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 our guides for 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, and 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:
|Coiled and ready to strike!||Poison||Nidoran♂*, Nidoran♀*, Zubat*, Nidorina, Grimer, Muk, Weezing||Psychic, Ground|
|Normal doesn’t mean weak||Normal||Teddiursa*, Raticate, Porygon2, Porygon-Z, Snorlax||Fighting|
|ROAR!… how does that sound?||Dragon||Dratini*, Dragonair, Dragonite, Flygon, Gyarados||Dragon, Ice, Fairy|
|These waters are treacherous||Water||Magikarp*, Gyarados||Electric, Grass|
|Don’t tangle with us||Grass||Lileep*, Hoppip*, Oddish*, Gloom*, Ivysaur*, Weepinbell*, Victreebel, Shiftry, Vileplume||Fire, Bug, Ice, Flying, Poison|
|Battle against my Flying-type Pokémon||Flying||Golbat*, Gligar*, Skarmory*, Crobat, Scyther, Dragonite, Gyarados||Rock, Electric, Ice|
|Do you know how hot Pokémon fire breath can get?||Fire||Vulpix*, Houndour*, Houndoom*, Ninetales*, Magmar*, Charmeleon, Arcanine||Water, Rock, Ground|
|Go, my super bug Pokémon!||Bug||Anorith*, Shuckle*, Venonat*, Pinsir, Venomoth, Scyther, Scizor, Beedrill||Fire, Rock, Flying|
|You’ll be defeated into the ground!||Ground||Diglett*, Swinub*, Pupitar, Vibrava, Marowak, Flygon, Gliscor||Water, Grass, Ice|
|Are you scared of psychics that use unseen power?||Psychic||Slowpoke*, Exeggcute*, Wobuffet*, Drowzee, Kadabra, Kirlia, Exeggutor, Hypno||Ghost, Dark, Bug|
|Let’s rock and roll!||Rock||Aron*, Nosepass*, Larvitar*, Pupitar*, Lairon*, Tyranitar||Fighting, Water, Grass, Ground, Steel|
|Ke… ke… ke… ke… ke… ke…||Ghost||Misdreavous*, Shuppet*, Duskull*, Dusclops, Banette, Dusknoir, Sableye||Dark, Ghost|
|This buff physique isn’t just for show!||Fighting||Hitmonchan*, Machop*, Machoke, Hitmonlee||Psychic, Flying, Fairy|
|Get ready to be shocked!||Electric||Magnemite*, Electabuzz*, Mareep*, Magneton, Flaaffy, Ampharos||Ground|
|You’re gonna be frozen in your tracks||Ice||Snover*, Spheal*, Cloyster*, Swinub*, Sealeo*, Abomasnow, Lapras||Fire, Steel, Rock, Fighting|
|Wherever there is light, there is also shadow||Dark||Stunky*, Sableye*, Skuntank, Nuzleaf, Cacturne, Shiftry||Fighting, Bug, Fairy|
|Don’t bother, I’ve already won/Get ready to be defeated!/Winning is for winners||Mixed||Snorlax*, Poliwrath, Gardevoir, Gyarados, Dragonite||Check line-up*|
The final three dialogues are the most 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.
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.
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.
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 Aerodactyl*. A Rock and Flying type, it can deal Rock, Ground, Steel, Normal, and Dark type damage, while taking double damage from Rock, Steel, Water, Electric, and Ice. The best counters include Magnezone, Melmetal, Raikou, Mega Blastoise, Empoleon, Kyogre, or Dialga.
In his second slot, Cliff could send out Gallade. A Psychic and Fighting type, Gallade can deal Psychic, Fighting, Fairy, and Grass type damage, while being weak to Flying, Ghost, and Fairy. Some of the best counters include Ho-Oh, Origin forme Giratina, Mega Gengar, Mega Charizard Y, Lugia, Moltres, Chandelure, and Togekiss.
- Cliff could also send out Cradily. This Rock and Grass type fossil Pokémon can deal Grass, Rock, Ground, Poison, and Bug type damage, while being weak to Fighting, Bug, Steel, and Ice. Some of your best options include Fighting types like Lucario, Heracross, Machamp, and Sirfetch’d, but a Steel type like Metagross or an Ice type like Mamoswine would also be a good choice.
Or Cliff could pick Slowking. Shadow Slowking is a Water and Psychic type with potential Water, Psychic, Ice, and Fire attacks. Its weaknesses include Bug, Ghost, Grass, Electric, and Dark. Zekrom, Mega Ampharos, Darkrai, Origin forme Giratina, Zapdos, Hydreigon, and Shiftry are among the best counters.
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 is takes super effective damage from Fighting, while also being weak to Ground, Bug, Steel, Water, Grass, and Fairy. Fighting type counters or Pokémon with access to Fighting type moves, such as Hariyama, Machamp, Conkeldurr, Heracross, or Sirfetch’d, are going to be your best bet, but a relative newcomer to Pokémon Go, Chesnaught performs really well here too.
- The Ghost type Dusknoir could be Cliff’s third Pokémon. With a movepool that includes Ghost, Dark, and Psychic type moves, Dusknoir’s only weaknesses are Ghost and Dark. Hydreigon, Obstagoon, Tyranitar, Darkrai, Origin forme Giratina, and Mega Houndoom are among the best counters.
- Mamoswine could be Cliff’s final Pokémon. A Ground and Ice type, Shadow Mamoswine can have Ground, Ice, and Rock type attacks, and it’s weaknesses include Fighting, Steel, Fire, Grass, and Water. Your best options for countering it are Mega Charizard Y, Mega Blastoise, Regigigas, Mega Charizard X, Mega Houndoom, and Burn Drive Genesect. However, if Mega Evolutions and Mythicals aren’t accesible enough, you could also get by with Lucario, Empoleon, or Feraligatr.
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 Carvanha*. Carvanha is a Water and Dark type, meaning its weak to Fighting, Bug, Grass, Electric, and Fairy type attacks. Its movepool consists of Water, Dark, and Poison type moves. Your best options for counters include Sceptile, Mega Beedrill, Sirfetch’d, Leafeon, Pinsir, or Scizor.
For her second slot, she could go with the Ground type, Hippowdon. With a wide range of moves, including Ground, Rock, Electric, Fire, Ice, Dark, and Normal, Hippowdon takes double damage from Water, Grass, and Ice. Your best options to counter a Shadow Hippowdon are Mega Blastoise, Mega Venusaur, Mega Abomasnow, or Kyogre, but more commonly available Pokémon that work well here include Galarian Darmanitan, Kingler, and Mamoswine.
- Porygon-Z could be Sierra’s second Pokémon. As a Normal type, Porygon-Z’s only weakness is Ghost type, while it has access to Normal, Fighting, Ice, Grass, and Electric type attacks. The best counters are Fighting types like Hariyama, Machamp, Heracross, and Sirfetch’d, but there are a few other typed Pokémon that perform surprisingly well, such as Zekrom, Chandelure, Latias, and Latios.
If Sierra’s second Pokémon is Mismagius, its only weaknesses are Ghost and Dark, and it has Ghost, Dark, and Fairy type moves. The best counters include Mega Gengar, Darkrai, and Mega Houndoom, but Gengar, Hydreigon, Tyranitar, or Chandelure also work well and are more accessible.
If Houndoom is her third choice, Shadow Machamp, Shadow Swampert, or Mega Blastoise are the best counters. However, if you don’t have these expensive Pokémon, Hariyama, Kyogre, or Tyranitar all work very well.
- Flygon could be Sierra’s final Pokémon. As a Ground and Dragon type, Shadow Flygon takes double damage from Fairy and Dragon, but quad damage from Ice, and it can deal Ground, Dragon, and Rock-type damage. This means Ice types, like Beartic and Alolan Ninetales will outperform even Mega Charizard Y; however, if you have a Mega Abomasnow with Ice-type moves, it performs best against Shadow Flygon.
- Sierra’s last Pokémon could also be Walrein. This Ice and Water type can deal Ice, Water, and Ground-type damage and is weak to Fighting, Rock, Grass, and Electric. My personal favorites for this fight are Shadow Raikou or Mewtwo with Focus Blast, but Conkeldurr, Mega Ampharos, or Heracross perform really well too.
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 Beldum*. Beldum is a Psychic and Steel type, weak to Ground, Ghost, Fire, and Dark. While either forme of Giratina, Mega Gengar, and Gengar are the top performers here, I prefer to use this time to build up charged attacks for the second Pokémon.
In the second slot, Arlo could go with Gardevoir, a Psychic and Fairy type with a wide range of attacks. Shadow Gardevoir can, of course, deal Psychic and Fairy damage, but it also has the potential for Electric, as well as the grossly overpowered Shadow Ball. Weak to Poison, Ghost, and Steel, your best counters include Metagross, Origin forme Giratina, Dialga, Mega Gengar, Excadrill, and Genesect. If you built up a charge or two in the first fight, you’ll want to use them to take out Gardevoir quick.
- Infernape could be on Arlo’s roster. A Fire and Fighting type, Infernape can deal Fighting, Fire, and Grass type damage, and has weaknesses to Flying, Ground, Water, and Psychic. Mewtwo, Shadow Mewtwo, or Armored Mewtwo perform best, but other great choices include Mega Gengar with Psychic, Moltres, Ho-Oh, or Mega Blastoise. Swampert or Feraligatr work well for more accessible options.
Arlo’s second Pokémon could be the Steel and Rock type, Aggron. With quad weaknesses to Fighting and Ground, and a movepool of Steel, Rock, Electric, and Dragon, the best counters are Excadrill, Hariyama, Machamp, Lucario, Groudon, and Swampert.
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. Ho-Oh, Heatran, Mega Charizard Y, Blaziken, Moltres, or Entei would make a great choice here.
- Armaldo could be Arlo’s final Pokémon. A Bug and Rock type, with access to Bug, Rock, Poison, and Water type moves, Armaldo is weak to Rock, Steel, and Water. Great counters include Dialga, Empoleon, Cobalion, Aggron, and Mega Blastoise.
- If Arlo goes with Salamence, you’re in for a tough fight. Shadow Salamence is one of the strongest Pokémon in the game, trailing just behind Shadow Mewtwo. As a Dragon and Flying type, it has a quad weakness to Ice, as well as weakenesses to Dragon, Fairy, and Rock. Unfortunately, not only can it hit really hard, but it has access to Dragon, Fire, Dark, and Water type moves, meaning it is likely to deal super effective damage to even the best counters. Some of the top counters include Tyranitar, Terrakion, Mega Charizard Y, Mega Charizard X, Suicune, Regirock, Ho-Oh, Alolan Ninetales, Hydreigon, and Lapras. Just be prepared to go through two Pokémon on a Shadow Salamence.
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.
Giovanni’s first Pokémon is Persian. The best Pokémon to counter Persian are Tyranitar, Machamp, Conkeldurr, Lucario, and Hariyama. However, you can also use this time to build up a charged attack for his second Pokémon.
For his second Pokémon, Giovanni could bring Kangaskhan. Fighting is its only weakness, leaving Heracross, Machamp, and Conkeldurr as the obvious top choices, but the stat boost that Mega Charizard Y gets from Mega Evolution, also puts it high up on the list of counters.
- If he brings Nidoking, a Poison and Ground type, its weaknesses include Water, Ground, Ice, and Psychic types. Mewtwo, Metagross, Alakazam, Kyogre, and Mega Blastoise perform best.
Garchomp could be his second Pokémon. Its moveset can make it difficult to counter, but an Ice type like Mamoswine, Regice, Articuno, or Mega Abomasnow work well.
Starting on April 1st, Giovanni’s third Pokémon is Shadow Zapdos, one of the three legendary birds from the Kanto region. Zapdos is capable of dealing Electric, Rock, and Flying type damage, but as an Electric and Flying type, it takes double damage from Rock and Ice type attacks. While either Rock or Ice work well here, if you can coordinate the use of Ice types, along with Mega Abomasnow, you’ll all benefit from the boosted damage. Pokemon like Rhyperior, Mega Abomasnow, Mamoswine, Rampardos, Terrakion, Glaceon, Galarian Darmanitan, and Weavile work well. Refer to our Zapdos raid guide for other helpful tips for fighting Zapdos.
Jesse! James! Meowth! Team Rocket is back in action!
As of December 14, 2020, Jesse and James have returned for the Secrets of the Jungle event, now with all-new Shadow Pokémon.
First up is Jesse with:
- 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. Aggron, Rampardos, Rhyperior, Golem, Terrakion, or Tyranitar all work really well here.
- Ekans: a Poison type, Ekans is weak against Ground and Psychic types. However, Ekans is pretty weak. Mewtwo, Alakazm, or Gardevoir could all work well here. Alternatively, you could put in Metagross or whatever Pokémon you plan to use against Stantler, in order to build up their charged attack.
- Stantler: as a Normal type, Stantler’s only weakness is Fighting types. However, because of its potential moveset, Steel and Rock types are your best bet here. Metagross, Regirock, Jirachi, or Cobalion are all great choices here.
After beating Jesse, James is up with:
- Pinsir*: a Bug type, James’ first Pokémon is Pinsir. Weak to Flying, Rock, and Fire types, great counters include Ho-Oh, Moltres, Chandelure, or Lugia.
- Koffing: a Poison type, Koffing is weak against Ground and Psychic types. However, Koffing is also really weak. Golurk, Excadrill, Jirachi, Lugia, or Landorus all work well here.
- Grimer: another fairly weak Poison type, the Pokémon you use against Koffing will work well here and likely have its charged attack ready.
Upon beating Jesse, you can catch a Shadow Scyther with the potential to be Shiny, and upon beating James, you can 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 2021: Updated for newest updates in Pokémon GO