Cliff has returned to Pokemon Go and although the Team GO Rocket leader may not pose the same threat as Giovanni, or even Sierra, you'll still need to prepare ahead of time to defeat him.
As is the case with other Team Rocket leaders, Cliff will use one of two Pokemon as his first choice and then one of three possibilities for his second and third Pokemon. You can encounter Cliff by clicking on either Team GO Rocket PokeStops or hot air balloons.
Cliff won't appear until you have clicked them. Additionally, you will need a Rocket Radar equipped in order to find him.
Cliff's Pokemon will be as follows:
- 1st Pokemon: Pinsir or Grimer
- 2nd Pokemon: Electivire, Machamp or Omastar
- 3rd Pokemon: Swampert, Torterra or Tyranitar
Pinsir will always be Cliff's first Pokemon if battling Cliff through a PokeStop. The pure bug-types weaknesses are fire, flying and rock attacks.
A flying-type Pokemon is your best choice here as it will be resistant to all of Pinsir's Fast Moves. Many guides list the likes of Moltres and Chandelure and while these are good choices there are better.
Charizard is perfect because it has a double resistance to bug, as well as resistance to fighting moves. On top of this, it has a fast charging Charge Move in Dragon Claw, which is perfect to waste Cliff's Protect Shields.
Conversely, if battling through a hot air balloon you'll be guaranteed to encounter Grimer. It is weak to ground and psychic-type moves.
Interestingly, Grimer is a rumored contender to headline one of the two upcoming Pokemon Go Community Days. The strategy remains the same as Pinsir - resist its Fast Moves and waste Cliff's Protect Shields early.
Unfortunately there is no way to definitely resist Grimer's Fast Move as it will use either Mud Slap or Poison Jab. If using Mud Slap you'll be forced to decide whether you want to waste a Protect Shield too.
The two types that cover most bases are ground and ghost. Mud Slap will let you take out Grimer quickly but won't bait the Protect Shields. On the other hand, Mud Shot will get rid of them but you risk coming up short in that first battle.
Groudon and Swampert are excellent choices but Mewtwo with Psycho Cut is also a good option.
Electivire is weak to ground-types which dovetails brilliantly if battling Grimer beforehand. However, Swampert obviously wouldn't be one of them due to its water-typing.
That leaves Garchomp and Mamoswine are good choices for the both of them. There are two that are even better - Excadrill and Rhyperior. The latter is so effective and strong it's arguably a must-have pick here.
The Thunderbolt Pokemon will use either Thunder Shock or Low Kick as its Fast Move. It primarily uses electric-type Charge Moves but you'll need to watch out for Ice Punch which is effective against ground.
If you give it a chance, Machamp will deal a lot of damage. The iconic fighting-type has excellent attack but with the right typing it can be tamed with relative ease.
Its weaknesses are fairy, flying and psychic. This makes the aforementioned Charizard or Mewtwo good options. However, if using Charizard you'll need to be very careful of Machamp's Rock Slide Charge Move as it will deal 256% damage.
In terms of specific counters there are plenty of good options. These include both Giratina forms, Lugia and Togekiss, all of which have have double resistances to fighting moves.
Omastar may not look as scary as Electivire and Machamp but it is certainly a threat. It is weak to electric, fighting and ground attacks - and doubly weak to grass.
The Kanto Fossil Pokemon will use either a ground or water attack for its Fast Move. The former has high energy gains (4.5 EPT) which should be noted.
Grass is the obvious choice here but this may not be ideal when going into the battle blind. Any of Abomasnow, Leafeon, Torterra or Venusaur will defeat it with ease.
Elsewhere, Excadrill and Rhyperior are good alternatives. These also cover Electivire.
Moving onto Cliff's third choice Pokemon - the first of which is Swampert. The popular water-type starter is a common sight in GO Battle League and for good reason - it is effective.
Like Omastar, Swampert is doubly weak to grass. This means any of the above grass-types will beat it easily.
Its only weakness is indeed grass but bug and flying types may have some success.
Cliff may use another starter Pokemon - Torterra. Ice attacks are best here but that doesn't align with the Team GO Rocket leader's other potential selections.
Torterra's other weaknesses include bug, fire and flying. This means Charizard is once again a great counter and should probably be on your options to begin with.
Togekiss is seemingly an option at all times - it's just one of those species! The dual fairy and flying type matches up well with Machamp and covers all three of Cliff's third choice Pokemon - more on that below.
Tyranitar is a beast but with the right type is actually a comfortable 'mon to beat. Togekiss is one such option.
However, there are better and that is fighting type species - or at least those using fighting moves. Naturally Lucario and Machamp are the first to come to mind.
Tyranitar does have a lot of weakness, though - a lot more. Bug, fairy, grass, ground, steel and water attacks should result in the victory against the Armor Pokemon.
Like any Team Rocket leader lineup, there are plenty of high level Pokemon to deal with. If you can put together a team of these counters though, Cliff is actually pretty simple to overcome, at least in comparison to the other leaders.
If you can't beat him the first time, take note of his choices (for that particular encounter) and rearrange your team accordingly.