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Team GO Rocket Leader Guide: General Tips and Defeating Giovanni

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General Strategy

  • They will always shield the first two Charged Moves you use, so make sure they’re cheap! That energy’s getting wasted anyway.
  • Resisting is much more important than dealing Super Effective damage, but you should try to do both! Like in normal PvP, having high bulk is generally more helpful than being a glass cannon. It’s hard to race down the leaders, so Pokémon like Lugia and Giratina-Altered are super helpful!

  • Make full use of Stun Time after passive actions! You get 4 turns after Charged Moves (from you or them), switches, or a Pokémon fainting, which is equivalent to 2 Counters, 4 Lock-Ons, 1 (and ⅓) Dragon Tails, etc. They hit hard, so any time they’re not smacking you is super valuable! If you can pull it off, Charged Move->4 turns of Fast Moves->Charged Move->4 turns of Fast Moves->Repeat until they’re fainted is a super effective way of taking them down!

  • As a followup to this, consider not leading with your actual first-mon counter! If you want to use Machamp vs Cliff’s lead Meowth, put that Machamp second. Get 4 turns of free damage (and energy) off with whatever you lead with, then switch to that Machamp 

  • They hit hard. Unbelievably hard. Resisting is barely enough, and that means you will want to shield their Charged Moves, basically every single time, if you want your Pokémon to survive.

The most important thing is this, though: don’t be afraid to fail a few times on your way to success! Not giving life lessons here, just for the rocket bosses for now. Because resisting is so important, getting to see what Pokémon they have (and what moves they’re running) can allow you to pick better counters for next time! The Rocket Leaders are, hands down, the most difficult piece of solo endgame content in the game, so definitely don’t feel bad if it takes a few tries.

An Explanation of Stun Time

You may notice that after

  • You use a charged move

  • They use a charged move

  • A Pokémon switches in (be it manually or after fainting)

The AI (Rocket grunts, team leaders, and Rocket leaders) have a short period in which they don't take any actions. We'll be referring to this as Stun Time, and it lasts exactly 4 turns.

Turns are the 0.5-second-long intervals into which PvP is broken.

On the 5th turn, the opponent will start their next action (be it a fast move or a charged move). However, if you fire off a charged move on that 5th turn, Stun Time resets, and you don’t take any fast move damage.

You can test this yourself against the team leaders, who perform mechanically identically (especially at Master League, where they also shield your first two moves).

Defeating Giovanni - First Pokemon

Giovanni always leads with Persian

(Feint Attack/Scratch) + (Foul Play/Play Rough/Power Gem)

  • Tyranitar: Smack Down* + Crunch
  • Machamp: Counter + Cross Chop* OR Dynamic Punch
  • Lucario: Counter + Power-Up Punch

Lucario’s the best here if you’ve got one. If not, Tyranitar does a fantastic job at resisting all the fast move damage Persian can put out. Somewhat struggles at breaking shields, though.

Second Pokemon

Dugtrio

(Mud Slap/Sucker Punch) + (Earthquake/Mud Bomb/Stone Edge)

Rhydon

(Mud Slap/Rock Smash) + (Earthquake/Surf/Stone Edge)

Hippowdon

(Bite/Fire Fang/Ice Fang/Thunder Fang) + (Earthquake/Stone Edge/Body Slam/Earth Power)

For the sake of simplicity, and because all 3 of these Pokémon are Ground-type, we’re gonna cut it down into a consistent list of counters.

  • Swampert: Mud Shot + Hydro Cannon or Surf
  • Mamoswine: Powder Snow + Avalanche
  • Meganium: Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant
  • Venusaur: Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant

Swampert is, hands down, the single most consistent mon here. Mud Shot + Hydro Cannon (or Surf, if you can’t get your hands on the community day version) is the ideal moveset. Mamoswine, Meganium, and Venusaur all take Super Effective damage from Fire Fang Hippowdon, and the grasses also take SE from Ice Fang. Mamo takes SE from Rock Smash Rhydon as well, but use what you’ve got.
 

Third Pokemon

Giovanni ends with Zapdos

(Charge Beam) + (Zap Cannon/Thunder/Thunderbolt/Ancient Power/Drill Peck

  • Rhyperior: Smack Down + Stone Edge

  • Mamoswine: Powder Snow + Avalanche

  • Golem (Alolan or Kantonian): Rock Throw + Stone Edge

  • Tyranitar: Smack Down + Stone Edge

Zapdos doesn’t have that super exploitable double weakness to Rock that Articuno does, but that doesn’t make it much more difficult. Quite the opposite, actually! Ground-type’s immunity-tier resistance to Electric damage means that you can wall Zapdos’s Charge Beam quite easily, and swing back with super effective damage using Rock or Ice damage!

Rhyperior is the safest choice here, double resisting Electric and single resisting Ancient Power and Drill Peck. That said, if you’ve got a Mamo lying around, that’s a good pick too, since you’re more than likely shielding anyway. The Golems are fine picks if you’ve got them lying around, with the same typing as Rhyperior (but less power), and Tyranitar can hit fairly hard. However, Ttar’s lower priority due to its lack of resistances.
 

Legacy Lineups

It seems as though every month, Giovanni's third slot will change. In November, it was Articuno. For posterity, and because time zones, we will be keeping old lineups here:

Articuno

(Frost Breath/Ice Shard) + (Blizzard/Ice Beam/Icy Wind/Ancient Power)

  • Melmetal: Thunder Shock + Rock Slide
  • Tyranitar: Smack Down* + Stone Edge
  • Metagross: Bullet Punch + Meteor Mash*
  • Magnezone: Spark + Wild Charge
  • Heatran: Fire Spin + Stone Edge

If you can throw rocks at it, do that! If you can't electric and fire do fine. Melmetal and Heatran are the perfect intersection of the two, with fantastic resistances and some really good damage output.

About the Author(s)

Tyler is a contributing writer for GamePress, primarily focusing on Trainer Battle content. Fan of dogs and fighting games.