Are there 3rd party effect plugins available as part of the Creative Cloud membership or do I have to buy them directly from the provider? I like a lot of the stuff I see on Video Copilot. I'm new here and my guess is I have to buy them there, but want to make sure I'm not overlooking something here.
There are a lot of plug-ins available in AE and I would highly recommend learning the basics before you start buying 3rd party effects. Without a really good understanding of how AE works, what the UI is used for, and getting a bit of a handle on how to compose and edit animations you're going to be just parking your investment for a while until you learn how to use AE. I could easily fill up the two or three semesters in a Masters program at a university with nothing more than what comes with AE.
If you have a very specific need for a very specific effect and your are under a deadline then it's often advisable to purchase a effect, but if you are intent on learning how to animate, composite and create magic then just about anything you have seen can be created with the standard set of plug-ins.