When I played the CD and HD versions, I just had to make elephants (not to mention that during my kid days I only made these beasts simply because I thought they were tanky and powerful, until when I went to battle it all backfired and I realized my mistake the hard way. Of course, I have a more diverse comp ever since).
For it’s cost, and them being easy pickings for Monks, I almost never make Elephants as Persians now, as my main army comp are Paladins and Crossbowmen.
For those who want to make War Elephants, when are the best times to train, or mass them?
In late game when you have a strong farming eco and a lot of gold on the map (or through trade)
Situationally in castle age if you went heavy on xbows and manage to put down a castle forward. Then you can make a couple of them, without upgrades (except maybe husbandry and armor if the eco allows it)
In teamgames, Elefants are the go-to unit on Michi; 40+ elefants with siege behind can really push back the enemy there.
For all other maps, if the game goes late i might switch into elefants, most often on black forrest; but you can’t open straight ele there, you need to make stable units first until you are floating enough res to switch into WEs.
I dont keep constant production of both units. I create 5 or 6 elephants to support against archers and buildings. What I produce constantly is Palas and Trashbows.
Like you said, keep production of both units is super difficult.