The system is automated, meaning that once slots are available, beta testers will be chosen, without any beta key to speak of. Kaivax then goes to stress the importance of your account security, stating that, “any third-party e-mail messages, websites, or in-game whispers that offer beta keys or access to the WoW Classic Beta should be considered illegitimate and ignored or reported.”
Kaivax, a WoW forum community manager, revealed that WoW Classic's class design, battleground mechanics and stats on existing items will be set to their 1.12 state, despite the game releasing content that expands beyond that. This removes "progressive itemization," so if the stats on a specific piece of equipment was changed during the original updates, that won't take effect in this version.
They seem to have expected some things, though, see adding pets with aquatic damage (gun and ooze) aswell as a resistant cockroach to stop us from cheesing everything with elementals. Yet, a fact their damage output is low combined with shields not checking for racial damage means this mechanic prevents a lot as you mentioned. The last boss has got an ability to remove basic shields so perhaps that was not in oblivion either… unlike the reactive damage. Also, an ability that forces swap altogether with an ability which prevents from being swapped, including critters? I can't say I like it.
Apparently a lot of the current World of Warcraft Classic closed beta testers are reporting things as bug that, well, simply aren't. There are enough of them, in fact, that Kalvax, the Classic community manager, posted a lengthy "Not a Bug" list on the forums. Some of the things that are actual features in the game include Tauren melee reach and hitboxes are larger than other races, Warrior health regen is working as intended and creature respawn rates are "much slower".