Elephants are already a unit that only finds fringe play. Elephant civs in general tend to underperform even on closed maps, now they are making it easier to get pikemen with no corresponding buff to the unit pikemen work best against.
Elephants need something to help them complete with other early castle age stable units like knights and camels that can raid easier and aren’t as well countered by pikes or monks.
I assume that you are talking about castle age elephants yes? then yeah they need some buff. Too slow, too expensive, get destroyed by pike and monk. I really hope that they will buff the castle age version next patch with a dedicated tech that increase their speed in castle age or some form of tech that reduce food cots like supply for militia line or different mechanic for monk vs elephant interaction.
I don’t think they need any buff in imperial age because they are a night mare to deal with when mass, even Malay elephants with no armor and no bloodline are still very hard to deal with, even if you have halb with insane bonus vs them.
if that were true, you would expect them to do better at team black forest or Michi but the Khmer, Malay, Burmese and Vietnamese have win rates of 49.5%, 49.3%, 48.8% and 46.1% on team black forest and 53.7%, 43.2%, 40.7% and 48.0% win rates on Michi respectively. Even at higher levels they underperform.
So the only very closed map they are doing well in is Khmer on Michi. Khmer on Michi likely do well, not because they have good elephants, but because they are the only civ that can chop down trees in castle age.
I think elephants can feel difficult to deal with because their greatest weakness (there cost effectiveness), is difficult to measure.