My headcanon is the rings were originally created in an attempt to imitate, or replicate, the power of the Infinity Gems to as great an extent as possible.
I don't know if you noticed but Jim Starlin probably imagined the six Infinity Gems as three couples, actually :
- continuum (space + time)
- consciousness (soul + mind)
- conservation (power/energy + reality/matter)
I tried to imagine if it could be possible to apply a similar logic to the rings.
There are four rings which are, obviously, two yin/yang couples :
- White Light / Black Light
- Ice Blast / Fire Blast
I wonder if would be possible to do the same with the other six rings.
Matter / Mind would make sense.
... but Electro / Impact and Vortex / Disintegration, I don't know ...
Illusions to cloud the mind, darkness to blind the eyes, tornadoes to make you dizzy, electricity to spaz out your nervous system, ice and matter rearangment to trap your feet, all fancier versions of the kind of tricks/traps/tools a good rogue would have in his belt to get you off-balance to set up a cheapshot. It's just that he cheapshots you with karate-chops instead of a dagger.
I basically think of The Mandarin as a Monk/Barbarian/Rogue hybrid. Like a Monk, he can channel chi to do immense damage with karate-chops. Like a Barbarian, he can rip into you with immense savagery. And like a Rogue, he is extremely good at using sneaky, devious tools to get you off-balance and set up a sucker-punch/cheapshot.