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Are you talking about cases like chromium? I know half-full (d5) and full (d10) d sub shells have lower energy than if the electrons were spread out in different, incomplete subshells. It's the symmetry that results in a more stable electron configuration.
Energy levels are always filled from Lower to higher. However, the 3d state doesn’t become lower in energy until after the 4s state is filled and there are electrons in the 3d state as well just due to the arrangement of electrons and electron repulsion
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