Glad I could be of some help.
That's a very fair summary.
I doubt you'll find it much cheaper. If you ultimately decide on the Misono, I suggest buying it through Korin. Korin provides very good sales and follow up service, and has a price matching policy. Also, their "resident sharpener" is excellent -- although some of his sharpening advice is screwy.
It's a pro's knife in every way.
The first few questions about "which waterstone" and/or "this is my first stone ..." are complicated because the subject is so interdynamic and nuanced. King is the largest waterstone manufacturer in Japan and they make a LOT of stones. A few are excellent, a lot fall in the range of very good to adequate and some are pretty crappy. In the greater scheme, as a matter of quality, your stone is okay.
Personally (for you, not me), your combination stone is pretty much one sided. You'll use the 1000# side a lot; first to learn to sharpen then to actually sharpen your knives. A grit as coarse as 250# is reserved for repair and profiling. In fact, it cuts so fast that it profiles -- whether you want to or not, and whether you know how to create or retain a profile or not. You can do a lot of damage with a 250#, and ought to hold off using it unitl you can hold a constant angle and have mastered "the magic marker trick."
I know you're in a hurry to fix all your old knives and thereby develop your sharpening skills. It's a good plan and not at all unreasonable. Start another thread and we'll get into it.
MAC markets an excellent ceramic steel under their own name, the MAC Black. It's an excellent fine ceramic hone, and far more break resistant than others. It's drawback is that it's expensive and, at 10.5" a little on the short side. That's long enough for an 8" knife though, if you're going to keep to that limit.
The best value and single best performing steel for almost all knives is the Idahone 12" fine ceramic. It's relatively inexpensive, and widely available. You can't bounce it off the floor though.
There aren't really any special issues regarding using a steel with the MAC Pro, but there are with most Misonos, including the UX-10. The Misono factory bevel is around 70/30 asymmetric, 15* flat on both sides. That's really on the outer edge of asymmetry for steeling. So, if you're in a situation where you want to use a steel rather than constantly prepping a stone and going to it for a "touch up," it's a good idea to reprofile the knife to 60/40 or 50/50. Those profiles won't have quite the same initial sharpness (call it a 5% difference, just to get an idea), but hold up better and need less frequent maintenance. And the maintenance is simpler.
There's no perfect knife, there are always trade offs. As I said earlier, one of the outstanding attributes of the MAC 10 is it's stiffness. If you don't require that, there are a number of stainless knives just as good and maybe slightly better in the same price range. I've had a little experience with the Sakai Takayuki Grand Cheff and thought it had excellent ergonomics, plus it's very easy to sharpen. (That is, it's easy to sharpen as these things go -- sharpening is sharpening. You still have to learn to do it, and the Grand Cheff won't make it any easier. Once you know how, an easy sharpening knife will take less time and drama., that's all.) Anyway, the Grand Cheff is made with an excellent alloy called AEB-L. AEB-L is made in Sweden by Uddeholm and is identical to another Swedish steel, Sandvik 13C26. I said eariler that I thought the UX-10 was (also) made of 13C26 but some of the edge taking and holding qualities of the Grand Cheff and UX-10 are different. I attribute that to hardening. The GC is hardened to 58HrC, the UX-10 to around 61HrC.
I like the Masamoto VG quite a lot -- in fact I like nearly all Masamotos quite a lot -- but it's definitely on the flexible side if that matters to you. The Togiharu G-1 is essentially a clone of the Masamoto VG, in fact it's probably made by the same people in the same factory starting with the same blanks. You save a few bucks with the Tog, but get slightly lower F&F and a slightly smaller and less good handle. That said, of the three, all-round, wonder steels (VG-10, AEB-L/13C26, G3) VG-10 is my least favorite. But the differences are very slight (even to me) and are probably mostly imaginary.
The Hiromotos, both the G no. 3 and AS may be of some interest to you. The G no. 3 is made from Hitachi G3 while the AS is warikomi with Hitachi Aogami Super (high carbon). Other than the steel, they're identically designed. Hiromoto F&F is good, but not great; and their handles are a bit on the slender side. The AS is a very popular knife for people stepping up to their first good Japanese knife. It's an extremely good looking knife, too. Well, it's a very good knife -- as good as the MAC Pro, the GC, the Masamoto VG, and the Tog G-1 in its own way. But ultimately it's a little disappointing in that AS in san-mai construction is not any better than a few other alloys. On the other hand, the G no. 3 has a wonderful lively feel to it.
Full disclosure: We owned a few Hiromoto AS for a few months in 2007, and ultimately passed them on.
Carbon is a much bigger subject. Generally -- and with all of the following knives -- carbon takes a sharper edge, takes it more easily, and better combines the virtues of toughness and strength.
To my mind there's one knife at the very top of the heap, and quite a few in the level immediately beneath it.
The Masamoto HC is a great knife. There's not one thing not to like about it. In fact, what's outstanding about Masamotos in general is not anything outstanding, but the lack of anything wrong. As they say in France, comme il faut.
At the next level: Misono Sweden, Kikuichi Elite, Togiharu Virgin (probably the same steel as the HC, but slightly less good ergonomics), Masamoto CT (slightly less good steel than the HC), K-Sabatier au carbone Antique, Thiers Issard ****Elephant Sabatier, Thiers-Issard "Nogent" Sabatier, and a few of the Canadian/Massif Sabatiers sold by either TI or K-Sab.
(Full disclosure again: I own and currently use at least a couple of all of the Sabatiers listed -- with the partial exception of the Canadian/Massifs which I techinically own, and used to use exclusively, but my daughter currently has posession and uses them.)
The distinctions between the Japanese knives at this level are very slight but real. If you're seriously interested choose a couple and I'll try and unravel them for you. Bottom line though, if you like any of them you'll like all of them about the same.
The Sabatiers are very different from the Japanese knives, and vary more from one to another too. But in general ... They're lighter than German knives, heavier than the Japanese -- just light enough to be both non-fatiguing. The knife blade profile is perfect. Better than anything else. Handles -- great. And so on.
French carbon is considerably softer than Japanese, still the knives can hold fairly acute bevels -- for instance, I sharpen to 60/40 slightly more acute than 15*. They steel very well -- which is a good thing because they need so much more of it than a Japanese knife would. They're very chip resistant -- you can even split the odd chicken without fear (although if you're going to do several you'll want your chef de chef).
French carbon can be made very nearly as sharp as Japanese carbon, and much, much sharper than German stainless.
Still, the principle reasons I continue to use my French knives is sentiment and the fact that I already own them and have organized the rest of my knife junk around them.
There are two basic paths. One is to prevent staining (aka patina) and other sorts of corrosion (including rust) from forming. The second is to force a patina, then maintain it.
For the first: Rinse frequently; after every task, and sometimes in the middle of a task if you're cutting large amounts of particularly corrosive foods like onions or tomatoes (say for example, every four onions) and use a Scotch-Brite cloth to lightly scour it. When stains do form, scour them out as soon as you see them. Use a Scotch Brite to rub the knife down with baking soda at least every time you sharpen, and sometimes more frequently. Never leave the knife sitting around wet. Never leave the knife in the sink. The scouring will quickly take the "new blade" mirror finish off the knife and replace it with the dull glow of well-cared for tools. I have knives which have maintained that condition for decades.
For the second: I'm not an expert at patinas. But the idea is to soak the knife in some sort of solution which will cause it to oxidize without rusting. The layer of oxidation then protects the steel. Some solutions, for instance "mustard" can be used to create very intricate patterns. Patina or no, the knives still need frequent rinsing. But of course, they don't need any scouring.
Obviously you should keep the edge of any knife very clean -- and that usually resolves any corrosion issues. But nothing's perfect. You can always knock undesired corrosion off the edge by steeling or touching up on a stone. Just remember to clean your steel regularly.
The MAC Ultimate is made from a different, fairly exotic steel (VG-5, I think), is hardened to either 61 as opposed to 60 for the Pro, or 60 as opposed to 59 (I forget which), and is pretty much completely handmade by a couple of very skilled craftsmen. It is an all around much nicer knife than the Pro, BUT you won't get appreciably more performance out of it.
In that tier, you'd probably like the Hattori FH as much or more. Also, despite the fact that it's currently priced considerably lower than the Ultimate, the FH, the IKT, etc., the UX-10 belongs with them if only for its high levels of F&F.
Me? If I were spending my own money I'd go with the IKTwhich, price aside, is probably not a good choice for you; or more likely, the Masamoto HC which you is worth considering if you can deal with carbon.