We demonstrate the first step of a complete program, which consists in establishing an x-ray energy standard scale with the use of few-body atoms, in the few keV range. Light pionic and muonic atoms as well as one and two-electron ions from electron-cyclotron ion sources are used. The transition energies are calculable from quantum-electrodynamics, meaning that only a very limited subset need be measured and compared with theory, while providing a large number of standard lines. Here we show that circular transitions in pionic neon atoms, completely stripped from their electrons, reveal spectral lines which are narrow, symmetric, and well reproducible. We use these lines for the energy determination of transition energies in complex electronic systems, like the Kα1,2 transitions in metallic Ti, which may serve as secondary standard.