Learn which Pokémon the Team GO Rocket Leaders may use in battle and how best to counter them.
Battling a Team GO Rocket Leader is a lot more challenging than taking on a Team GO Rocket Grunt. But with some key knowledge and shrewd strategy, you can send Sierra, Cliff, and Arlo packing. When you do, you'll be able to catch Sierra's Shadow Nidoran♀, Cliff's Shadow Grimer, or Arlo's Shadow Gligar.
Before diving into strategies for each individual Team GO Rocket Leader, here are a few general tips that can help you across the board. One important difference between Trainer Battles and battling Team GO Rocket Leaders is their use of Protect Shields. Team GO Rocket Leaders have two Protect Shields that they will use against your first two Charged Attacks. Because of this, it's best to begin the battle with a Pokémon that has a Charged Attack that powers up quickly, so you can fire off your first two Charged Attacks as soon as possible. When using your subsequent Charged Attacks, be thoughtful about timing and utilize their power when it will be most effective.
It's also worth noting that the Team GO Rocket Leaders' Pokémon can have any Fast Attack or Charged Attack currently available to that Pokémon. You won't know which Fast Attack or Charged Attack their Pokémon will have until you're battling them, so try to familiarize yourself with each Pokémon's available attacks and pick your own Pokémon team accordingly.
When battling the Team GO Rocket Leaders, it's best to bring Pokémon with two Charged Attacks because that will give you more opportunity to exploit type weaknesses. By teaching a Pokémon two Charged Attacks of different types, you can maximize its effectiveness in battle.
Team GO Rocket Leader Sierra
Water-type Pokémon to use against Sierra's Nidoran♀, Nidoqueen, Marowak, or Houndoom
Ice-type Pokémon to use against Sierra's Nidoran♀, Nidoqueen, Vileplume, or Marowak
Psychic-type Pokémon to use against Sierra's Beedrill, Nidoran♀, Nidoqueen, or Vileplume
Defeating Sierra is fairly straightforward: choose your most powerful Water-, Ice-, and Psychic-type Pokémon and get to work. Be sure to choose Pokémon with both a Fast Attack and Charged Attack that match the Pokémon's type to deal maximum damage. Lead with a Psychic-type Pokémon, preferably one with a Charged Attack that powers up quickly to get through Sierra's Protect Shields right out of the gate.
Slowbro is the outlier here. You can easily defeat Sierra's Pokémon with Water-, Ice-, and Psychic-type Pokémon alone if not for her Slowbro. Rather than adding a Pokémon to your team solely to counter Slowbro, instead give one of your Water-, Ice-, or Psychic-type Pokémon a second Charged Attack that exploits Slowbro's weaknesses. Slowbro is weak to Grass-, Electric-, Bug-, Ghost-, and Dark-type moves.
In addition to the above-recommended Pokémon, these Pokémon and their Charged Attacks can also help against Sierra's Slowbro: Mewtwo with the Charged Attack Shadow Ball or the Charged Attack Thunderbolt, Feraligatr with the Charged Attack Crunch, Espeon with the Charged Attack Shadow Ball, Kyogre with the Charged Attack Thunderbolt, Weavile with the Charged Attack Foul Play, or Samurott with the Charged Attack Megahorn. If you choose this approach, begin the battle with a Pokémon that has a Charged Attack that powers up quickly—you'll need to eliminate Sierra's two Protect Shields as quickly as possible to ensure your Pokémon's second Charged Attack can deal maximum damage.
Team GO Rocket Leader Cliff
Water-type Pokémon to use against Cliff's Charizard, Arcanine, or Tyranitar
Ground-type Pokémon to use against Cliff's Arcanine, Grimer, or Tyranitar
Incarnate Forme Landorus or Therian Forme Landorus
Psychic-type Pokémon to use against Cliff's Venusaur, Machamp, Grimer, or Crobat
Rock-type Pokémon to use against Cliff's Charizard, Arcanine, or Crobat
You may only need two Pokémon to soundly defeat Cliff: one strong Water-type Pokémon and a solid Psychic-type Pokémon with a Charged Attack that powers up quickly. Make sure both Pokémon have Fast and Charged Attacks that match their types—such a duo will put you in a good position against every Pokémon Cliff has.
However, don't neglect your third Pokémon. A strong Ground- or Rock-type Pokémon can come in clutch. Alternatively, a second Water- or Psychic-type Pokémon would make an excellent backup, just in case.
There's no denying that Cliff has some powerful Pokémon on his team. Shadow Venusaur, Shadow Charizard, Shadow Machamp, and Shadow Tyranitar are all difficult to defeat individually. But with a little planning and the right Pokémon, you should be able battle your way to victory—and catch a Shadow Grimer—without too much trouble.
Team GO Rocket Leader Arlo
Fire-type Pokémon to use against Arlo's Scizor or Mawile
Ice- and Ghost-type Pokémon to use against Arlo's Gligar, Gardevoir, or Cradily
Fighting-type Pokémon to use against Arlo's Lapras, Snorlax, or Cradily
Steel-type Pokémon to use against Arlo's Gardevoir or Cradily
Can also be used against Arlo's Gligar.
Arlo's team features both Lapras and Snorlax, two Pokémon that are difficult to face even without the incredibly high CP Team GO Rocket Leaders' Pokémon tend to have. Shadow Gardevoir is a gauntlet in its own right, and when you consider that Arlo's Pokémon don't have a lot of type overlap, defeating him gets that much more challenging. But don't despair: with the right strategy, you'll have Arlo bemoaning his undue defeat.
Because of their type combinations, Froslass and Empoleon are good choices to begin the battle with. The Ice- and Ghost-type Froslass is generally a strong addition to your team, but when battling Arlo, it's helpful to teach your Froslass an Ice-type Fast Attack. Similarly, your Empoleon should also know a Water-type Fast Attack. In both cases, you'll want your Pokémon to have two Charged Attacks—one for each of its types. If Arlo's second Pokémon is Cradily, you'll be in good shape if you stick with Froslass and Empoleon. If it's Lapras, switch in your Fighting-type Pokémon with matching Fighting-type Fast and Charged Attacks. If Arlo goes with Mawile, call out your Fire-type Pokémon and utilize its Fire-type attacks.
Each of Arlo's third Pokémon requires a different counter. If it's Snorlax, your Fighting-type Pokémon will be super effective against it. If it's Gardevoir, you have two choices: use your Steel-type Pokémon or Froslass, but only if your Froslass knows a Ghost-type Charged Attack. If you're up against Scizor, counter with your Fire-type Pokémon. While it's difficult to predict which Pokémon you'll be facing, planning ahead and coordinating your Pokémon's available attacks should give you an advantage.
The Team GO Rocket Leaders change their Pokémon every few months, so check back regularly for new recommendations and strategies.
Good luck battling, Trainers!