I use water with ribs and brisket. I think both benefit from the moisture. Look at the various top line cookers that have water pans, Backwoods, etc. There is a reason for using water, not that the wsm can't be used without it. If you use water in the pan, spray with Pam before filling with water. Makes clean up much easier.
I've been thinking about using a 14" charcoal grate in the pan, then cover with foil. This should create a void area that should help moderate the temperature. You can also use foil, wadded up into balls and then cover with foil.
I'm not big on the sand or flowerpot base. I think they both eventually heat up to the cooker temperature and you haven't gained anything.
Smooth Smoke BBQ Team, KCBS CBJ, 2-WSM, Cajun Bandit Conversion, wsm 2880, Smokey Joe Mini wsm, Old Country offset, several kettles.