For over two decades and counting, purple has been the rumored sixth color. At drafts, it’s brought up as a joke. Maybe it’s speculated on a bit on how it would work. Even Mark Rosewater and company got into it. But, in any case, it’s not seen as a real possibility.
Back in 1997, the sudden announcement of purple excited a lot of people. In the February issue of InQuest, it was announced that the sixth color was purple, complete with demo cards plastered about:
Tt turned out not to be true. In fact, it turned out to be a prank. Despite this becoming knowledge, the cat was out of the bag, and the "sixth color" became a myth. Like what older brothers would tell their siblings.
While purple cards were briefly in Time Spiral in 2006 as expansion symbols, the next year brought real hope for a real sixth color with lands and everything. Planar Chaos was coming out as an expansion, and on the drawing board was, you guessed it, the color purple.
For years it was under serious consideration, and for years it was playtested through hell. Kinks were worked out. Cards such as Mana Drain were being planned for purple, and purple was already getting unique lands - confirmed by Rosewater to be either city or caves. In fact, many of these “new” ideas for the radical new purple had been around on and off for years through another constantly stalled project, Barry’s Land (which has it's own unique history). But unlike Barry’s Land, which was being shut down faster than a coal power plant in the Bay Area, the unique Planar Chaos was sort of embracing the, er, chaos.
The idea was that purple would be taking away a bit from every color, such as getting discard from black and trample from green. It sounds great when scribbled in a notebook, but when played, the colors combinations could suffer and cause unintended chaos.
Besides that, the major shifts in Planar Chaos were supposed to be a one time thing. A sixth land would blow up any legacy tournament right then and there, and put a wrench into any deck. Which cards would now be obsolete? Would rules need to be reformatted? Would purple randomly return? Nearly all cards wouldn’t consider purple as an option. How would it be handled? It would be like introducing the L.A. Galaxy as the newest NFL expansion team. There are boundless questions, numerous compatibility issues, and, despite some momentary fascination on what would happen, it would wind up just confusing and angering people - possibly involving a lot of ambulances. Sure, on the outside there are some similarities, but it's just way too different.
Sometime in 2006, Magic R&D realized this and Planar Chaos shifted completely away from purple. In short, throwing it back into the realm of being an urban legend.
Today, purple is still thought of this. It’s a joke to play on newer players. Asking them for their purple cards is like trying to sell them a pool pass in high school. Even today there is still a fake announcement or ‘reveal’ every few years with doctored photos or fake quotes to throw people off.
Maybe it did its job and caused for-real chaos among players speculating about it in the magical year of 2006. Maybe it will be doomed to be the endless secret-but-not-so-secret joke among players. But maybe, just maybe, Purple will be out in some future expansion, just to keep players on their toes.