cacturne, Honchkrow Fighting, Bug, Fairy
Check out my cute Pokemon Fairy Ralts*, Kirlia, Snubbull*, Granbull Steel, Poison
These waters are treacherous (male) Water Magikarp*, Gyarados Electric, Grass
These waters are treacherous (female) Water Mudkip*, Totodile*, Croconaw*, Feraligatr, Marshtomp*, Swampert Electric, Grass
Don't bother, I've already won/Get ready to be defeated!/Winning is for winners (male) Mixed Chikorita*, Cyndaquil*, Totodile*, Bayleef, Quilava, Croconaw, Meganium, Typhlosion, Feraligatr Check line-up*
Don't bother, I've already won/Get ready to be defeated!/Winning is for winners (female) Mixed Snorlax*, Poliwrath, Gardevoir, Gyarados, Dragonite Check line-up*

The final three dialogues have two possible pools of Pokémon. The first includes Gen I's Starters, while the second 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 pokemonSource: 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 EggsSource: 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
  • Inkay

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

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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.

How to beat Team GO Rocket executive Cliff

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 is Cubone. This Ground type is the Pokémon you'll get the chance to catch if you beat Cliff and has the potential to be Shiny. While it takes super effective damage from Grass, Ice, and Water type moves, it's better to use this time to build up your charged attack or burn through Cliff's shields. Still, if you want the very best counters, Mega Venusaur, Gourgeist, or Gyarados all perform great.

  • In his second slot, Cliff could send out the Ground type Luxray. Weak only to Ground type damage, some of the best counters include Garchomp, Groudon, and Flygon.

  • Cliff could also send out Electivire. Shadow Electivire is a pure Electric type with access to Electric, Fighting, and Ice type moves, while its only weakness is Ground type. Some of the best counters include Giratina, Garchomp, and Golurk.
  • Or Cliff could pick Omastar for his second Pokémon. A Rock and Water type, Omastar has a double weakness to Grass type moves, while dealing Water, Rock, and Ground type damage. You'll make quick work of this Shadow Pokémon with Mega Venusaur or Mega Abomasnow, but for a more common counter, you could bring Gourgeist, Virizion, or Ludicolo.

  • For the third slot, Cliff is currently using Tyranitar. This Rock and Dark type has a whopping seven weaknesses and seven resistances, on top of hitting like a truck with potential Dark, Rock, Steel, and Fire type damage. This is a tough fight, but I recommend picking something with a powerful Fighting type move to take advantage of Tyranitar's double weakness to that type. The top performers are Chesnaught, Cobalion, and Poliwrath.

  • Charizard could also be Cliff's final Pokémon. Shadow Charizard, a Flying and Fire type, can deal Fire, Flying, and Dragon type damage, while it's weaknesses include Rock, Electric, and Water. Some of the best counters include Regirock, Omastar, Raikou, and Mega Aerodactyl.
  • Cliff's final Pokémon could also be Swampert, Shadow Swampert is a Water and Groud type who's capable of dealing Water, Ground, and Poison damage and whose only weakness is Grass. The top performers in this fight are Leafeon, Virizion, Sceptile, Alolan Exeggutor, and Zarude.

How to beat Team GO Rocket executive Sierra

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.

  • Currently, Sierra's first Pokémon and the Pokémon you will get the chance to catch if you beat her is Drowzee, a pure Psychic type that can deal Psychic and Normal type damage. it's incredibly weak, so you might consider using this time to burn through Sierra's shields and build up your other counters' charged attack. If you really want the best match up though, Mega Gyarados, Tyranitar, or either forme of Giratina will make this a laughably short fight.

  • For her second slot, she could go with Blaziken. This Fire and Fighting type has four weaknesses: Ground, Psychic, Flying, and Water, and access to Fighting, Fire, and Flying type moves. Some excellent counters include Mega Slowbro, Mega Charizard, Lugia, Victini, and Ho-Oh.

  • Lapras could be Sierra's second Pokémon. This Water and Ice type is capable of dealing Water, Ice, and Normal type damage, while it takes super effective damage from Electric, Fighting, Grass, and Rock. The top performers include Shadow Electivire, Shadow Machamp, and Shadow Raikou; however, if you don't have these expensive Shadow Pokémon, Terrakion, Lucario, or Zekrom will also serve you well.
  • Sierra's second Pokémon could be Sharpedo. A Dark and Water type capable of dealing Water, Dark, and Poison type damage, you're going to want a powerful Grass or Fairy type for this fight. Mega Venusaur or Mega Abomasnow are the best options, but if you don't have the Mega Energy to spare, Sylveon, Togekiss, or Zarude perform well.

  • If Houndoom is her third choice, this Dark and Fire type can only deal Dark and Fire type damage. It's weaknesses include Fighting, Ground, Rock, and Water. The best counters include Omastar, Mega Gyarados, Regirock, Swampert, and Samurott.

  • Nidoqueen could also be her final Pokémon. This Ground and Poison type can deal Ground, Water, and Poison type damage and it's weak against Ground, Psychic, Ice, and Water type moves. The best counters include Excadrill, Rhyperior, Mega Gyarados, Swampert, and Garchomp.
  • Sierra's last Pokémon could also be Shiftry. Shiftry is a Grass and Dark type with access to Grass, Dark, and Flying type moves. It has a whopping seven weaknesses and resistances, but the best counters include Chesnaught, Virizion, Genesect, and Vespiqueen.

How to beat Team GO Rocket executive Arlo

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 is the Dragon type Exeggcute. It's the Pokémon you'll catch if you beat him and it has the potential to be Shiny. This Grass and Psychic type has access to Grass, Psychic, and Rock type moves, and has seven weaknesses, with Bug type being the only double weakness. Though you can use this time to burn through Arlo's shields or build up Charged attacks, if you want the best match up bring Heatran, Genesect, or Escavalier.

  • Arlo's second Pokémon could be Dragonite, a Dragon and Flying type weak to Ice, Dragon, Fairy, and Rock type damage. Its movepool includes Dragon, Flying, and Normal type moves. The top counters for Shadow Dragonite include Alolan Sandslash, Walrein, Togekiss, and Alolan Ninetails, but Mega Steelix or Mega Gyrados will wipe the floor with it if you have the Mega Energy to spare.

  • Salamence could also be Arlo's second Pokémon. A Dragon and Flying type, it has the same weaknesses as Shadow Dragonite, but a vastly different moveset of Dragon, Dark, Fire, and Water moves. Togekiss, Zamazenta, and Sylveon are among the top performers in this fight, along with Mega Gyrados and Mega Altaria.
  • The Grass and Dragon type Alolan Exeggutor could be Arlo's second Pokémon. Weak to six different types with Ice as the only double weakness, Shadow Alolan Exeggutor has access to Grass and Dragon type moves. Your best option for countering it are Genesect, Scizor, Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Sandslash, or Mega Abomasnow.

  • 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. Heatran, Ho-Oh, Reshiram, or either Mega Charizard would make a great choice here.

  • In the third slot, Arlo could go with Steelix, a Ground and Steel type with an impressive ten resistances. It can deal Steel, Ground, Dragon, Electric, and Dark type damage, while taking super effective damage from Ground, Fighting, Fire, and Water type moves. The top counters for Shadow Steelix are Swampert, Groudon, Excadrill, and Garchomp.
  • Gardevoir could also be Arlo's final Pokémon. This Fairy and Psychic type has a three weaknesses: Ghost, Poison, and Steel type moves, so will go down easily against Jirachi, Excadrill, Genesect, Magnezone, or Melmetal.

How to beat Team GO Rocket leader Giovanni

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 Shadow Ho-Oh.

  • Giovanni's first Pokémon is Persian, a Normal type weak to Fighting type moves. The best Pokémon to counter Persian are Tyranitar, Lucartio, Mega Gyarados Machamp, Terrakion, Heracross, and Conkeldurr. However, you can also use this time to build up a charged attack for his second Pokémon.

  • For his second Pokémon, Giovanni could bring Kingler. As a pure Water type, Grass and Electric are the types you'll want to counter it. Some of the top counters include Mega Ampharos, Mega Venusaur, Ludicolo, Leafeon, Zekrom, and Zarude. However, you can also bring a strong Water type which will resist its Water type moves, such as Mega Gyarados, Palkia, or Mega Blastoise.

  • If he brings Rhyperior, this Ground and Rock type takes increased damage from Steel, Ice, Fighting, and Ground type moves, while taking super effective damage from Grass and Water. Some of the top counters include Torterra, Mega Gyarados, Mega Venusaur, Kyogre, Swampert, Gourgeist, Mega Abomasnow, and Leafeon.
  • Nidoking could be his second Pokémon. Water, Ice, Ground, and Psychic types deal super effective damage to this pure Poison and Ground type. Your best options for countering are Excadrill, Jirachi, Empoleon, Mega Gyarados, Metagross, Kyogre, Mega Slowbro, or Rhyperior.

  • Giovanni's third Pokémon is currently Shadow Latias. This Legendary is a Dragon and Psychic type Pokémon so it is weak to Bug, Dark, Dragon, Fairy, Ghost, and Ice type damage. Top counters include Mega Steelix, Genesect, Heatran, Scizor, Mega Gyarados, and Metagross.

Pokemon Go Team Go Rocket BalloonSource: Niantic

Jesse! James! Meowth! Team Rocket has blasted off again!

Pokemon Go Jesse James CelebiSource: Niantic

Jesse and James are no longer available to challenge, but they are sure to return at some point in the future. Their previous line ups weren't particularly difficult to beat, especially since neither used their shields.

Previously, Jesse's lineup included:

  • Scyther
  • Ekans
  • Stantler

After beating Jesse, James' lineup included:

  • Pinsir
  • Koffing
  • Grimer

Upon beating Jesse, you could catch a Shadow Scyther with the potential to be Shiny, and upon beating James, you could 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.


Got any questions about taking on Team GO Rocket? Any tips for your fellow Trainers? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check out our Best Battery Packs guide to keep your phone charged while trying to catch 'em all!

Updated April 2022: Updated for newest updates in Pokémon GO

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Pokemon Go Banner Source: Niantic

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