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
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. It has access to Ground and Fighting type moves and weaknesses to Grass, Ice, and Water type damage. It's best to use this time to build up your charged attack or burn through Cliff's shields, if you want the very best counters, Dragonite, Shadow Dragonite, Mega Venusaur, Gourgeist, Togekiss and Gyarados all perform great.
- In his second slot, Cliff could send out the Electric type Luxray. It has access to Electric, Dark, Normal, and Fighting type moves and is weak to Ground type damage. Some of the best counters include Garchomp, either Giratina, Groudon, Nidoqueen, Mega Latias, Mega Venusaur, 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 either Giratina, Garchomp, Golurk, Shadow Torterra, and Flygon.
- Or Cliff could pick Omastar for his second Pokémon. A Rock and Water type, Omastar is weak to Grass Electric, Fighting, and Ground type damage, while dealing Water, Rock, and Ground type damage. The best counters are Tropius, Mega Abomasnow, Celebi, Zarude, Virizion, Ludicolo, Mega Venusaur, and Leavanny.
- For the third slot, Cliff is currently using Tyranitar. This Rock and Dark type has a whopping seven weaknesses, including Fighting, Grass, Water, Ground, Steel, Bug, and Fairy, with potential Dark, Rock, Steel, and Fire type moves. The top performers are Chesnaught, Mega Gyarados, Melmetal, Cobalion, Zamazenta, Bewear, and Machamp.
- Charizard could also be Cliff's final Pokémon. Shadow Charizard, a Flying and Fire type, can deal Fire, Flying, and Dragon type damage, while its weaknesses include Rock, Electric, and Water. Some of the best counters include Alolan Golem, Regirock, Omastar, Shadow Omastar, Raikou, and Mega Aerodactyl.
- Cliff's final Pokémon could also be Swampert. Shadow Swampert is a Water and Ground 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, Celebi, Virizion, Sceptile, Alolan Exeggutor, and Zarude.
How to beat Team GO Rocket executive Sierra
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. It's a pure Psychic type that can deal Psychic and Normal type damage and is weak to Ghost, Dark, and Bug 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, Shadow Tyranitar, Tyranitar, Giratina (Origin), Bisharp, or Zarude 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 Giratina (Altered), Mega Slowbro, Shadow Lugia, Mega Latios, Mega Charizard Y, Mega Gengar, 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 Mega Gyarados, Melmetal, Shadow Poliwrath, Mega Abomasnow, Zamazenta, Mew, and Magnezone.
- Sierra's second Pokémon could be Sharpedo. A Dark and Water type capable of dealing Water, Dark, and Poison type damage, and weaknesses to Grass, Electric, Fairy, Bug, and Fighting type damage. The best counters include Mega Venusaur, Mega Abomasnow, Primarina, Mega Latias, Sylveon, and Togekiss.
- If Houndoom is her third choice, this Dark and Fire type can only deal Dark and Fire type damage. Its weaknesses include Fighting, Ground, Rock, and Water. The best counters include Omastar, Mega Gyarados, Swampert, Regirock, Bewear, Shadow Omastar, and Samurott.
- Nidoqueen could also be her final Pokémon. This Ground and Poison type can deal Ground, Rock, Dark, 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, Garchomp, and Rhydon.
- 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, including Bug, Fire, Fighting, Poison, Ice, Fairy, and Flying type. The best counters include Chesnaught, either Mega Charizard, Genesect, Mega Abomasnow, Vespiqueen, and Melmetal.
How to beat Team GO Rocket executive Arlo
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, including Bug, Dark, Fire, Flying, Ghost, Ice, and Poison type. 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, Hydreigon, Genesect, Zarude, Yveltal, or Escavalier.
- Arlo's second Pokémon could be Dragonite, a Dragon and Flying type with access to Dragon, Flying, Steel, and Normal type moves and weaknesses to Ice, Dragon, Fairy, and Rock type damage. The top counters for Shadow Dragonite include Melmetal, Mega Steelix, Primarina, Togekiss, Tapu Fini, and Mega Gyarados.
- Salamence could also be Arlo's second Pokémon. A Dragon and Flying type, it has weaknesses to Ice, Dragon, Fairy, and Rock type, and access to Dragon, Dark, Fire, and Water moves. The best counters include Mega Gyarados, Primarina, Togekiss, Tapu Fini, Zamazenta, and Sylveon.
- The Grass and Dragon type Alolan Exeggutor could be Arlo's second Pokémon. Weak to six different types, including Ice, Bug, Dragon, Flying, Poison, and Fairy type, it has access to Grass and Dragon type moves. Your best options for countering it are Genesect, Togekiss, Scizor, Alolan Ninetales, Ho-Oh, Alolan Sandslash, and Mega Abomasnow.
- For his third Pokémon, Arlo may go with Scizor. It's a Steel and Bug type with Fire as its only weakness, and access to Steel, Bug, and Dark type moves. The best counters are Heatran, Ho-Oh, Reshiram, either Mega Charizard, Shadow Entei, and Shadow Ho-Oh.
- In the third slot, Arlo could go with Steelix. It's a Ground and Steel type that 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 Excadrill, Swampert, Groudon, Shadow Swampert, Landorus (Therian), Heatran, and Garchomp.
- Gardevoir could also be Arlo's final Pokémon. This Fairy and Psychic type has access to Psychic, Fairy, Ghost, and Electric type moves, and three weaknesses: Ghost, Poison, and Steel type moves. The best counters include Jirachi, Excadrill, Melmetal, Mew, Shadow Magnezone, Genesect, and Magnezone.
How to beat Team GO Rocket leader Giovanni
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 with access to Normal, Dark, Fairy, and Rock type moves and weaknesses to Fighting type moves. The best Pokémon to counter Persian are Tyranitar, Melmetal, Lucario, Mega Gyarados, Giratina (Origin), Machamp, and Terrakion..
- For his second Pokémon, Giovanni could bring Gyarados. It's a Water and Flying type with access to Water, Dark, and Dragon type moves and weaknesses to Rock and Electric. Some of the best counters include Zacian, Melmetal, Raikou, Mega Gyarados, Regice, and Tapu Fini.
- If he brings Rhyperior, this Ground and Rock type has access to Ground, Rock, Water, and Fighting type moves and weaknesses to Water, Grass, Steel, Ice, Fighting, and Ground type moves. Some of the top counters include Torterra, Shadow Torterra, Mega Gyarados, Chestnaught, Celebi, and Zarude.
- Honchkrow could be his second Pokémon. It's a Dark and Flying type with access to Dark, Flying, and Psychic type moves and weaknesses to Electric, Fairy, Ice, and Rock type moves. The best counters include Melmetal, Regirock, Aurorus, Raikou, Alolan Golem, and Magnezone.
- Giovanni's third Pokémon is currently Shadow Latias. This Legendary is a Dragon and Psychic type Pokémon with access to Psychic, Dragon, Fairy, and Electric type moves and weaknesses to Bug, Dark, Dragon, Fairy, Ghost, and Ice type damage. Top counters include Mega Steelix, Genesect, Heatran, Scizor, Mega Gyarados, Mew, Jirachi, Shadow Scizor, and Metagross.
Jesse! James! Meowth! Team Rocket has blasted off again!
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:
After beating Jesse, James' lineup included:
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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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.