How to send Team GO Rocket blasting off again in Pokémon Go

How to send Team GO Rocket blasting off again in Pokémon Go

Team Rocket is blasting off again!

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?

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:

The Higher They Fly
A Troubling Situation
Looming in the Shadows
A Challenging Development
The Take-Over Continues
The Shadowy Threat Grows
A Professor’s Work is Never Done
An Inter-egg-sting Development.

How do I encounter a Team GO Rocket Invasion?

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?

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

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:

Potential Pokémon

Coiled and ready to strike!
Zubat*, Nidoran♂*, Nidorino*, Nidorina, Muk, Weezing*
Psychic, Ground

Normal doesn’t mean weak
Teddiursa*, Rattata*, Bidoof*, Raticate*, Ursaring, Bibarel*

ROAR!… how does that sound?
Dratini*, Dragonair, Dragonite, Gyarados, Flygon
Dragon, Ice, Fairy

Don’t tangle with us
Cacnea*, Turtwig*, Ivysaur*, Tangela*, Vileplume, Bellossom
Fire, Bug, Ice, Flying, Poison

Battle against my Flying-type Pokémon
Starly*, Zubat*, Murkrow*, Golbat, Staravia, Crobat, Staraptor
Rock, Electric, Ice

Do you know how hot Pokémon fire breath can get?
Charmander*, Vulpix*, Ninetales, Magmar*, Charmeleon*, Arcanine
Water, Rock, Ground

Go, my super bug Pokémon!
Skorupi*, Venomoth*, Weedle*, Beedrill*, Forretress, Scizor, Pinsir
Fire, Rock, Flying

You’ll be defeated into the ground!
Cubone*, Sandshrew*, Marowak, Sandslash, Flygon,
Water, Grass, Ice

Are you scared of psychics that use unseen power?
Abra*, Ralts*, Metang, Hypno, Alakazam
Ghost, Dark, Bug

Let’s rock and roll!
Lileep*, Anorith*, Larvitar*, Pupitar, Tyranitar
Fighting, Water, Grass, Ground, Steel

Ke… ke… ke… ke… ke… ke…
Misdreavous*, Shuppet, Banette, Sableye*
Dark, Ghost

This buff physique isn’t just for show!
Hitmonchan*, Hitmonlee*, Machop, Makuhita, Hariyama
Psychic, Flying, Fairy

Get ready to be shocked!
Eletrike*, Magnemite*, Magneton*, Electabuzz*, Ampharos

You’re gonna be frozen in your tracks
Spheal*, Swinub*, Cloyster*, Snover*, Abomasnow, Lapras
Fire, Steel, Rock, Fighting

Wherever there is light, there is also shadow
Poochyena*, Houndour*, Sableye*, Cacturne*, Nuzleaf*, Shiftry, Sharpedo
Fighting, Bug, Fairy

Check out my cute Pokemon
Ralts*, Kirlia, Snubbull*, Granbull
Steel, Poison

These waters are treacherous (male)
Magikarp*, Gyarados
Electric, Grass

These waters are treacherous (female)
Mudkip*, Psyduck*, Shellder*, Wortortle*, Slowking, Slowbro
Electric, Grass

Don’t bother, I’ve already won/Get ready to be defeated!/Winning is for winners (male)
Charmander, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmeleon, Ivysaur, Wartortle, Charizard, Venusaur, Blastoise
Check line-up*

Don’t bother, I’ve already won/Get ready to be defeated!/Winning is for winners (female)
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?

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?

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:


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

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 Grimer. This pure Poison type Pokémon should be an easy win. If you want the type advantage, it’s weak to Psychic and Ground; Pokémon like Lugia, Landorus (Therian), Mega Steelix, Rhyperior, Garchomp, or Groudon would make a great choice. However, you could also use this time to build up your charged attack or burn through Cliff’s shields.

In his second slot, Cliff could send out Venusaur. This Grass and Poison type is weak to Fire, Ice, Psychic, and Fighting type moves. Good choices for countering include either version of Mega Charizard, Reshiram, Ho-Oh, Salamence, and Mega Abomasnow.

Cliff could also send out the Fighting type Pokémon, Crobat. Psychic, Electric, Ice, and Rock type moves are super effective against this Flying and Poison type, so consider bringing along Tyranitar, Regirock, Rhyperior, Mega Ampharos, or Alolan Golem.

Or Cliff could pick Machamp for his second Pokémon. A pure Fighting type, you’ll do added damage with Psychic, Fairy, or Flying type attacks. The best counters include Lugia, Mega Slowbro, Victini, Mega Charizard Y, Hoopa, Zapdos, and Ho-Oh.

For the third slot, Cliff may bring Tyranitar. This Rock and Dark type pseudo-Legendary has access to Dark, Rock, Steel, and Fire type moves, and takes super effective damage from Fighting, while also being weak to Ground, Bug, Steel, Water, Grass, and Fairy. Some of the best counters include Chesnaught, Mega Gyarados, Cobalion, Zamazenta (Hero of Many Battles), Machamp, Pangoro, Obstagoon, and Virizion.

Charizard could be Cliff’s final Pokémon. This Fire and Flying type is weak to Water and Electric type moves, but has a increased weakness to Rock, so that should be your first choice. Regirock, Omastar, Melmetal, Raikou, Mega Aerodactyl, Rhyperior, Tyranitar, and either version of Golem are the best counters.
Cliff’s last Pokémon could also be Arcanine. A pure Fire type, Arcanine is weak to Water, Ground, and Rock type damage. The top counters here are Garchomp, Swampert, Rhyperior, Golem, Mega Ampharos, Giratina (Altered forme), and Palkia.

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 is Nidoran♀. Nidoran♀ is a pure Poison type, meaning its weak to Psychic and Ground type attacks; however, it’s also 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, Rhyperior or Excadrill will make this a laughably short fight.

For her second slot, she could go with Beedrill. As a Bug and Poison type, Beedrill takes increased damage from Fire, Psychic, Flying, and Rock type moves. Pokémon like Heatran, Aggron, either Mega Charizard, Ho-Oh, Mega Aerodactyl, and Terrakion perform best here.

Slowbro could be Sierra’s second Pokémon. This Psychic and Water type is weak against Grass, Electric, Bug, Ghost, and Dark type moves. Your best options for countering it are Mega Gyarados, Zarude, Hydreigon, Shiftry, Mega Ampharos, Leafeon, Mega Abomasnow, or Tyranitar.

If Sierra’s second Pokémon is Vileplume, its weaknesses include Fire, Flying, Psychic, and Ice. Heatran, either Mega Charizard, Jirachi, Reshiram, Ho-Oh, or Metagross would be a great choice here.

If Houndoom is her third choice, this Dark and Fire type is weak to Fighting, Ground, Rock, and Water type attacks. The best counters include Omastar, Mega Gyarados, Regirock, Swampert, and Samurott.

Marowak could be Sierra’s final Pokémon. As a pure Ground type, Marowak is weak to Water, Grass, and Ice type attacks. Some good options for countering include Gyarados, Trevenant, Leavanny, Tropius, Mega Venusaur, and Gourgeist.
Sierra’s last Pokémon could also be Nidoking. Water, Ice, Ground, and Psychic types deal super effective damage to this pure Poison and Ground type. Your best options for countering are Excadrill, Rhyperior, Mega Gyarados, Swampert, Garchomp, or Rhydon.

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 Gligar. This Ground and Flying type takes increased damage from Water and super effective damage from Ice. The best counters include Avalugg, Articuno, Togekiss, Suicune, Kyogre, Empoleon, Mega Aerodactyl, and Regice.

In the second slot, Arlo could go with Lapras. A Water and Ice type, its weaknesses include Grass, Electric, Fighting, and Rock. Mega Abomasnow, Magnezone, Lucario, Machamp, Mega Venusaur, Ludicolo, Omastar, or Mega Ampharos make great counters here.

Mawile could be Arlo’s final Pokémon. You’ll want a strong Fire or Ground type to counter this Steel Fairy. Mega Houndoom, Reshiram, either Mega Charizard, Entei, or Heatran would serve you well.

Arlo’s second Pokémon could be the pure Normal type, Cradily. It’s a Rock and Grass type, meaning Steel, Fighting, Ice, and Bug types make the best counters. Pokémon like Genesect, Cobalion, Heatran, Scizor, Escalavier, and Lucario are all great options.

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, Either Mega Charizard, Moltres, Reshiram, Entei, Moltres, or Mega Houndoom would make a great choice here.

Snorlax could be in Arlo’s roster. As a Normal type, its only weakness is Fighting, and Snorlax has a lot of HP to burn through. You may want to bring in a Pokémon with high attack and strong Fighting type moves like Obstagoon, Melmetal, or Landorus (Therian); however, you can also rely on other powerful Dark types, like Yveltal, Mega Houndoom, or Zarude.
If Arlo goes with Gardevoir, this Psychic and Fairy type takes super effective damage from Ghost, Steel, and Poison type attacks. The best performing Pokémon against Shadow Gardevoir are Jirachi, Melmetal, Genesect, Magnezone, Scizor, Heatran or either forme of Giratina.

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 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 Lugia. The Legendary Bird is a Flying and Psychic type Pokémon so it is weak to Rock, Ice, Ghost, Dark, and Electric type damage. Top counters include Melmetal, Zacian (Hero of Many Battles), Yveltal, Bisharp, Magnezone, Mega Abomasnow, Mega Gyarados, and Regirock.

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 January 2022: Updated for newest updates in Pokémon GO

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