Have we done goats before?
No, I mean, it’s fine if we have; I just want to know if there’s something I should be comparing-
No? Really? Huh.
I think goats often get overlooked for being part of the usual farmyard menagerie we all learn to list in primary school, but the truth is they are actually pretty badass animals! Goats can live in all manner of terrain types, will eat just about anything, often have big, elaborate, dangerous horns, and are in many cases perfectly capable of seriously messing you up with a good kick or headbutt. They’re also among our earliest companions in this great epoch-spanning clusterf%ck we call ‘civilisation,’ having been domesticated around the beginning of the Neolithic period, possibly earlier than any other animal besides the dog (whose relationship with humanity is a bit more complicated), and at the very least contemporary with sheep, cows and pigs. Isn’t it odd, then, that we’ve only just gotten around to having a domestic goat Pokémon?
I cannot help but admire the weirdness of choosing a goat to be Kalos’ primary riding animal. In all the time goats have been domesticated, I don’t think they’ve ever been used primarily as mounts; in fact looking for information about riding goats on Google mostly turns up some very strange references to some kind of esoteric Masonic initiation ritual involving riding a bicycle that looks like a goat around a room while blindfolded (something which I don’t think is relevant to our interpretation here, though you never know…). The choice is all the more interesting when you consider the lack of emphasis placed on riding by the Pokédex’s descriptions of Ponyta and Rapidash; it seems to be common sense that they would be used as mounts, and the anime testifies to that, but does so in amongst a slew of other riding Pokémon, some more appropriate than others (ranging from Dodrio to… Electrode…). Certainly the thick, soft moss of Gogoat’s pelt would seem to make him a very appropriate choice for a riding animal, while Ponyta’s mane of fire is perhaps subtly less appealing to the discerning equestrian. Skiddo and Gogoat, in contrast to Ponyta and Rapidash, really push the riding angle. We’re told that, because of their naturally calm temperament, they were among the first Pokémon to live with humans (or has long domestication made them tamer?) and that Gogoat possess a kind of empathic sixth sense that allows them to judge a rider’s feelings and intentions, so that they “run as if one being.” This sense functions through the touch of a rider’s hands on Gogoat’s backward-sweeping horns, which bear a slight resemblance to the handlebars of a bike. The Kalosians do not hesitate to make use of this unique ability, employing Gogoat for environmentally friendly travel around Lumiose City, and a Skiddo ranch near Coumarine City affords players the unprecedented and unmissable opportunity to jump up ledges, a dream that has entranced our imaginations since the days of Red and Blue. Gogoat is something of a gimmick Pokémon in that way, but like Furfrou’s it’s a gimmick I don’t really mind because it’s used for world-building. Skiddo and Gogoat aren’t the only Pokémon ridden by the player in X and Y – Mamoswine also offers a lift through the snow, and of course Mother is a famous Rhyhorn jockey – but they are the mascots of a way of living and working with Pokémon that, as obvious as it might seem, the games haven’t been able to show us before.
The domestication theme brought up in Skiddo’s Pokédex description is further stressed by the fact that Gogoat is only the second Pokémon ever to learn Milk Drink, the move that signifies Miltank’s ability to produce the most nutritious milk in the Pokémon world. Gogoat milk may not be the universally beloved panacea that Miltank milk is, and the availability of Moomoo Milk in parts of Kalos suggests that Miltank are pretty highly thought of in this region as well, but you don’t just hand out a move that’s been exclusive to a single species for four generations without meaning something by it (especially when Synthesis already fulfils a similar function Gogoat’s movepool, and we’re told that Skiddo can photosynthesise to obviate the need for food). This Pokémon is an ideal mount and maybe the second-best milk-producing animal in the world (…even the males… which I’m suddenly going to stop thinking about…); it sounds like a godsend to an emergent civilisation, although presumably some of its more desirable qualities have been drawn out and emphasised by millennia of selective breeding. It’s hard to say; wild ones seem to have the same traits as domestic stock, but they could easily be feral populations. I privately like to believe that the very first Pokémon ever partnered to a human was a Fire Pokémon, largely because of the symbolic associations between fire and civilisation, but I’m certainly tickled by the notion of giving credit to a Grass-type for being one of the first, and not just because of personal predilections – domesticated animals are nice, but it’s the cultivation of plants that creates sedentary societies and, eventually, cities. Skiddo happens to be both animal and plant, an unassuming but loyal companion on the road to the cultivated order of modern Kalos.
To top it all off, Gogoat is actually pretty powerful as well! With a colossal HP stat, decent special defence and excellent attack and special attack, this goat is every bit as much a tank as a real one. What’s more, thanks to Milk Drink, she doesn’t depend on calm weather for healing as most Grass Pokémon, reliant on Synthesis, do. She can even augment that healing with Horn Leech. Gogoat’s weak point is her comparatively poor physical defence, though she has a few potential workarounds to that. Access to rapid healing is certainly helpful. Her hidden ability, Grass Pelt (more on which later) can also contribute. For now, though, let’s look at Bulk Up, which is a natural choice for a Pokémon with easy healing and can make her attacks more dangerous as well. The difficulty with putting together movesets for Gogoat is that her primary attacking type is Grass (in the form of either Horn Leech or Leaf Blade), which is such a bad offensive type that it’s almost impossible to come up with a single complementary move that will give you decent coverage with it. Gogoat really wants at least three attacking moves, which is a problem for anyone wanting to use both Bulk Up and Milk Drink. Earthquake, for example, is a great move but combines with Grass pretty poorly, leaving you wide open to Bug-types, Flying-types, other Grass-types, an assortment of Levitating Pokémon, and goodness knows what else. Rock Slide is pretty solid, and probably the best option if you want to go with two attacks, though its relatively low power is disappointing. Payback is only properly effective against faster Pokémon, but Gogoat is slow enough that that shouldn’t be a huge problem, and Dark goes okay with Grass. Brick Break and Wild Charge are just luxuries. Losing either Bulk Up or Milk Drink will give Gogoat better attacking options at the cost of either power or survivability. Choice Band or Choice Scarf sets could be interesting, but I suspect Gogoat should really be focusing on her durability, since that’s her biggest selling point.
Gogoat’s special attack stat is actually almost as good as her physical one, although she doesn’t really have the movepool to be a pure special attacker – Surf is really all she’s got aside from Grass attacks (although the fact that she can swim too is worth mentioning just to further emphasise how awesome she is). You could try a mixed attacking set, throwing in Hidden Power: Fire if you can snag it, since Fire is one of the few attack types that actually does combine very well with Grass. If nothing else it’ll keep people on their toes. Leech Seed is probably worth mentioning for the extra healing it affords, but faster Pokémon have traditionally done Leech Seed better by combining it with Substitute, and Gogoat doesn’t really have any business trying to do that. Finally, let’s look at those abilities. Gogoat’s standard ability is Sap Sipper, a perfectly respectable ability for turning incoming Grass attacks into extra attack strength. Gogoat resists Grass attacks anyway, but immunities mean free switches, and Gogoat can always use more power. The hidden ability, Grass Pelt, is unique to Skiddo and Gogoat and therefore much more interesting – it triggers off Grassy Terrain, the new Grass-type field effect (there are three such moves – Grassy, Electric and Misty Terrain – which act like and stack with weather effects), and grants Gogoat a boost to her physical defence, which is exactly what she needs. The standard effect of Grassy Terrain also powers up Grass attacks and provides gradual healing to all Pokémon touching the ground, which is just more great news for Gogoat (careful, though – it also reduces the power of Earthquake, one of Gogoat’s favourite attacks). Furthermore, the effect is far less likely to be overwritten by another Pokémon than Grass’ traditional preferred field condition, Sunny Day. The difficulty is that Gogoat can’t use this very exclusive technique herself, even if she had the moveslots to spare; only a handful of Grass Pokémon, plus Florges, can set it up, and unlike weather effects it has no handy item like a Damp Rock that will lengthen its duration (yet), so after taking time to switch, you’ll basically get three full turns of Grassy Terrain for Gogoat, and probably have to have two Grass Pokémon on your team to do it (if not more, in order to ensure you’ll be able to take advantage of the effect). Gogoat on Grassy Terrain is a heck of a beast, but probably not worth the hassle, ultimately (at least, not in singles).
You know, I was totally underwhelmed by Skiddo and Gogoat when I first came across them playing X, but the more I look at them the more things I find to like about them. I guess I’m so used to half-assed Grass Pokémon that I started to expect them without even thinking about it! This game needs more badass Grass-types, and I have every intention of making sure this one enjoys a moment in the sun – maybe in that Rototiller triples team I keep promising myself I’ll put together…