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3D tumble is not an effect but an animation preset, this is, a pre-made animation block made by combining different features and effects.
But, yes, 3D tumble makes use of "Basic 3D", which is a legacy (pre AE 5.0) effect that precedes the introduction of 3D compositing in After Effects.
When you enable the 3D switch for a layer, all the native transform properties (scale, rotation, position, etc) become 3D, and those layers are composited according to their coordinates, not their stacking order in the timeline. You also get the ability to use cameras (including Depth of Field simulation) and lights (with shadows, projections, specular highlights, etc)
Here's the 3D switch in the timeline:
Now, some people use the term 3D for "extrusions" and other volume-generating prodedures. It could be a long discussion. But AE doesn't directly produce extrusions. Some people call this 2.5D, because you have 2D layers distributed and orientated in 3D space. A lot of people combine multiple 3D layers to do complex 3D hierarchies. AE honors intersections, junctures, etc.
I recommend you take a look at the After Effects Help chapter on 3D layers
I was hoping the 3D tumble actually moved the layer in 3D space, which I can do manually (I did know about the 3D switch). I think now that a z-axis has been added, it's confusing to call an effect 3D when it's not 3D at all, just looks like 3D! Either they should implement some real 3D layer effects and/or stop calling them 3D... I know AE doesn't do modelling/extrusions but there's no reason the effects can't occur in 3D space (is there?)
I will read the 3D layers Help chapter as well.
I will definitely do that, thanks again.