I'm still enjoying Niantic's recent additions to Pokemon GO and the development of Team Rocket. It's been effective at getting me out of the house and exercising, even if I don't love that I'm often driving to the Plaza to get that exercise. It'd be nice if Niantic would make Team Rocket spawns more likely per pokestop in areas with few pokestops, instead of forcing you to a major urban center to find them.
One of the new additions is a new special research quest, "A Challenging Development", focused around finding and defeating Team Rocket. With the new quest came changes to the gameplay: when you defeated a Team Rocket grunt, you now got a Mysterious Component, and combining six Mysterious Components let you assemble a Rocket Radar, which you could use to locate the hideouts of Team Rocket Leaders.
I didn't focus particularly on finishing the tasks in the new quest, but I spent a lot of time hunting Rocket grunts and then hunting Rocket leaders anyway, simply because it was a fun new thing to do. There are three different leaders: Cliff, Arlo, and Sierra. In my first encounters with Cliff and Sierra, I lost the first few rounds with them, but I changed up my strategy as I saw which pokemon they were using, until I could defeat them. Arlo was harder still; I won once against them, after 5 tries, then ran into them again but with a different lineup. That instance, I gave up on on beating them after a half-dozen tries.
Much later, I found out by chance that there was an actual set of tasks for "defeat each leader", but that I needed to get past the "win 3 Great Trainer battles" task first. "Trainer battles" are PvP, and there's no proximity requirement for them: you can do them with anyone with whom you have achieved "Ultra" or "Best" Friends status. I have something like 50 people who meet this criteria. It is easy to arrange for battles with exactly 0 of them.
So I badgered three different people until they let me win one battle each with them (I could have done this with the same person but it would have required one person to have the time and patience to do this a minimum of three times, or several more if they wanted to actually battle and not just forfeit to me by bringing three 10 CP pokemon.)
Now I had assigned tasks to do something I'd already done (once in the case of Arlo, and several times for Sierra and Cliff): defeat each team leader.
On Saturday, I made my preparations by researching (a) which Pokemon work against which leader combos and (b) which Pokemon of the ones who work that I actually had. This was the list for Sierra:
slot one: KICKROCKET or the lucky SCIZOR
vs Hypno: BITE CRUNCH or METEORMERRY
vs SableEye: BITE CRUNCH
vs Lapras: find another Sierra
vs Houndoom: ROCKETDEATH
vs Alakazam: BITE CRUNCH
vs Gardevoir: METEOR MERRY
"KickRocket" is a Blaziken (3rd evolvution of Torchic) with Counter (a fighting fast attack move) and Blaze Kick (a fire charged attack). Like RocketDeath below, good against multiple different leaders.
"Bite Crunch" is a Tyranitar with Bite and Crunch.
"RocketDeath" is a Swampert with Mud Shot and Hydro Cannon.
"Meteor Merry": Metagross with Bullet Punch and Meteor Mash. (o/~ We'll do the mash! We'll do the Meteor Mash! We'll do the mash! We'll mash you with meteors! o/~)
I marked Lapras as "find another Sierra" because one time I had lost like 6 battles to a Sierra-with-Lapras without even getting to see what her third slot held. I'd tried several different pokemon, to no avail. It wasn't even close. Moreover, the most accurate site I could find for <a href=" https://pokemongohub.net/post/guide/rocket-leader-sierra-counters/
">"how to defeat Rocket Team Leaders"</a> recommended 4 different pokemon vs Lapras, and I didn't have any of those and was in no position to acquire them.
With Arlo and Cliff, I had some confidence is my candidates for beating each of their possible line ups, however. I had spent my entire reserve of stardust by now, powering up various pokemon so that they could take on the leaders.
Battling Team Rocket leaders is weird in several ways. The CP rating for a Pokemon isn't nearly as important as having the right combination of attacks. Having a charged move that charges QUICKLY is hugely important: their fast attacks can often kill a pokemon before a slow charged move finishes building. Also, the Team Rocket leaders will use their shields (the grunts never do) on the first two attacks, so you need moves that charge quickly so you can burn through their shields. And the charged moves from the leaders are BRUTAL. I have more than once had a pokemon be one-shot by a leader pokemon with a "not very effective" attack.
Armed with this knowledge, I headed for the Plaza. With my existing Rocket Radar, I took on Arlo first and won. Woohoo! They were the hardest, I'd thought. I hunted Rocket grunts for a while until I defeated six and assembled a new radar. With this, I found Sierra with Lapras, and ran away. I went after Cliff instead, lost to his Snorlax, and then tried a few more combos against him and eventually won. I found five more Rocket grunts, at which point I'd been walking around the Plaza for around three hours and decided to call it a day. I could come back tomorrow, find one more grunt, and then locate Sierra. Without Lapras with her.
Sunday, I returned to the Plaza, got a new radar, and saw five Rocket leader hideouts in a four-block area around me. Great! Surely one of these will have Sierra.
The first one had Arlo. The next four had Cliff. OK, guess I'll have to range a little farther. There are two at the edges of my screen, in opposite directions. I walked to the nearest: Cliff. I walked to the farthest: also Cliff.
All right then. I was about 10 blocks from the big museum that has a lot of pokestops, at this point, and headed that way. Ranging about the museum, the gigantic park next to the museum, and the art college campus on the other side, I found six more hideouts.
They all also had Cliff.
Is it Cliff day? Did they change how the leaders work? Why is every hideout CLIFF?
By now it'd been almost three hours. I returned to my car, drove to a park half a mile away that has a lot of stops, and ran the Rocket radar again. None of the stops in range had any hideouts. I threw up my hands and went home.
Because I'd done the raid hour two weeks ago, I had an EX Raid pass for the Plaza on Tuesday night. I drove down to the Plaza for that, and stuck around to look for Sierra again. Of the three nearest hideouts, one had Sierra! Success!
She had Lapras with her.
Per my pre-made instructions, I went looking for another Sierra, and found one.
She also had Lapras with her. I ranged farther out, and found a third Sierra-with-Lapras. Past the northern edge of the Plaza, I found Cliff. I started walking to the library southeast of the Plaza, where I'd seen a Rocket hideout earlier (it was off the edge of my radar by now). As I walked, I wondered if I was letting my one experience trying to defeat Lapras, plus the website of "only super-rare Pokemon can take on Lapras" put me off too much. Maybe I'd stumbled onto a Lapras with a move set that neither Raikou nor Magnezone could handle. Maybe my Raikou and Magnezone were bad choices because their charged attacks aren't fast enough. Maybe some other Pokemon could hack it. I researched Lapras specifically.
Lapras is an ice/water type. Sierra's may use ice or water moves, or a normal charged attack. Unlike some of the other Rocket leader Pokemon, It doesn't have any double vulnerabilites (ie, Ice and Water are not both vulnerable to any of the same types.) Magnezone should be good against it, because it's vulnerable to electric and if Lapras is using ice attacks, it's weak against steel. Magnezone is a steel/electric and I have one with electric attacks. On the other hand, my Metagross is much higher CP, has a faster charged attack, and Lapras is just as vulnerable to my Metagross's steel attacks as to Magnezone's electric. OTOH, Water gets some resistance to steel. So it's not clear this would work. But I decided that if the last hideout didn't have a Sierra-without-Lapras, I'd at least try to take down one of the Sierras-with-Lapras that I'd come across. Once I knew which attacks the Lapras was using, I could bring in a Pokemon type that would handle it best.
The last pokestop had Sierra. I brought in a team of Blaziken, Tyrantitar, and Metagross, the last two being each good at least 2 or 3 of her 6 possible Pokemon. She had Lapras with her. I swapped in Metagross and -- behold! Metagross defeated Lapras!
Her third pokemon was Houndoom, whom Tyranitar could not hope to defeat, so I had to try again with my Swampert in place of Tyranitar. But the new lineup won handily! YAY!
By now, I kind of wanted to go home: it was pitch dark, after 7PM, I was tired, and it was freezing. But I popped a star piece (which gives bonus star dust for 30 minutes) to collect the reward for defeating all three Team Rocket leaders. I could stay another half hour; it'd take 15 minutes to walk back to my car anyway.
There turned out to be three possible Giovanni hideouts on the way back to the car. As I neared the first, I realized I'd dropped one of my gloves after I took it off during the fight with Sierra. I turned around and went back for it, then walked again to the first potential Giovanni hideout. No Giovanni. Second: also not Giovanni. Third: GIOVANNI AT LAST.
As I'd been told, Giovanni is not as tough as his lieutenants, and I won with my initial lineup against him. But by now my star piece had worn off and the reward for defeating him was a nice chunk of star dust. With some resignation, I popped another star piece, and then stuck around for 30 more minutes while I hunted Rocket grunts for a repeat of the same mission. It looks like you can start the quest new every month, and since I'd started it in November I get to start it again in December. Whee!
When my current star piece ran out, though, I stopped hunting and went home. But this is how I use Pokemon GO to convince myself to get a whole lot more walking in than I would otherwise. :D