I never try to knock methods that are proven, as there are different ways to approach this hobby. Many people have great luck with different techniques used around the world. Heck, if you go to Germany you will find freshwater setups that are run with no filtration at all, just a lot of plants.
One thing I can tell you, however, is that the "new" techniques on the market have all risen with one thing in common, which is a live rock. There is nothing new about the use of live rock. This hobby has advanced and grown as a direct result of the availability and low cost of live rock, which provides a natural environment. The only assistance we generally give to live rock is to add a protein skimmer, which directly removes organic waste, helping to keep alkalinity, calcium, and pH levels stable, as well as allowing the live rock the opportunity to provide effective denitrification.
These comments are relevant because your friends story is not unique at all. It is an everyday situation which is easily achieved and has nothing to do with miracle mud. My existing 180 gallon tank had fish in it for several weeks prior to adding the protein skimmer. It is well documented with pictures here http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/s...r-build-21979/
The point is, you are not looking for any quick method of short term success. Miracle Mud is effective and has been well documented in the hobby's literature as a quality substrate for refugiums. But if you want long term success I suggest you use it as part of an overall filtration plan, which should include live rock and a good protein skimmer. After all, do you want to duplicate the short term success of a few people, or do you want to duplicate the long term success of an entire hobby, virtually guaranteeing success?
For the record, the as OF2F mentioned, the ocean does in fact have a protein skimmer. Waves provide the same benefits by removing organic waste. Anyone who has ever walked a beach in the morning is very familiar with the smell of the foamy pasty deposits or organic materials that that waves wash ashore.