Team GO Rocket is a derivative of "Team Rocket" (which is what we will call them from this point forward), the criminal organization that was a central antagonist of the first two generations of the Pokemon main series. In Pokemon Go, Team Rocket is a villainous organization that takes over Pokestops to drain their resources, transforms Pokemon into Shadow Pokemon, and causes other mischief in the game's storyline. They are frequently encountered, and are a core gameplay mechanic that can be split into several categories.
Team Rocket Grunts
Team Rocket Grunts are the basic NPCs that make up the Team Rocket content in Pokemon Go. They come in both Male and Female variants, and they almost always stick with one specific type of Pokemon, which can be discerned by the text that is shown pre-battle. The different statements and what types they each represent are highlighted in the Rocket List below. Only select Pokemon owned by Grunts can be captured by the player in their shiny formes.
Team Rocket Grunts take over Pokestops in the overworld for a limited period of time. These Pokestops are easily recognized from a distance by their erratic twitching and darker color. When approached, they will appear black and a Team Rocket grunt will be standing next to them.
When engaged, the player will fight the Team Rocket grunt in a typical 3v3 Trainer Battle format. The Rocket Grunt's Pokemon and moves will be randomized from a set pool and will be the same for all players once established. The Rocket Grunt (and Rocket Leaders/Giovanni) will use Shadow Pokemon. However, these are not typical Shadow Pokemon that the player can use that have increased attack/decreased defense. Instead, these Shadow Pokemon have an all-around increase in stats, making them far more difficult to defeat than their basic counterparts.
While these battles follow normal Trainer Battle rules, Rocket Grunts and all other PvP NPCs such as the Leaders and Giovanni have one unique quirk that can be exploited by the player. At specific points in the battle, they will cease attacking for approximately 2 seconds, giving the player the chance to attack with impunity. They will stop attacking under the following scenarios:
- When they or the player uses a Charge Move
- When they or the player have a Pokemon faint/a new Pokemon enter the fight
- When the player switches Pokemon
With proper timing and movesets, these windows can provide the player with ample chance to deal damage/build up energy, and can even be used to virtually shut down the opposition if Charged Moves are used frequently enough.
After defeating a Team Rocket Grunt, the player will have a chance to capture one of the Shadow Pokemon that he/she was using. The player will generally have access to the first Shadow Pokemon that the Rocket was using, but occasionally the second Pokemon will be available. The player will also receive a "Mysterious Component".
If the player collects a total of six of these items, they will be able to make a "Rocket Radar" and search for the Team Rocket Leaders, which will be discussed in the following section.
Team Rocket Leaders
The three Team Rocket Leaders, Cliff, Sierra, and Arlo, act as bosses of sort for players who seek out Team Rocket grunts. After collecting a total of six Mysterious Components, the player is able to create a "Rocket Radar", with which they are able to encounter/scan for the Rocket Leaders.
Each of the three Leaders only drop a single Shadow Pokemon species during a given rotation, with each leader assigned a different Shadow Pokemon that the player may capture after the fight. The Shadow Pokemon dropped by the Leaders have the potential to be shiny.
Once a Rocket Radar has been obtained, players will be able to encounter the Team Rocket Leaders at Pokestops that do not appear to be under invasion until the player draws close. They can also spawn via the Rocket Balloon, which will be discussed in a following section of this guide.
Rocket Radars can be deactivated and stored, though grunts will no longer drop Mysterious Components if the player already owns a Rocket Radar. They are also obtainable via select events and through the Pokecoin shop.
When a Team Rocket Leader is defeated, he/she will grant the player with the opportunity to capture his/her Shadow Pokemon that was used first, will give the player a 12km "Strange Egg" that can be held in bonus storage if the player has room, and the player's Rocket Radar will be consumed.
The Team Rocket Boss: Giovanni
Giovanni is one of the most prolific villains in the Pokemon franchise, and the primary antagonist of Pokemon Go. Giovanni is only fightable under a specific set of conditions, generally at the end of a Special Research line, and can only be encountered when the player obtains a Super Rocket Radar.
Giovanni has, to date, always made use of a Shadow Legendary Pokemon that the player can capture after defeating him. The Shadow Pokemon that the player can capture depends purely on the status of the game, and not when the Super Radar was obtained. Players can deactivate their Super Radars and store them for use when another Shadow Legendary Pokemon becomes available if so desired.
When searching for Giovanni, it's also possible to encounter "Decoys". These are grunts with unique lineups that will pose as Giovanni until the Rocket Stop is checked. Fighting them does not consume a Super Rocket Radar.
The Team Rocket Balloon
Introduced in July 2020, the Team Rocket Balloon is a special feature that appears on the map regardless of the player's current location at set times throughout the day.
The Team Rocket Balloon delivers one encounter with a Rocket Grunt, a Rocket Leader if the player has a complete and active Rocket Radar, or Giovanni himself if the player has an active Super Rocket Radar, to the player at specific times during the day.
|Encounter Number||Encounter Time|
|1||12:00 a.m. local time|
|2||6:00 a.m. local time|
|3||12:00 p.m. local time|
|4||6:00 p.m. local time|
Note that if you're after a spawn time and open your game for the first time during that time period, the balloon will always spawn immediately. For example: if a player opens the game for the first time at 11:50 a.m, then the balloon that was set to spawn at 6:00 a.m. will immediately spawn, and a new balloon will spawn at 12:00 p.m. as scheduled. The game will not allow two balloons to be on the map at the same time, and the first will automatically leave if this happens.
Once spawned, the balloon will remain on the map for roughly 20 minutes, following the player the entire time. The Team Rocket member may be challenged at the player's leisure during this time period. If you close/reopen the game during its spawn time, the exact same balloon will reappear automatically so long as it hasn't expired.
If a radar is equipped when a balloon spawns and then unequipped while the balloon carrying a Rocket Leader or Giovanni is still on the field, the balloon will despawn.
Some events will cause Rocket Balloons to appear far on the field far more frequently.
The Meowth Balloon
While the common black balloon with a red "R" logo is the balloon that most players will see most frequently, it's also possible to encounter a balloon with a distinctive Meowth shape to it.
The Meowth Balloon brings two Rockets at once: Jessie and James from the anime series.
Jessie & James are unique in that they are fought in tandem, meaning it's possible to obtain two Rocket Radar pieces from a single balloon, and they always have the same Pokemon during a given period of time with no variance. It's also worth noting that Shadow Pokemon captured from Jessie and James can be shiny in a manner similar to the Rocket Leaders.