Team GO Rocket Leaders are more powerful enemies than the regular Team GO Rocket Grunts. Similarly to Team Leaders, there are three of them: Arlo, Cliff and Sierra. They take direct orders from Giovanni.
By defeating a regular grunt, the Trainer will receive a Mysterious Component. After collecting 6 of them, they can be combined to form a Rocket Radar, which can be equipped to find otherwise hidden taken-over PokéStops where the Team GO Rocket Leaders are, boasting teams of Shadow Pokémon far stronger than the average grunt. The Leaders start to appear at 6 a.m. and leave at 10 p.m. every day.
Without the Rocket Radar equipped, those PokéStops will only function as normal ones. A Radar may reveal multiple locations, but it is consumed after winning a battle against one leader. A new one can be crafted afterwards. If the Radar interface is opened without any Team GO Rocket Leaders nearby, your Team Leader will prompt you to travel to a different location to find them, or wait until tomorrow as the hideouts change over time. However, defeating a leader does not change the location of the PokéStops they occupy, even if you craft another radar.
The Trainer can also find leaders and engage in battle with them by tapping a Rocket Balloon that may spawn above the Trainer in the Map View, but only if a standard Rocket Radar is equipped.
- For more information on Rocket Balloons, see: Team GO Rocket → Balloons.
After locating a Team GO Rocket Leader's hideout, the Trainer can engage in battle with them, just like with Team GO Rocket Grunts and Giovanni.
Team GO Rocket Leader battles work similarly to the normal Grunt battles. The Trainer has to select a party of three Pokémon and use their Fast and Charged Attacks to defeat the opponent. Enemy Shadow Pokémon fought also have greatly increased CP above normal limits. However, because strength is offense-biased, while they can dish out quite a lot of damage, they do not take hits as well as their CP suggests.
The only other notable difference from Grunts is that the Leaders always block the Trainer's first two Charged Attacks with Protect Shields, similar to the Master League Trainer Battle against Team Leaders.
- For more information on battling any of Team GO Rocket members, see: Team GO Rocket → Battling.
After winning the Battle, 1000 Stardust and several Potions and Revives will be rewarded and there will be a chance to catch the first Shadow Pokémon they used. Winning a battle with a Leader also increases the rank of the Trainer's Hero medal. If the battle is lost, a rematch will be offered with no penalty, but if it is won, the Rocket Radar is removed from Trainer's bag and they have to begin collecting Mysterious Components again to fight another Leader.
These are the current sets of Pokémon used by each of Leaders in battles.
- In a single battle with a leader, the first Pokémon of each leader is always the same while the latter two are randomly chosen from three Pokémon in each column. Pokémon highlighted with green can be caught after winning a battle.
Changes to battle parties
- Main article: List of Team GO Rocket Pokémon changes
From the release of Battle against Team GO Rocket Leaders until now, there were some changes to their Pokémon parties.
- They made their debut on November 7th, 2019.
- All three Team GO Rocket Leaders have names that refer to mountainous features: "Cliff" is a vertical rock side, "Sierra" is Spanish for "mountain range", and "Arlo" is Old English for "fortified hill".
- According to in-game commentary, Arlo appears to be the counterpart of Team Leader Candela, Cliff is the counterpart of Blanche, and Sierra is the counterpart of Spark.
- The event Team GO Rocket Leaders Disruption was held to promote their introduction.
- In their teams debuting in July 2020, Shadow Lapras and Grimer were already previously available from regular Grunts. There are also reports of Shadow Lapras from Grunts possibly being shiny days before the Leader change.
- On March 7th, 2020, the global take-over mini-event, the Leaders used every first Pokémon which previously appeared. The rest of the team was the newest set though.
- PokéStops that would be taken over by Team GO Rocket Leaders could not be taken by grunts, which is noticeable during events where all PokéStops are taken over by grunts with the exceptions of those with leaders. However, it is possible for Cliff, Sierra, or Arlo to occupy the same PokéStop as Giovanni.
- This restriction is no longer in place as of the 12 July 2020 event, when a leader can occupy the same PokéStop as a grunt at the same time. Equipping and unequipping the Radar will change the encounter you get.
- Friendly Team Leaders may give advice on defeating Team GO Rocket Leaders based on their types. However, it is possible for them to list the weaknesses of types against which the Team GO Rocket Leaders don't have on their team.
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- PokemonGoApp. (2019, October 26). Incoming Willow Report: The first of many cliffhangers. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-10-29.
- PokemonGoApp. (2019, October 28). Incoming Willow Report: A shadowy sierra. Twitter. Retrieved on 2019-10-29.
- Find the Team GO Rocket Leaders and defeat Giovanni!. Pokémon GO Live. Retrieved on 2019-11-12.
- The Team GO Rocket Leaders have disrupted Pokémon habitats!. Pokémon GO Live. Retrieved on 2019-11-09.
- Stardust bonuses, Shadow Entei, Thundurus in raids, and more in March!. Pokémon GO Live. Retrieved on 2020-02-29.